How a 26-year-old black founder raised $12.6 million in venture capital for her skincare brand, Topicals

How a 26-year-old black founder raised $12.6 million in venture capital for her skincare brand, Topicals

  • Olamide Olowe is the founder and CEO of Topicals, which manufactures products for chronic skin conditions.
  • On Thursday, Topicals announced a $10 million Series A funding round led by venture capital firm CAVU.
  • Olowe gave her advice on presenting investors with confidence as a black founder.

Olamide Olowe launched her skincare brand after growing up with chronic skin conditions such as boils and ingrown hairs. These questions weren’t commonly discussed by her peers or medical professionals, she said.

“I grew up feeling really isolated and spent a lot of time seeing dermatologists and primary care doctors trying to find a cure,” Olowe told Insider. “I wasn’t getting results and I didn’t really understand why.”

In college, Olowe learned that people of color were not only underrepresented in the skincare industry, but also largely absent from clinical trials and research.

“Dark-skinned people weren’t as well studied and understood when it came to the formulation of prescription or over-the-counter products,” she said.

Driven to change both the industry and beauty standards, she founded Topicals in 2020, at the age of 23, after graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her company creates skincare products for chronic conditions that can be difficult to treat and contribute to low self-esteem.

Topicals on Thursday announced a $10 million Series A funding round led by venture capital firm CAVU, which invests in consumer brands such as Beyond Meat and Oatly. This brings Topicals’ total funding to $12.6 million.

Here’s how Olowe launches investors with confidence.

Build trust

Hot Topics was launched with $2.6 million in seed funding, which was not easy for Olowe. Prior to last year, only 93 black female founders had raised $1 million or more in venture capital, according to ProjectDiane, a biennial report on the state of black and Latina female founders by the organization Digitalundivided.

“It took me about two years and probably close to a hundred pitches to get funded,” she said.

Maybe it would have been a faster process if she wasn’t young, black and feminine, but it taught her how to gain confidence, she added.

A post shared by TOPICALS (@topicals)

“I understood very quickly, at 23, when I raised capital for the first time, how to be sure of myself and talk about my business in a way that no one could pierce,” she said. declared. “I go into every room. I know what I’m talking about.”

Above all, she doesn’t let the stats on funding black female founders trip her up.

“There are so many reasons why I shouldn’t have the funding,” she said. “But I don’t even think about why it shouldn’t happen.”

Color data with culture

Olowe anchors her pitch in her knowledge and preparation, which builds respect among investors, she said. It uses data to explain why its products are necessary, profitable and influential.

“It’s always driven by data, and then we color that data with culture,” she said.

This means that it provides more context to give investors a better understanding of the skincare products market, especially within communities of color. For example, when investors asked her why she didn’t have an acne treatment in her product line, she said she wanted to start with a treatment for hyperpigmentation, which is a common skin problem. in people of color.

“Before we got into the market, a lot of people of color didn’t have a ton of products they could use,” she said. “But their expenses were seven to eight times higher than those of other communities.”

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The roles have reversed

Her second fundraiser was not as difficult as her first, Olowe said, as investors came to her. This change showed her that she had leverage as the one who gave them an opportunity.

“I wasn’t begging for money,” she said. “I knew this business was going to be successful. I knew what this category would look like in the next two to five years.”

And if an investor misses the opportunity, they are left behind.

“I’m extremely rambling,” she said. “I’m not coming back to you asking for money.”

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