E-Commerce Preneur: Whitney Osei-Akintaju

How do you find the products that you carry in Ethnic District?

Being very much in-tune with my African heritage is extremely helpful because I am already familiar with the type of brands and products that our customers are looking for. After all, I am a customer myself. We work with mom and pop retailers and wholesale distributors in the U.S. to secure our inventory. For brands based in Africa, Instagram has been a lifesaver. We are able to discover emerging brands, research their products and see what their customers are saying about them before establishing a partnership.

Do you design any of the products for the site?

We do not, however, the brands we work with will often ask for our expertise on the type of products that they should create—the type of products that our customer base would be interested in.

Swahili Imports Rwandan Sisal Checked Basket by Leslie Mittleberg (USA).

Currently what is your strategy for promoting your business?

SEO has been our biggest driver of sales and acquisition. I was able to hack SEO to obtain our first $30,000 in sales and get our first customers. Currently, 90 percent of our revenue is generated organically either through search engines or by word of mouth. We also use social media as a tool for marketing—specifically Instagram and Facebook. Ahead of the holidays we will be partnering up with a few influencers to run some affiliate marketing and influencer marketing campaigns.

What challenges have you faced as an entrepreneur?

Cash flow! I have been working my day job and using those funds to bootstrap my company for the last year. We are now growing at a rate where we need to seek outside funding to keep up with demand. I find myself constantly running out of stock of items and having to turn down orders because we just can’t keep up.

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