🎙 Fintech and Fashion with Urenna Okonkwo

Podcast Mar 24, 2022

 David speaks  with Urenna Okonkwo, the founder and CEO of luxury fashion fintech platform Cashmere. They talk about everything at the intersection of fashion and fintech, as well as Urenna's experiences fundraising and scaling.

At the age of 23, Urenna Okonkwo came up with the idea for an app to help women save for luxury purchases. Now Cashmere is the savings platform for fashion-forward women, who want to save sensibly.

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Connect with Urenna:

@urennalexa

cashmereapp.co.uk

About David:

David Elikwu FRSA is a serial entrepreneur, strategist and writer. David is the founder of The Knowledge, a platform helping people learn more and live better.

- Twitter: @Delikwu / @itstheknowledge

- Website: https://www.davidelikwu.com, https://theknowledge.io

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Full Transcript

David: [00:00:00] Hey, I'm David Elikwu and this is the knowledge, a place to consider big and emerging ideas. For anyone obsessed with learning more and living better. Each week, I'll share what I'm learning and speak to a variety of guests to hear what they've learned about navigating the world around us.

This week, I'm speaking with Urenna Okonkwo the founder of Cashmere, a luxury fashion FinTech platform. That's already helped young women save 3 million pounds. She's helping educate young women about conscious consumption and changing the way that we save.

If you love this episode, please do share it with a friend and don't forget to leave a review.

What is going on in the life of our favorite founder? How's [00:01:00] life?

Urenna: Life is interesting. there's, There's a lot of things going on, you know, running a business, fundraising for the business, trying to have a personal life or social life. All my friends have told me they haven't seen my face in years, so I need to sort that out.

You included. Yeah, planning a wedding. Planning two weddings, actually, because you know, as a Nigerian you can never just have one wedding

David: Wow. That is a lot

Okay. Tell me more about the business side of things cause for anyone that doesn't know, you are the founder of Cashmere which is an amazing business, but I'll let you describe it in your own words.

Urenna: Yeah. Sure. So Cashmere is a savings app designed for the next generation of aspirational consumers.

Aspirational female consumers. helping them save up for their favorite luxury products and experiences in a much more financially responsible manner. So the current iteration for Cashmere is a savings app that helps young women save up for their favorite luxury fashion and [00:02:00] beauty products without them having to get into debt or, you know, dip into their other important savings, reduce their living standards or, you know, rob a bank.

And so we've got partnerships with a bunch of luxury retailers, like, Selfridges, Harrods, Farfetch, Harvey Nichols, and so on. And you know, what we're really building in terms of our big vision is to empower women to be good with their money so that they can have access to the lifestyle that they want. So not just about helping them save up for luxury fashion, but also looking at what are, these are the key life moments and what lifestyle do they want to live in the future and how can we get them to make those good, you know, make those good financial habits so that they can actually achieve their desired lifestyle.

David: I love it. I actually really love the idea of the business as well, particularly because as you know, I'm very fond of saving and, you know, hoarding away as much as possible. But how did you get into it? where did the idea come from? And also was it strictly, just due to your background, because I know you were a financial advisor before.

Urenna: [00:03:00] Yeah. So it was kinda like. Really random. And it was due to a bunch of reasons. So, you know, my background. I worked as a financial advisor, at a private wealth management firm in London and basically managing investments for high net worth individuals. But then I'm someone who I've. You know, for the past, I dunno, 15 years or so I've been a luxury consumer or lover or whatever.

So I've you, I grew up loving Gossip Girl and wanting everything in the wardrobe and so on, you know, I grew up reading Vogue and all of that stuff, but Yeah. So it was kind of like basically the idea came to me. I was in Harrods with my friends and I basically saw a pair of Christian Louboutin heels and I was like, I need them.

And I tried it on and it was perfect and all that. And then I looked the price tag. I was like, oh crap. And the, the shoes were about. I mean, they, they weren't too ridiculous. They were about 650 pounds and, you know, a part of me was like, Hmm, I could pay for it. You know, I could buy it. I could had money. I had loads of money in my savings account and all that.

And [00:04:00] then the other part was, oh yeah. I mean, I could also use my credit card. , you know, it wasn't like I didn't have any money or options to do it, but, you know but the other side of me was like, that's not really responsible. , I can't just impulsively drop 600 pounds on the pair of shoes.

I hadn't budgeted for and stuff I'm in no way, in that tax bracket for me to be able to do that. so yeah, so I, I ended up not buying those shoes and then later on, I was just thinking to myself that , you know, if I had a special stash of cash or, you know, money that was earmarked towards treating myself to all the nice things that I love, then I wouldn't have.

You know, felt that guilt. Because like I said, the problem wasn't that I didn't have money or options. It was just that those options were not necessarily the most financially responsible options to take at that given point. So that's kinda how, the initial idea, just , you know, got planted into my head and then from then on, I just started to do a bit more like research into understanding, you know, what.

the FinTech landscape was looking like, so at that point I didn't even know the word FinTech existed. Because I came from a traditional finance background and you know, [00:05:00] that's, it's a completely different world to this tech world. Like they don't mix at all. So I started doing a lot more research into that, and then also looking at, who my potential target audience could be.

And so understanding their attitudes towards luxury and spending, saving, credit and all of that stuff. And there was a lot of interesting findings that came out from that in terms of, you know, We're living in this very hugely consumerist world where, you know, Instagram is that you telling us to buy every single thing on this planet.

And then you then add you know, this Instagram lifestyle with influencers and all of that stuff. And then you then add how easy it is to get credit in terms of credit cards and, you know, buy now pay later models and all this stuff. So it's like a lot of young people because of all these pressures to keep up with this lifestyle that most people cannot have, they tend to make financial decisions in terms of, you know, there's research to show that young people are spending.

400 pounds a month on luxury. And seven and 10 of them are getting into debt in order to keep up with this [00:06:00] lifestyle, keep up with their favorite influencers. And obviously that's not financially sustainable because you know, it's maybe when you are 19 20, 21 and you think, okay, it's fine. I can do all that.

But then when you're getting close to your thirties and you realize, oh, I need to get a mortgage and you've messed up your credit because you were spending, you know, all

that um, accumulating so much credit on ASOS, it's not a really good thing to do. So, yes. Anyway, based of all of that stuff, I decided rather than look at, if I look at the existing savings apps already out there, they're not really built with the next generation of consumers in mind, because at the end of the day, , you know, we talk about evening and investing all of that stuff, but.

No one ever talks about why are we saving and investing? And at the end of the day, savers are also spenders. You're not saving money just to accumulate it for no reason you're saving it so you can spend it on something. So it's like in a way to get, I believe a way to get young people, particularly into that.

sort of good habits of saving their money, investing their money is to help, help them picture [00:07:00] this. Future lifestyle that they want to have and then get them to use, get them, start building those good financial habits so that they can achieve their lifestyle. So I feel like, you know, there's no point in telling someone, oh, you need to save up for a pension.

Like a young is just going to be like why? Because it feels like it's 50 year, 50 years time. I don't need it now. But if you, if you phrase it in a way that like, what type of lifestyle do you wanna have? Like, you wanna have paid off all your mortgage and all your debt. You want to be able to take two holidays a year.

You want to be able to do this, that, and then based on that, this is how much you need. And then this is how much you need to start saving. Now in order to have that. X amount of money. I feel like when those conversations are being had, then young people are, will be more likely to engage with it. But when you just say, say, invest whatever, like no, one's really gonna engage with that.

So I decided that you, I want cash to be that product product. I really understand, you know, you as a customer, you as a consumer, like, what are your goals and aspirations and how, how can we help you build those financial habits now in order for you to achieve that? Whatever the time scale is. [00:08:00]

David: Yeah. Why do you think that young people have such a hard time saving and learning how to save?

Urenna: I think it's because, I mean, I think it's a bunch of things, particularly that, you know, the society that we live in, everything is all just consumption and, you know, there's, there's there hasn't really been , you know, you know, we're not taught anything about financial education in schools. I.

If, unless your parents are very financially savvy, you're probably not gonna be taught about that at home either. So we've just, you know, young people have never really been given those tools and the young people who are, who do tend to be given those tools, those who have been parents who are financially savvy.

And then obviously those tend to be the ones who are ready to be wealthy. So, you know, this is how the rich stay rich. But but yeah, I think, I think it's of that. And then you. The whole soft society we live in in terms of , you know, there's a lot of pressures for young people to wanna keep up and stuff.

And there's this whole thing of , you know, young people, don't like delayed gratification, they want instant gratification and all that. So there's all of these things [00:09:00] that sort of play into mind that people will just rather not save that. They just wanna have it now. I think, you know, But that's and I think also needs to do with the fact that when it comes to financial education, it just seems so complicated and too much jargon and just no one, no, really realistically the average person just doesn't care enough.

And when you sort of make that, make it so complicated for the average person to understand, of course, they're no one they're not going to want to engage. So, you know, part of the thing we do at Cashmere is we do personal finance workshops for women, and we make sure that these workshops are very much jargon free so that anybody literally with half a brain cell, be able to understand everything that's being said.

Because the more you start, the more you make things full of jargon, the more you exclude, you know, the majority of the population, because they don't have the knowledge or whatever, or energy or time to want to start Googling what does SIPP mean now? What does this mean? What does that mean? Realistically, no, one's gonna do that.

So we try to make sure it's very much jargon free and easily accessible to everybody regardless of [00:10:00] their background.

David: Yeah. I think that's so good that you specifically take the time to do that education piece, because I think there's a lot of other platforms that Claim to want to solve the problem of people not having that amount of financial education or wanting people to be able to access things and buy things that they want.

And I think this ties back into what you were mentioning about the delayed gratification, not, not wanting to save necessarily. And so you have some products that seem good on the surface example like Klarna I hope you don't mind me, you know, naming your competitors, but you know, it, it's interesting that some.

Companies like Klarna, for example, get a bad rep because they've provided something which on the surface, realistically could be a good thing. You know, you're providing way for people to get credit, to be able to buy things, you're paying in installments, but then a combination of some of these other factors, like people not having the right financial education, the impulse buying [00:11:00] and impulse shopping that a lot of people do because they want that instant gratification.

And then also, I guess the education aspect of not of providing a product and not necessarily telling people the best way to use it and utilize it. Someone like me might look at it and be like, oh, you know, of course you can use this, you just do this, you just do that. You just do this. But if the product itself doesn't educate you on those things and you already have some bad habits that you've gotten from being on social media, just growing up around lots of other teenagers, then it can be very difficult to.

Figure that out for yourself.

Urenna: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And I think like, even if you wanna talk about buy now pay later and Klarna and all that stuff, I mean, credit is not necessarily a bad thing, you know? And credit has always existed. You know, Klarna is basically, for example, if you know like Klarna and Affirm and Clearpay and all these other companies, they're basically like a glorified store card.

you know, we've always had store cards, we have Argos cards and Next cards [00:12:00] and John Lewis cards and all these things they've always existed for as long as I can remember. But the problem is that those cards, you knew what those things were meant to pay for. Like your Argos card, for example, would be like, if you needed to buy a new washing machine, let's say your washing machine broke down.

You need to buy a new one. You're not gonna be buying 50 washing machines. Like you are only gonna ever need one, you know? And. For, so things like that work very well for these buy now pay later models work very well for those type of things, you know, like the sofa or washing machine, or, you know, like things that, you know are gonna last a very long time and you only ever really need one.

But, you know, I remember I, I read an article that what's it called? I think Affirm one or one either Affirm or Clearpay, one of them companies, their biggest 60% or 70% of their sales comes from Peloton. Because obviously Peletons are expensive. They're like two grand. Most people are not gonna be able to put two grand just to buy a treadmill or bike.

So people pay for it in installments, which makes a lot of sense. And you know, realistically how many pelotons do you need? You're never [00:13:00] gonna one. Yeah, so yeah, and I, I think it's perfect this type of things, but. When, what I don't agree with is why am I going on ASOS to buy a £20 top, and the default is for me to pay in installments rather than just pay that £20.

Like literally I've, I've literally seen going on Pretty Little Thing and all these other websites for an £8 dress. And they're telling me, oh, pay in installments. Why. Two pound a month when I can just pay the same. It makes no sense because then it sort of starts to make young people think that like, oh, you know, like, I, I shouldn't think about whether I can afford this or I should just delay get that instant gratification now because come on like eight pounds.

Really?

David: Yeah. And I think part of, part of that as well is that it makes it seem smaller and more bite sized, but the issue is when, okay, so you. Sign up for this thing where you're gonna be paying two pounds a month for the next four months, then you sign up for another thing where you're gonna be paying a hundred pounds for 10 months, and then you sign up for another thing.

And suddenly you are now you have to pay 300 pounds a month for [00:14:00] the next exactly for the next five months, when you add it all up.

Urenna: Exactly. And that's the problem. That's the problem, because like you said earlier on paper, it's not a bad thing. It's just the way human beings are, human beings are inherently greedy, you know, you're always gonna want more.

So if you create systems in place that encourages greed, then of course people are gonna, you know, take the piss with it. So yeah, that's, that's, that's my issue with them. This there's these platforms, but you know, recently the government have said, they're going to start regulating Buy Now Pay Later companies and I know Klarna announced couple of months ago that they're gonna start reporting to the credit reference agencies.

So, you know, oh, wow. If, if you are planning on like, later getting a mortgage, it's gonna come up in your mortgage application that you're constantly using Klarna. That's gonna be a bad thing. Because that's a red flag for, you know, obviously when you're trying to get mortgage mortgage the don't wanna see that you're relying much on credit because it's not a good thing, so

we'll be interested to see how that plays out in terms of people's usage of it.

David: Yeah. So where does cashmere fall on that scale? Because I know [00:15:00] your positioning is more as a platform for saving rather than just for spending, even though you are saving to spend,

Urenna: So how we, what we really position ourselves is more around conscious consumption, because we're not telling people , oh, it's bad to like nice things.

Because I mean, who doesn't like nice things. I love nice things, but we're saying , here's a much more responsible way of achieving those nice things. There's , you know, there's no point. I remember where early on when I was doing my research into , Speaking, doing like user interviews. And the people are telling me that , you know, they would spend their entire paycheck on like a Chanel handbag and they have money left over for the rest of the month off like pasta. And it's like, so you just doing all this for the 'gram and then there's nothing like. There's not no food in your cupboard. it makes no sense , you know, but if you just paste it out for a bit, for a few months, and then you, and then, you know, saved up for it, you can buy that Chanel handbag that you really want and still have food in your cupboard.

You know, that's what we're trying to promote that that's so balance. Like it's okay. We believe that you can't have it [00:16:00] all, just do it responsibly. You know, it doesn't have to be either or

David: I dunno if you saw, I think it was probably a few years ago now. There was that story of that girl. I think she was from Zimbabwe. Oh, VISA bae. She was an influencer. Yes. VISA bae and she'd been buying all these expensive handbags, two, 3000 pounds, all of these things. And then suddenly she was asking people for money on the internet because she couldn't afford to

get her visa extension or something like that.

Urenna: Yeah. And it's so funny cuz the visa thing was like 1,500, two grand and one of those handbag you're holding could pay for like two visas. Yeah. But yeah, exactly. It's, it's exactly that the Instagram lifestyle is just honestly crazy and you know, And I just hope that things get better in terms of more people start to understand that Instagram is not real life and you know, start to make better responsible decisions with how they achieve this desired lifestyle that they want.

David: Do you think that Instagram should have to be [00:17:00] responsible for the changes in consumer spending and changing? It changes in consumer lifestyle as a result of people using their platform?

Urenna: It's one of those things that would be really, really hard to do. It'd be very, very hard to do that because then it's like, okay.

So if Instagram are gonna sort of moderate that, then that means they have to moderate everything in terms of people using filters and people making themselves look thin and all of this stuff. And then it then becomes like, okay, Instagram is like, our nanny now? Like , you know I think it is up to us as human beings to actually, make smart decisions.

And if, for people who are, who, who do understand you know, the bad, the bad side of things actually actively be vocal and speak out about all the, all these things. I don't, I don't, I think it would just be really, really hard to get Instagram, to do it because. Then that means they have to police every single thing on, on the platform and, mm, yeah.

David: I think it's a hard balance to strike though, because my issue with Instagram and, and by virtue [00:18:00] of that, I guess also Facebook is that it's not some innocent. It's not like Pinterest where you are, the one interest putting stuff up there, or you are just going and viewing just very nonchalantly, like Instagram.

Yeah. And Facebook are actively trying to get you to buy stuff. , they're interrupting. You're trying to look at your friend's stuff. They're throwing ads in there and those ads are coming from cookies. They're following you around the it all around all kinds of sources, figuring out exactly what you like.

Exactly what you want. And. Whether you want it at that moment or not, they're just gonna feed it to you and keep flashing it in front of your face until you decide to buy it.

Yeah. See, it's hard one for me because I understand that. But from a business point of view, I see why they're doing that because I would do it.

I also do it myself.

yeah.

Urenna: You know, we've started doing like Facebook ads and stuff with Cashmere and like, You know, I would want people to constantly see my ads. Yeah. So, but no, but I, I, but I do think there is a, there is [00:19:00] a balance that needs to be strong and I think Pinterest does it pretty well. As I just love Pinterest in my cause I, I go on there and as much as you know, Pinterest is all about sort of like curating, like.

The life pictures is basically what I want Cashmere to be, but with the financial elements of it and it's, you know, Pinterest is really about curating the life you want really in pictures. But it does it in a way that it doesn't feel. Like intrusive and they still do ads. Like I see Pinterest ads and stuff, and I, it doesn't feel like I'm being forced to purchase something.

So I don't know. Maybe I need to take a few tips from Pinterest book, but yeah, I do. I do agree that there, there definitely needs to be a balance or with this whole thing. I, I dunno how I'm not expert in that space. So. I mean, if Facebook or Instagram want to pay me to figure it out for them, I'm happy to do it.

David: So, how have you found the process of getting cashmere off the ground and what have been, I guess there's two questions I wanna ask. , what were the biggest challenges and then also what were the biggest maybe unforeseen [00:20:00] challenges? Cause I think there's a lot of things that going into setting up a business, going into the startup world, you might know where you might envisage, or you might have heard, these are the challenges you're going to face.

Did you find that those were identical to your experience and were there other things that ended up being trickier than you thought.

Urenna: Yeah. I mean, I think one of the huge things I what's up, well, I guess I'll call it challenge was more around, it was a huge learning curve for me, because like I said, I came from a traditional finance background with zero knowledge, zero contact in this space.

So everything I did, everything I learned, I was from scratch and rich in a way. Sometimes it can be good because it means that you can. Learn a lot quicker. You can adapt because you are having to consume a lot of different types of information and within a relatively short period of time. So so that was definitely a huge challenge at the start.

I mean, what I did was, you know, like I said, researching everything aside to network more, meet people on Twitter. Go to events there so many times each year after work. [00:21:00] My, my previous job, I would, you know, I would leave my office at like 6, 6 30 to go and attend, a networking event, somewhere in the city and all that.

And then from then on, you start to meet different people within the space and, I also think it's also important to actively talk about what you're building because you just never know who you're talking to, or you never know who they know. If I look at , for example, I think probably majority, if not all of my investors enjoy investors at my cap table, I will know them through either

I went to an event and I met them there, or I met, I went to an event and I met someone who knew them. That's that's literally how it's been. So , it, it hasn't been anyone who , I just organically sort of had known for years. Cause you people say, oh, I've known so and so for 10 years and invested my company, no, that doesn't apply for to most people.

But yeah, so it's definitely important to , Put yourself out there and stuff and, and it can be exhausting, honestly. It's not easy at all because 9.9, after 10 times after work, you just wanna go lie down and watch Netflix. , but if it's something that's really important to you just kind of have to have to do it.

Another thing is [00:22:00] I definitely . Sort of like once I sort of go into this space, I, you know, network with a lot of different founders and investors and all of that stuff. And, you know, just to get firsthand advice, hand accounts on them, on what it really is like to, you know, be in tech or work, build a startup and so on.

So, so that when I was actually doing it myself, it wasn't like. A lot of things were a bit were not, it wasn't a shock to me. Cause one thing I, I always say like is very different for, particularly from someone coming from a traditional background is that, you know, when you come from a traditional background, you're told, you know, you go to school, you get your straight A's, you go to university, get your degree, go work in a what's it called?

Like company, like a proper company, not a tech or a startup company and all that. And you know, there's like, and it's like all about you working really hard. And if you work hard, you get what you want, all that stuff. When you're building a company, it's not like that, like, forget about all of those things that's been told, because it's really, you can work as hard as you, like, [00:23:00] as you want doesn't necessarily mean that you translate into you being successful in your business.

And that's just a hard reality that, you know, I had to like make sure that I fully understood because building a company is, you know, there's a, they that they must stat that 90% of companies feel in their first year but you know, like it is really, really, and not. Because there's, sometimes there are certain things that are out your control, like, you know, who would've predicted the pandemic would've happened and wiped out a lot of business there's things that the is just not.

It's the, the, the, the way the world is moving means that there isn't a place for your company anymore. There's all these things. So it doesn't matter how hard you work, you know, it's just not gonna happen. And, you know, if you now look at, if you wanna take you to like, you know, societal injustices in terms of like racial bias and things like that, you could be the most hardworking black woman in the world, but no one's gonna wanna you, because they have all these biases against you that, you know, they don't think like, because when, when, when, and invested things so successful, Founder is [00:24:00] it's not, they don't think of a black woman.

They think of a white line. So already those doors that already shot in your face doesn't matter what your numbers are. Doesn't matter how hard you work and stuff. So there's all these things that are out of your control. That could mean that your company doesn't work. So I think very early on, it's always important for founders to understand that like sometimes it's out of your control.

I mean, sure. Working as hard as you can to make sure your business is a success, but it could also not work out. I think the sooner, we also understand that the easier you'll be able to sleep at night.

David: So you mentioned you have investors and there's fundraising, have you largely just bootstrapped and what's that part of the journey been like?

Urenna: Yeah. So starting with Cashmere yes. I, I, boots strapped basically funding the company through like the money I had saved up myself. Cause I know I had, I had quite a bit of money that saved up to like.

Buy a house. And then I started to invest in my company. So I'm gonna need that money to pay off very soon. cause I'm plan on [00:25:00] buying a house soon. Anyway, so what's it called? So I yeah, so I boost track business and I think it's quite good to boost track. Cause a lot of times like because of like tech crunch and all these like tech publications you always seeing.

So, and so raise 5 million, 10 million, 20 million pounds, or like an idea, blah blah. So you feel like automatically, that is what you should do. And sometimes, you know, depending on what kind business you're building, sometimes you, you need to raise in order to build the company. But for most businesses, I don't think you actually need to raise Because there's been so many like implementing technology, like there's, those are like no code tools.

There's so many things out there that can actually allow you to build an MVP product, like a, you know, a basic version, one of your, of your products, like at least test the idea out and start to build traction. And then from then once you can able to prove that like the people who actually what you're doing, then you can then go out and raise.

And you'd actually then raise cause you with better terms to investors, because you actually have something, you have some data to prove that what you're building works compared to when, if for [00:26:00] example, you're a first time founder, you've never built a business before, and then you're trying to raise.

On an idea. Investors are just gonna look at you. Like, well, as much as a lot of investors say, oh yeah, we invest a idea stage. Now they don't like, and that's annoying thing. It's like, people need to be more honest and transparent about what they look for when they want to invest in companies. Cause as much as yeah, they might say, oh yeah, we invest idea precede.

But if you look at the, the founders they've invested in idea that usually

founder's have. Whereas, if you are first time found that you have no track record, nothing whatsoever, then there's not gonna invest in you. That's just, that's just the reality of it. You know, it's always important to like, try and do as much as you can on your own and then go out and raise because then it also shows that you actually know what you're doing, because when you've had the opportunity to, to wear multiple hats, you become a lot more knowledgeable in your space compared to like, if you let's say you raise very early on and then you just quickly hire people to take over like product and design and [00:27:00] engineering, all that stuff.

And then, you know, you don't at us CEO just kind of like. Get the high level summary of everything and not really sort of like be. Deep in what they're building. So sometimes so it, it does have its pros and cause, but I genuinely believe that like the best way to do it is to boost strap at the start again, depending on your business, if you're doing like something deep tech or whatever might need to raise for that.

But for most businesses, I think it's important to just boost strap for a bit, you know, prove your hypothesis. And then have your data and then go out and raise. And then it just puts you in a much better position compared to someone who's just trying to raise with just an idea.

David: Yeah. And you've done really well, considering one largely bootstrapping and using your own funds and also working with a really small team.

I think I saw was it from 2020 that you had processed about one and a half million in, in savings or from users?

Urenna: Yeah. So we've actually now done 3 million . Oh, wow. Yeah. Awesome. Quick update. Yeah, so we've done about [00:28:00] 3 million in savings and we've done about just over a million pounds in spending the money that's been spent on the app.

Which is pretty cool. And we've always worked as a small team. So right now our team is literal legitimate of two people, me and my lead interns and, and. But the core team has always just been like two people. And to be honest, I always say I wanna build like an Instagram. Cause I know when Instagram got acquired by Facebook, they had like eight people on the team and they got cried for like over a billion or something.

So I'm like, that's what I'm trying to do. Are you possible? Cause I don't, sometimes I don't think like you need that many people, as long as everyone's working hard, then you can actually achieve a lot with. Less people. There's a lot of automations out there. Like I live for automations. You know, so if there's a way you can achieve something great with less people rather than more, why, why would you, why would you do that?

Cause sometimes when you have too many people, people start to, you know, be a bit lax cuz you know, there's a lot more cushion. Because if you think about like, you know, when you're in corporate world, like. There's bare people in it. So like [00:29:00] you can afford to not do as much work compared to like, if you're in the startup, you have less skin in the game.

Yeah, exactly. Whereas when you have a start with three or four people, everybody's contribution is important in one person is slacking. It would affect everybody else. So everyone needs to sort of like pull their weight and stuff. So, yeah. And I kind of prefer that sort of environ compared to like just the environment, which was why I was doing before.

David: Yeah. Is that the kind of exit you are looking for on the topic of Instagram?

Urenna: So, I mean, I don't know what my ideal exit would be because obviously like the two ways is either to get acquired or to IPO. I don't know what, which one I would prefer right now. I'm just trying to build a great business and then whatever opportunity he's come out of that.

Would be great. I mean, I always say that like, oh, it'd be great to like, get acquired by like LVMH or something. That would be amazing. but then, but then also would be like, oh my God. But imagine you cash my IPO. So I dunno. We'll see. Let me just focus on the now focus on, but yeah, [00:30:00] it would be, but I definitely would.

I think I get an. Getting to the point of, I P would be great though, because particularly for the black community, because we don't really have that in the UK. Yeah. Everyone's like, you know, right now the start of founders, I know, you know, everyone's all building and stuff and, you know, I, I just hope like in the next, you know, five to 10 years or so.

You know, we see some amazing exits from the black community and cause you there lot people building incredible businesses. So, and then what, what then that means is that if we get incredible exits, we then sort of like build the next generation of black angel investors who are actually people who have built businesses and actually have experience in that.

Cause that's one thing that we are lacking significant in, in, within the black community. So yeah, that, that's, that's why I'm hoping for anyway.

David: Yeah. What you said brings to mind two thoughts. First of all, I think part of the issue right now is that in order to have black exits, you need entries. You need people to actually [00:31:00] fund some of the people that are building companies at the moment.

And I think that's. Probably part of what we're missing. Yeah. And I'd love to know what thoughts you have on that. Particularly from the perspective of, I know that you have raised money from people from a variety of backgrounds and also you are very plugged into the VCC as well. And so I'd love to hear what your thoughts are on that.

Urenna: Yeah. I mean, it's, it's a hundred percent correct that like, we can't expect all these exits if no one is funding at the entry level, you know, and that we, we are really lacking that because if we look at sort of like, you know, there's all these diverse reports that keep coming out every second. It's the next time I see diverse reports, I'm just gonna like block anyone.

That's shares it because it's like, we know all this information. We don't need another, but. There's the same information that keeps coming out that like, you know, black founders are well educated. They're, you know, they're resourceful, they're creating jobs, they're doing all these incredible things with very limited money or either through Bri strap or [00:32:00] they've raised a tiny amount of money and so on.

But it's like for, for some reason they, they're just not getting funded like black. I mean, black, black women are barely getting funded. Like, you know, there was that report that came out that basically in the past 10 years, Only seven black women had raised BC funding seven in the past 10 years. Like that is just disgusting to hear.

And it's. And the issue is that, you know, when we look at students sort of like our white, white counterparts, you know, A lot of them are plugged into these networks. They do have, they can, they can do these friends and family rounds where they're like, oh, I raised friends 200 grand for my friends and family.

I've definitely seen someone raise a million from friends and family. I don't know how, but they did. And you know, like if I look at, you know, within our community, how many people can really do that, like how many people can even raise 10 K from friends and family. Alone a hundred grand, 200 grand. So it's like, if, if we're not all started, we're not all started from a level playing ground.

So of course, like it's gonna be harder for black, black founders [00:33:00] to even get to that, you know, series a series B level when nobody wants to fund them at the preed and C and you know, the frustrating things are like, I feel like a lot of like, Investors or people within the community within the startup board feel like, oh, you know, let's do office hours for black founders.

Let's do mentoring for black founders. And to be honest, like I just find it so insulting because it just automatically seems that you believe founders don't know what they're doing, because the only reason why you offer mentoring office hours is if you feel, oh, I to teach them. Because they don't know what they're doing.

Why can't you just give them money? Like we're tired of these office hours, retired of all these mentoring, give us open your past, give us the money. And you know, and as much as you know, the, the people setting up funds to invest in black diversity, blah, blah, blah, blah. But if you're not investing a, I don't wanna hear.

Genuinely, if you don't invest in a preseason and seed level for black founders and not that whole, that underrepresented underestimated, all these words, that don't really mean [00:34:00] anything tangible, because what does, what does underrepresented really mean? Like if we're being honest, because we know that, you know, for example, if, if we look at, let's say white, this an underrepresented white founder would be someone, a white.

Male or white female founder, who didn't go to university who lives in Yorkshire. That's an underrepresented. So you, if you set a fund that says, I invested underrepresented founders, that's who you're going. That's technically you can't invest in that person, but then you are not, there's still no diversity in terms of like racial diversity, because you are just constantly investing in like, oh yeah, this person lives in leads, leads, doesn't have a huge stops phase.

I'm gonna invest in them. That's me taking my underrepresented box, but that's why I hate those because they're not specific. We need things to be very, very specific. If you say black, you mean black, like black people, people from African and Caribbean ethnicity group or whatever it is. So that that's Jenny.

Yeah. So anything that deviates from that is all nonsense is all just hot air. I don't care enough. Like anyone [00:35:00] says office hours, blah, blah, blah, female founders, office hours, female founders, mentoring, black founders, blah, blah. I just don't care enough. So honestly, we're being to open their purse and invest.

At the Pree seed level for black founders specifically, then not much is gonna change. And you know, it just so frustrating that, you know, last year we had the whole black lives matter movement and stuff, and you know, all these, I mean, to be honest, we didn't VC word, not many farms said anything. Maybe like two or three said something and even those ones were like, oh, we're gonna give ourselves a day off to think about to, to reflect.

And I'm like, I don't understand. Wow. Why people giving themselves a day off for black trauma? I'm, they're their they're themselves a day off work making make sense. So, yeah, this whole thing frustrates me so much as you know, , I'm just like, oh my God.

David: I was just gonna say the part you were saying in terms of being specific, because I remember,

I think we both saw there was the sifted article recently and the headline is.

[00:36:00] Something like a third of UK unicorns are founded by ethnic minorities. Okay, cool. So you're saying like 30 something percent when you break that down and ask how many of them are black specifically it's zero it's and it's not just zero.

None of them are founded by women either. Yeah. So zero women, zero black people, but you are using this title of ah, ethnic minority founders. There's 30%. Yeah. And then I think even beyond that, it's something like 0.2%. Of black founders that have received VC funding in the last 10 years. Yeah.

In terms of, from the total pie, the amount of that that's gone to black founders is like a fraction of 1%. So it's not even one in a hundred it's , it's, it's like two in a thousand or two and a half in a thousand, which is crazy. Yeah. And obviously I don't wanna paint like a dire picture or anything, but.

I definitely think you're right in terms of the issue, being that [00:37:00] a lot of people that have great ideas can't even get past their friends and family around. Because if you can't even get that initial, let's say 15K, just to build your MVP, just to get your idea off the ground, just to actually even afford to take the time to focus on what you're building.

Yeah. It probably doesn't go anywhere. And so I also think about how many great businesses. Have started and stopped within that period just because they couldn't get any funding, they couldn't get any support. They couldn't get things like that.

Urenna: Yeah, exactly. And I've seen it so many times. I've seen so many like people with fantastic ideas, you know, try and build something, but because there's, there's that lack of support and I mean like financial support.

It just doesn't go anywhere. And then, and another thing that really frustrates me is this whole idea of like, oh, if somebody is in, full-time working on their business, it means they're not committed to it. And people like it's. And when I hear that, I'm just like, are you, are you stupid? Because things, lot of people don't realize I'm most people are not privileged.

Like, you know, [00:38:00] If you don't have the privilege of like being able to leave your job, or like, I already have like a cushion of money that you can live off while you build your, you know, follow your dreams and build your business. If you got a family to take care of, a lot of black people have family back home, they have to send money to, they have parents here that they need to, they they're paying, you know, people don't understand like the black tax is a real thing.

So when you hear all these investors and you know, non-black investors and people like just. Talking nonsense saying like, oh, you know, you need to leave your job, but like, I can only believe you're committed to your, to your business when you leave your job. I'm like, alright, cool. I'll commit to this business.

If you gimme the money, I don't understand. It's not no brainer. Like I've already showed you what, what I can do, you know? So. Give me the money and then I'll leave my job I have no problem leaving the job. so, yeah. And I've seen that so many times just like comments up people have made in terms of like, for other businesses, like, you know, be like, oh, like it's a red flag that they haven't left their job, their full time job yet, and stuff as because of that, they're not gonna fund them.

I'm like, yeah. And to be honest, yeah. Like as [00:39:00] much as I I'm criticizing, like non-black investors, I've also heard black investors say this too, so. Yeah.

David: What's your experience been like from the other side of the table now? Cause I know you are a scout, you're a venture scout for back sea. Is that something you can talk about or not so much?

Urenna: yeah, yeah, yeah. So, I mean, I think so one of the reasons why I wanna it, I joined back was to understand things from an investor point of view. And so like, See, what do investors look at when they like what, what drives the decision to make an investment? And I mean, I do think there are, there's still a long way to go in terms of.

Giving people, their fair shorts at things. Because I mean, IAnd from an investor's point of view because when the invest looks on investment, they wanna be convinced that this is like gonna return their funds. So let's say it's a fund that's worth 50 million pounds. They wanna be sure that if they invest in this company, they invested in like half a million company that [00:40:00] company's gonna return that 50 million back.

It's and it's obviously very hard to tell on the early stages, because there's just so many variables out there, but I think like, Goes back to my point about bias is that I feel like a lot of times people don't give black founders a particular that's the benefit of the doubts, because I, I feel like a lot of times where black founders expected to either prove so much already before investors are comfortable making this, making those decisions, like a number of times I've heard, you know, through my fundraising journey, I've heard.

Investors tell me, oh, like, you know, we really love what you're building. Like we love your team. We love the product you build so far. Your is amazing. You know, your vision is great, but we're not quite sure we're not quite ready to invest just yet to keep in the loop. I'm like, but more you want you've already told me, I, every box that, you know, investors look, look out for stage.

No, , you know what I mean? So it's like, but then, but then you then see other companies like that they investing, you know, that, you know, like white male or white woman, and it's like, they, [00:41:00] that company doesn't even have close to enough traction that you have. They probably there's just, it's like, pre-launch is still an ideas of thing.

And it's like, so. For, for, for a black founder, like immediately, you're gonna be like, but what's why, why what's the difference? And the only difference you can see is that is to do with race and bias. And if, and the things, I lot times people is that whole word of like, oh, I'm conscious bias. I don't believe in a conscious bias.

I think it's all conscious, but you know, so it's all conscious. I'm sorry, like but know, I feel like we wanna give all these people grace. Oh, nice. They didn't know what they were doing, but anyway, so That's my point, I think like, you know, I think so for example, with, with back, the way they tend to invest is more around like sort of late seed series, a companies which are you know, it's, it's a set agnostic fund.

But the thing is, again, back to a point about if no one's investing at black know black founders at the very, very early stage, you know, that first 50 key or key check, you know, then how are they gonna get to that level? So there, there are a couple [00:42:00] of things that we've sort of like put forward to them to implement which they've started doing.

It's still, I mean, there's still a long way to go in terms of like investing in black founders at the like precede early stage. But they are making some moves to, you know, do more around that. So fingers cross other funds would

David: okay. I guess one of the last questions I wanted to ask is what about, I guess, for existing founders that are out there, two things, one maybe.

What is it about your particular skillset that makes you able to have achieved what you have with Cashmere so far again, considering you have a super small team, you haven't had a huge influx of funding. You've, you know, largely bootstrapped and built for yourself. You're now at a point where you've. Had 3 million in saved through your, through your app, through your platform, like what would you attribute that kind of success to?

And what things do you think that other young founders could emulate to be [00:43:00] able to achieve something similar?

Urenna: Yeah, so, I mean, there, there are a lot of things like, you know, I mean, there's all the generic words. Like, you know, you need to have like grit and tenacity and discipline and all these things, but, and to.

Apply, but it's more of like how I see it is having a strong enough. Why? So it's like, why are you building this company? Like, what do you want to see in the world in this next five to 10 years? And how is your company going to help shape that? And if you can sort of like, you know, Have a strong enough answer to that question, then that is what should be able to keep you going, despite all the negative things that might come through starting new business, because running business is not easier at all.

Like 99% of the time I'm stressed. Like I just wanna crawl in a hole and just stay there forever. But yeah, I have, I know what my, why is, I know what I, I know how I see the, I know what I wanna, I, what I wanna.

That sort of like keeps me going. Another thing is also is like celebrating the small [00:44:00] wins and it's something I need to start doing a lot more because I've been told so many times I don't do it enough. And what I mean by that is like, it doesn't matter how tiny it's, if something's a win, just celebrating, if you are a solo founder, like just you and your, you as like you don't have a team celebrating with yourself.

If you have a team celebrate, it just, it doesn't matter what it is. So for example, it could be you just shipped like. Fix the new fix the bug or something on your website or your app or whatever. It's like celebrate that because those little wins, like, keep you going. Cause sometimes it might feel like you're not making any progress because you know, there's still, it's easier to see, see what you haven't done compared to what you've done.

And I'm, I'm very guilty of that. I'm always looking at, oh, we haven't done this. We haven't done that. We haven't achieved this. And I forget about all the other things I've achieved. So try as much as possible to like, you know, document those wins. Like even if it means every week, You know, you and your team or you on your own writes down every single win that you've done that week, you can categorize into like small, medium, big, and then actually celebrate that and be [00:45:00] proud of yourself for that.

Because then you can actually see, you know, I've actually made a lot of progress and it would help significantly with your mental health, honestly. So Yeah. I think those things are things that are, I feel tangible things that you can do to sort of like help you keep going, despite all of the madness that comes with building the company.

Yeah. Can I ask how, how you found managing your mental health as well? Because between the late nights and then also everything else that you have on your plate, I know you're getting married to, and you're planning two weddings. Well, one in Nigeria, one here, you're doing all these things. How do you manage to keep it all together?

God, I don't even know. I do try . I mean, I do try and like, I definitely try and, you know, take, I don't do like too many late nights anymore compared to before, like before I would literally be working to like 1:00 AM, 2:00 AM and stuff, but now by like, Unless there's a lot of, unless we're in, like in a period where there's a lot of things that need to be done.

I usually stop working at like 7:00 PM [00:46:00] or so, and then I actually take the rest of leaving off and I just shut down, like my computer. Watch Netflix and stuff. I don't look at work related stuff weekends. I also try and do that too. Cause it does. So because before I was just literally on 24 7, like it got to a point where I wasn't sleeping.

Like I was literally having like maybe two hours of sleep a day. Because I was constantly switched on. And as a founder, it's just so hard to switch off sometimes because you're constantly thinking about ideas. You're constantly thinking about what you haven't done. You, you never ending todo list.

Whereas when you're an employee for a company like the mean 5:00 PM, it, well, if you're a normal employee, now, if you are a lawyer, cause 5:00 PM low that's when you, but you know, for most. Pick up a bag and go home, like, well, pre pandemic, you go home. But but yeah, but as, as a founder, you just can't do that.

Like you just constantly thinking about stuff. So trying to take as much like separating, like your work from your, the rest of your life is so, so important. Another thing is also trying to take. Holidays. [00:47:00] And another thing I, I struggle to do is actually take holidays because I'm just like, I don't have many people to delegate this work to, it needs to be done.

So it, that means I'm just constantly working, but I try, I, even if I'm, I might not take a whole week off or whatever, but like I would take like, Two days in that week off. And I maybe do like Thursday and Fridays off. So I only work Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and then at least I have like a four day weekend.

Just little things like that. Just help because I know realistically, I can't take a week off at this point because we have a very tiny team. I don't have, I don't have the capacity to start delegating, obviously, hopefully soon once we close around, I'm gonna be making a few more hires, but right now it's just not possible.

So I just try and. You take those little breaks here and there as I can bank holidays. Definitely. I love them. I, even on my calendar, I scheduled those holidays or I know like today I'm not working.

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