Stina & Mae is bringing meaning and beauty to items essential to parenting. Founder and Creative Director Mishell Ekunsirinde was a busy fashion critic when it clicked that carrying a purse along with a bag for her newborn was too much work. Her designs are “transitional bags” for mothers. They have the functionality of a diaper bag with the style of a purse. Ekunsirinde has been hyper-focused on serving moms. “How can we help moms live their best life with the other items they use for parenting,” Ekunsirinde said. Stina & Mae is also doing a lot of good by donating two percent of revenue to address food insecurity among children. The company just soft-launched its next line of products and is part of a burgeoning group of ecommerce businesses which produce their items in the U.S. In addition to all of this, the company has targets of eventually eliminating waste and providing a living wage across the company’s supply chain.
The practice of lending circles comes in many different forms and is known by various names. Japan has the tanomoshi, Latin America the tanda and then there’s sou-sou, the common way of pooling money together across West Africa. Abbey Wemimo has now made this international savings process digital through his “Esusu” app. It allows people to pay for things using a shared account. The methodology is simple and resembles regular rotational savings programs. A group of people each put in a certain amount of money every month and then take turns pulling out the total. It was through this savings method his mother was able to pay for his education. “She fundamentally believed that education was a paramount investment in my future and could only afford it through sou-sou programs,” Wemimo said. The app is also helping people establish credit through a unique method of tracking consistent rent payments, then reporting it to credit bureaus. “We’re creating a financial identity for the unbanked.” Esusu currently has 5,000 active users and has established financial literacy programs with NYU and the University of Minnesota.
CBx Vibe: “One Love” Bob Marley
Rod Robinson’s ConnXus is streamlining the supplier diversity industry for some of the largest companies in the U.S. They provide clients like McDonald’s (MCD +0.67%), Harley Davidson (HOG +1.23%), and Coca-Cola (KO +0.86%) with software they can use to identify qualified diverse suppliers and manage their spending, reporting, and tracking. The idea for ConnXus comes from Robinson’s past role as Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) for Cincinnati Bell (CBB +1.61%), a $1 billion telecommunications company. In the CPO role he had frustrations around reporting against supplier diversity goals, compliance on commitments made to clients, and meeting targets set by the government. “There were lots of manual processes and duplicative efforts to identify information on minority-owned businesses,” said Robinson. He founded ConnXus in 2010 after looking into whether there was a platform that could identify qualified suppliers and create transparency on spend, reporting, and tracking data down and across the supply chain. With this data, ConnXus can scale its impact by constantly providing new features and functionalities. Half of the 28 million small businesses in the U.S. are either woman or minority-owned. ConnXus has 2 million small businesses certified suppliers on its platform. On the buyer side, there are 10,000 U.S. corporations with over $100M in annual revenue. Robinson sees a multiple billion dollar opportunity in the supplier diversity management marketplace and is positioned to continue capturing more market share.
CBx Vibe: “Eastern Sky” Fourplay
Women empowerment products are taking center stage as the latest feminist movement is helping to spur a booming industry. Tiffany Hall’s ready to drink (RTD) “Empower Cocktails” is looking to do more than just capitalize on the booming trend. Through this pale-pink elixir known as the Empower Cosmopolitan Martini, Hall has partnered with several nonprofits that champion women’s initiatives. She’s also tackling the challenge of perfecting a RTD cocktail as a way to dominate the entire category, “the taste profile is that of a premium spirit,” Hall said. The RTD market is on the rise, a recent report from Mintel predicted sales of RTD spirits based cocktails in the U.S. would increase by 9% in volume by 2021. The Mastercard (MA -0.39%) executive is also looking to support female entrepreneurs through the power of her sweet potato distilled vodka drink. “Empower is committed to helping women, not only providing a product they can enjoy at work but also at home and in their community.” This femme inspired cocktail has been selected for a number of award shows as the drink of choice and is sold in major stores across CT, NJ and NYC.
CBx Vibe: “Golden” Jill Scott
Drop is building the technology we’ll use once the iPhone goes away like the desktop computer. Through Drop’s web browser for virtual reality (VR), users are able to open email, watch NBA videos, and read the New York Times. They won’t have to toggle between multiple tabs like we currently do on our laptops and phones. Users can spread the various windows they have open around their room for simultaneous viewing. Drop’s web browser is the first step in the startup’s product roadmap. “Our thesis is that the browser has always been the gateway to information discovery,” said Russell Ladson, CEO of Drop. Ladson believes we are on the cusp of VR hitting the mainstream. Overlays in Snapchat and Instagram, and emoji selfies on Samsung phones are examples of technology moving us closer to a VR world. “It’s no longer a matter of if, but a matter of when.” The company has big ambitions for the role it will play in the industry and is backed by HTC (2498:TT +4.59%). Over the next several years Drop wants to become the Microsoft (MSFT +1.11%) of the industry, where the entire VR ecosystem operates on its technology.
CBx Vibe: “We Find Love” Daniel Caesar
Chijioke Dozie has figured out a way to bring credit to the underbanked in Nigeria through OneFi, a mobile lending platform. Currently, there are only 400,000 credit cards in Nigeria, a country with a population of 180 million. In Nigeria, it is really hard to get credit as banks often require collateral and a lot of documentation before they will issue a loan. “Our strategy is to be a digital bank in every country we operate,” said Dozie. OneFi borrowers can complete an application on their mobile phone and receive an answer in less than 24 hours. To determine credit worthiness, the company observes how a borrower completes the application as a sign of their likelihood to repay the loan. For 90% of borrowers, the fund transfer to their account takes place in under a minute. In 2018, OneFi started facilitating payments and bill transfers in line with its strategy to be a digital bank. The startup has global ambitions to meet the needs of the underbanked. “You have countries in West Africa, then you go into countries like Indonesia where there are significantly underbanked communities.” Currently, Southeast Asia and Latin America are future targets for the startup’s expansion efforts.
CBx Vibe: “4 Me” Maleek Berry
Travis Holoway figured out the best way to solve his own problem of people wanting to borrow small amounts of money through SoLo Funds. It’s a peer-to-peer lending exchange platform which allows people to obtain loans that are less than a $1,000. The main problem here is traditional banks don’t lend small amounts and payday lenders have high interest rates. “This is not a black and brown issue this is a national epidemic,” Holoway said. People going through a short financial struggle get to set their own terms as borrowers and then the lenders seamlessly loan them the money. SoLo which stands for Social Loans has a unique way of looking at credit worthiness through an individual's social capital. Loosely defined social capital is the value social networks have on bringing people together. Holoway is aware social capital hasn’t been widely accepted in the U.S. yet, but says “People are a lot more empathetic than society would like us to believe.” The next goal is to graduate people to more traditional financial resources once they’re ready.
CBx Vibe: “Legacy” Jay Z
Super Heroic has arrived to save the day, for the fundamental priority of children’s desire to play. Launched in November 2017 out of Silicon Valley, it’s the brainchild of former Nike (NKE -0.28%) global design director Jason Mayden, who’s designed sneakers for the iconic Jordan Brand. The vital foundations of Super Heroic are rooted in confidence, “every single project that I touched in my professional career has always been geared towards creativity, imagination and amplification of play,” Mayden said. Its unique goal is to convince every kid putting on a pair of their shoes that they really are a superhero, capable of solving problems and saving the world. A 2016 study from the University of Pennsylvania found that kids in costume tend to work harder and persevere more. Perhaps the best part of Super Heroic shoes is that they come with what Mayden calls a “utility cape,” which is a drawstring backpack that includes a cape emblazoned with the company’s lightning bolt logo. Now when it comes to the role technology has on kids being active Mayden said it should be re-framed around the play dynamic. “It should bring to life the things children see in their minds, and make it something that’s immersive, scalable and shareable.” Super Heroic’s newest gender neutral shoe the “Galactix” is out now!
CBx Vibe: “I Can” Nas
From Nigeria to Zimbabwe to Kenya, Hello Tractor is bringing a cool factor to agriculture across Africa. Founder and CEO Jehiel Oliver worked as a microfinance consultant for several years and noticed they were not loaning to agriculture businesses. Hello Tractor emerged from this observation. The company sells a fleet management solution to tractor owners. This technology enables owners to manage their tractor and lease it to other farmers who need one. The company collects a lot of information for the agricultural supply chain. “I want Hello Tractor to be a repository of information for broken industries. The most important de-risking factor in markets is information and Hello Tractor will be successful if we solve for that,” said Oliver. Hello Tractor’s expansion continues as the startup is now preparing to launch an operation in Bangladesh.
CBx Vibe: “Trouble Man” Marvin Gaye
From biotech to rugby and now beer, the Brazo Fuerte brewery is taking the craft beer market by storm. Founder Beverly Armstrong started the business two years ago after leaving her biotech career. She is one of two black women brewery owners in the country. Brazo Fuerte produces session beers (full-flavored, lower-alcohol beers), which she grew to love while playing international rugby. “You want to be social for several hours. I wanted to have something that actually tasted good, that was still an approachable moderate level of alcohol,” said Armstrong. She is a now a certified cicerone, which is the equivalent of a sommelier and has captured the attention of large brewers like Samuel Adams beer. Brazo Fuerte is now teaming up with The Boston Beer Company (SAM +0.24%), the brewer behind Samuel Adams beers, to release a limited-edition beer later this year.
CBx Vibe: “Brick House” The Commodores
PupilScreen is trying to help coaches and parents easily detect concussions on the sidelines. The app is the brainchild of Dr. Tony Law and his colleagues at the University of Washington. By using a smartphone’s video camera and flash the app is able to assess the eye and measure pupil size changes. This can help objectively determine if a person has a concussion. “We’re able to capture how the eye reacts to light after trauma with 98 percent accuracy” Law said. Currently the app isn’t available to download, however it is being tested by medical professionals as they collect more data to be processed by deep learning algorithms. Dr. Law and his team are also working on the Eigen Voice app which will help to detect if a person has masses on their voice box consistent with cancer by simply using a smartphone attachment.
CBx Vibe: “Awaken My Love” Album, Childish Gambino