Life has changed a lot for Alex Baro and Catherine Wong since the couple founded their eCommerce business, Black Swallow, in 2015.
"We have three young boys now. So pretty much all we know is business and kids," says Alex, reflecting on life as both a parent and founder.
"It's busy," he notes. And the couple's eldest son is starting to understand mom and dad's lives as founders. "He wakes up in the middle of the night and sees us working. He's often there on my lap, falling asleep while I'm finishing off emails or talking to suppliers in Italy, the UK, etc. It's good, but it's busy."
In six years, Black Swallow has seen a lot of growth and evolved many times. It started out as a fashion store, but now it's home to some big, global brands and sells a vast range of products from homeware and furniture to cosmetics, beauty, and hair care—an area that Alex says Black Swallow has honed in on to unlock its next phase of growth.
Using cash and insights to unlock growth
Being flexible and having the ability to move fast has been key to Black Swallow's success. "We make sure we're able to jump on trends and get stock from rising brands that aren't available in high street stores like Mecca and Sephora," says Alex.
Alex and Catherine have also developed their own Black Swallow branded products with a range of lashes, makeup brushes, and sponges, with more SKUs planned.
But to continue developing products and moving quicker than their competitors, Black Swallow's founders knew they needed to find some additional capital. And when Alex heard about Wayflyer from a friend and fellow eCommerce entrepreneur, he reached out to see how we could work together.
"We wanted to get more cash into the business," says Alex. "We got into contact with Wayflyer and got funded on that same day."
"The funds went straight into our bank account, and it's helped us to scale the business significantly because we were able to get the money at just the right time," says Alex. "The process was seamless."
"Our revenue was up by 100% the month after we took the financing, and it's continued to climb since."
Alex and Catherine put the funding to work right away to buy inventory. The funding also cleared the way for more of the existing cash in the business to be invested in marketing—and it didn't take long for the results to start showing. "We had a few slower months before taking funding, and our revenue was up by 100% the month after we took the financing, and it's continued to climb since."
The Black Swallow team also use Wayflyer's Insights to deepen their understanding of how their marketing campaigns were performing. "I love the dashboard," says Alex. "It's great how it pulls in data and analytics from Google and Facebook so we can see what's going on."
A partner that understands eCommerce
Before working with Wayflyer, Black Swallow hadn't taken on any traditional funding or financing.
"We've never had a business bank loan," says Alex. "We know that the business is on the right path. It's growing year on year. But there are so many hoops to jump through with traditional lenders—they don't understand online businesses and don't understand entrepreneurship."
When it came time to seek outside financing, Alex and Catherine were looking for a partner that genuinely understood eCommerce and what it takes to build a successful online business.
"I remember connecting our channels [Facebook ads, Google ads, and analytics) to Wayflyer, and when I had a call with the team to go through the business, they understood what the data was showing," says Alex on his first interactions with the Wayflyer team.
"They get eCommerce, they get entrepreneurship, and know what data they need to look at to truly understand our business," he adds.
Alex and Catherine are six years into their eCommerce journey. But it feels like the entrepreneurial couple is just getting started.
With the growth of their Black Swallow branded products and more SKUs on the way, Alex says they have to take a longer-term view—often looking 9-12 months ahead with forecasting and inventory planning.
The founders are also looking to expand the Black Swallow footprint offline. "We want to open up retail stores," says Alex on the future of the business. "But before we do that, we want to be able to build up our Black Swallow cosmetics line."
Whether they're tackling supply chains or math homework with the boys, business and home life go hand in hand for Alex and Catherine—and it seems entrepreneurship might run in the family. "Our eldest son comes to the office with us," says Alex. "He says he wants to work with mommy and daddy when he grows up. But I know I'll probably end up working for him."