ettitude founder Phoebe Yu gives an insight into securing seed funding.
In 2014, I founded ettitude with a mission to contribute to a better planet through sustainable textile development.
Textile production is one of the most polluting industries on the planet, producing 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 per year.
That is more emissions than international air travel and maritime shipping combined.
The same year I founded ettitude, it’s reported by Crunchbase, global dollar volume for startups with a solo female founder (or at least one female founder) was 10%.
It took years to create the proprietary bamboo lyocell textile that ettitude is known for today.
We are the only brand in the world to offer this lyocell made from 100% organic bamboo.
What ettitude now refers to as CleanBamboo is the pillar on which everything else comes to fruition for our brand—from bedding to towels, robes to eye masks.
Each product is made with this one-of-a-kind fabric that uses just 1/10 of the water it takes to produce cotton.
As a business, we are steadfast in our commitment to our founding mission.
It’s enabled us to scale up, think laterally and partner with like minded business and brands to help us reach new markets and consumers.
In November 2018, I made the bold decision to take the brand to the United States, relocating ettitude’s headquarters from Melbourne to Los Angeles and working hard to set up new logistics to service the local market.
Bringing on a business partner to advise on the local market was vital to ettitude finding its feet early after the move.
In 2019, our global revenue tripled on the year prior.
We also opened our first pop-up store in LA, and the brand was awarded ‘International Conqueror’ by the Online Retail Industry Awards.
Through all of this, ettitude has been financed through bootstrapping the business.
In addition to small investments by close family, early-stage crowdfunding gave us invaluable insight into the types of products that our earliest adopters were interested in.
This has been integral to our success.
But as we approached 2020, with sales strong, we sought our first seed round to help us expand further on our category offering and continue to invest in creative partnerships and activations.
In April this year, we closed a $2.54 million (AUD) seed round.
This financing round was led by Drumbeat Ventures, a US-based fund investing in breakout brands with a strong sense of purpose and set of values that, together, serve as the foundation of their business model and organizational culture.
Drumbeat was joined by TA Ventures, a European female-founded fund focusing on technology innovation.
As a female entrepreneur and immigrant founder in the United States, I am one of many in my position who are striving for success within a venture capitalist system that traditionally operates on entrenched prejudices.
None of us could have predicted COVID-19, but almost any entrepreneur who has successfully brought a business to life understands that to survive, you have to be quick on your feet.
It’s the path that brings a founder to the hurdle that will give them the experience they need to get over it.
The biggest challenge in March and April 2020 was navigating the uncertainty that everyone faced regarding the immediate impact on capital markets and the medium- and long-term impacts on the economy.
Especially during a time of crisis, it's crucial to focus on viability and survival, vs. growth at all costs.
It pays to ask: What areas of your business are driving the greatest profit that you can focus more of your internal resources towards?
Which opportunities can be postponed and explored later? What products or services is your business uniquely positioned to offer during this time and how can you bring them to market efficiently?
Even if your product or service is not relevant right now, what value can you bring, so that customers remember you positively whenever you resume your regular operations?
How can you find optimal solutions and do right by all of your stakeholders, including your customers, your team, partners, investors during this period?
Coming in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, this raise has not been without its challenges.
However, ettitude was in a unique position in March of this year to service a growing consumer base who were looking for ways of indulging in small luxuries while at home.
And while we were confident we could sustain ourselves as a retailer through this challenging time, the response to our product range has been overwhelmingly positive.
Our agile marketing strategy meant we could quickly create content and communicate the right messaging that responded to the current climate.
Our investors hastened to close, confident in our prospects of weathering a global economic crisis.
Achieving growth and investment for ettitude has demanded a mix of Australian-like energy and US-minded networking and participation.