April Foster is in the business of viral growth. Her company, Inked Brands, takes social influencers (those coveted Facebookers, Instagrammers and Pinterest Queens and Kings with more followers than most of us could dream of) and helps them develop product lines to capitalize on that fan base.
Take Ali Edwards for example, a photographer at heart with 50,000 Instagram followers. When Edwards partnered with Inked Brands, the two collaborated to design the right products she could start sharing on her blog and social channels. A personalized and inspiring collection of memory keeping tools followed and a multi-million-dollar brand was created. In short, April is turning followers into customers.
Entrepreneurs can think of social media as the “sweet spot” of marketing, with 86-percent of women saying they’re more likely to buy a product after engaging with the brand on social media.
So, “going big,” is kind of her motto. She’s been doing just that since 2015, when Inked Brands’ reported annual revenue exceeded $9 million and was named Kentucky’s seventh fastest growing company.
Now, as business is heating up this summer, April has just secured $4 million in venture capital funding with the help of investment firm BIP Capital. The added investment will allow Inked Brands to take on more influencers per year, each with their own sizeable share of the social media community, which will allow for even more exponential growth.
Making it to the table
Raising Series A funding from a venture capitalist was a new process to April, who shares the same humble roots as the entrepreneurs she helps develop.
“A long time ago, I was a blogger,” the Kentucky native said. “Then, a friend asked me to develop products. It was the beginning of solving the problem of micro-influencers.”
The experience, she says, primed her well to grow the business quickly. Making mistakes on her own dime made her that much hungrier to learn what was going to work for her business. She would soon find out that VCs are thinking along the same lines: if they’re going to invest a hefty sum, they want a high return on that investment.
“The revenue was key to getting my foot in the door,” April says of wooing a multi-million-dollar investor.
April had already proven her concept many times over. Then, as VCs consider the size of the market for Inked Brands, they could see high revenue potential.
Knowing what’s out there
From Inked’s Bowling Green office, April describes her close-knit, creative team members as “being out of the hub.” Their culture allows them the peace to let creative juices flow while also putting their head down and “getting to work.”
But entering into BIP Capital’s network of strategic partners, April says she was “pleasantly surprised to see how welcoming people were.”
To forge the right partnership, she says chemistry is key. She recommends to other entrepreneurs looking for funding that they seek out investors who align with their brand’s goals. They may just be surprised at what’s awaiting them.
“I didn’t realize how much money was available to invest in solid ideas and solid people.”
Though April is a master at reading the wants and needs of social media audiences, which are often looking for instant gratification, the process of raising VC funding is likely going to be very different for most entrepreneurs.
You won’t have a couple million in the bank as soon as your next Instagram post hits 10k likes.
“Everything takes longer than you think it’s going to take,” she laughs.
So, buckle up and have faith.