- Olamide Olowe is the founder and CEO of Topicals, which makes products for chronic skin conditions.
- On Thursday, Topicals announced a $10 million Series A round led by venture capital firm CAVU.
- Olowe gives her advice for pitching investors with confidence as a Black female founder.
Olamide Olowe started his skincare brand after growing up with chronic skin conditions like boils and ingrown hairs. These issues are not commonly discussed by peers or medical professionals, she said.
“I grew up feeling really isolated and spending a lot of time going to dermatologists and primary care doctors trying to find a cure,” Olowe told Insider. “I’m not getting results and I don’t understand why.”
In college, Olowe learned that people of color are not only underrepresented in the skin care industry but also at large missing from clinical trials and research.
“People with darker skin are understudied and understudied when it comes to formulations for prescription or over-the-counter products,” she says.
Driven to change industry and beauty standards, she founded Topicals in 2020, when she was 23 years old, after graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her company creates skin care products for chronic conditions that can be difficult to treat and contribute to low self-esteem.
row announced Thursday a $10 million Series A funding round led by venture capital firm CAVU, which invests in consumer product brands such as Beyond Meat and Oatly. This brings Topicals’ total funding to $12.6 million.
This is how Olowe pitches investors with confidence.
Topicals launched with $2.6 million in seed funding, which wasn’t easy for Olowe. Just before last year 93 Black female founders had raised $ 1 million or more in venture capital, according to ProjectDianebiennial report on the state of Black and Latina female founders by the organization Digitalundivided.
“It took me about two years and probably almost a hundred pitches to get the funding,” he says.
Maybe it would have been a faster process if she hadn’t been young, Black, and female, but it taught her how to build confidence, she added.
“I knew very quickly, at the age of 23, when I started raising capital how to believe in myself and talk about my business in a way that no one could poke holes in,” he says. “I go into every room. I know what I’m talking about.”
Above all, she doesn’t let the statistics about funding for Black women founders bother her.
“There are many reasons why I should not have funds,” he said. “But I don’t even think about why this shouldn’t happen.”
Color the data by culture
Olowe anchors her pitch in her knowledge and preparedness, which builds respect among investors, she said. He uses data to explain why his product is necessary, profitable, and influential.
“It’s always driven by data, and then we color that data with culture,” he says.
That means he provides more context to give investors a deeper understanding of the skin care product market, especially in the community of color. For example, when an investor asked why she didn’t have an acne treatment in her product line, she said she wanted to start a treatment for hyperpigmentation, which is a common skin problem for people of color.
“Before we jumped into the market, a lot of people of color didn’t have a ton of products to use,” she said. “But the spending is seven to eight times higher than other communities.”
The roles have been reversed
The second time raising capital was not as difficult as the first, Olowe said, because investors came to him. This shift shows that he has influence as one who offers them opportunities.
“I’m not asking for money,” he said. “I know this company will be successful. I know what this category will be like in the next two to five years.”
And if one investor passes on the opportunity, they are left behind.
“I’m very scrappy,” she said. “I’m not coming back to ask you for money.”