Today I'd like to welcome Avi Loren Fox to Racing Towards Retirement. Avi is the founder of Wild Mantle, which got some financing from Kickfurther. As my regular readers know, Kickfurther allows ordinary investors to finance inventory for businesses and earn a profit for doing so.
Q: Tell me a little about yourself--where are you from, where did you go to school and what did you expect to be doing at this point in your life?
A: I was born and raised in Narberth, Pennsylvania, a small town just outside of Philadlephia on the Main Line. I was homeschooled from second to eighth grade, giving me an early dose of what it's like to be independent and have agency over my path in life. I then attended Lower Merion High School and went on to graduate from the Honor's Program at Temple University. Growing up, when I pictured my life, I don't remember picturing the "career" aspect of my life. Whenever I tried, I got a total blank. I realized in high school that perhaps the job I would have wasn't invented yet. In hindsight, this turned out to be true as I went on to start my own company and create a job for myself. But when I was younger visualizing my future and where I expected to be at this point (I turn 30 in October), I remember thinking more about the lifestyle I wanted to have and also what kind of woman I wanted to be. I had a lot of strong female role models growing up and I sort of took my favorite virtues and characteristics from each and decided that that was the woman I wanted to be. Although I'm a work in progress like anyone else, I very much am living into this woman that I visualized years ago.
Q: Give us a short conception and birth story about Wild Mantle
A few years ago, I made a hooded-scarf out of some beloved old cashmere and wool sweaters. It felt cozy and warm, and when I put it on, I felt a quiet sense of comfort and courage. When I wore it out into the world, people noticed, and they’d ask “What is that? I want one!” I heard the same thing from each person who tried it on: “it feels like a hug" and “I feel like a warrior.” I decided to call it the MANTLE, and before I knew it, I was making them for lots of other people. You see, the word MANTLE not only means a loose fitting hood or cloak, it also means your role or responsibility in the world. I decided I would design all my mantles to deliver a hug of coziness and courage. And in turn, the MANTLE would be an invitation to think about what mantles one carries and how they can step into more of an empowered role in their world.
After demand exceeded my capacity to make the mantles in my hometown, I launched a Kickstarter campaign and raised nearly $40,000 to produce our flagship Alpaca Wild Mantle at a B-Corporation artisan knitting mill frozen in time in the Colorado Rockies. This past May, I launched a second Kickstarter and raised nearly $50,000 to produce our premier Summer Collection. Now, we are growing a community of women around the world who can relate to this idea of "taking up your mantle" and want to come together with other women over topics such as sustainability, empowerment and adventure. I host events for these women in the Philadelphia suburbs, and I'm excited to grow this in the future as we get bigger.
Q: Which of your products is your favorite, and why?
The Charcoal Alpaca is my favorite. It's the first color of alpaca we made during our first Kickstarter campaign. We are actually currently sold out because it is so popular (don't worry, we're making more for this fall and you can currently reserve yours via pre-order on our website!) and I love how it has become such a classic amongst our other newer styles. It's the one I wear pretty much every day in the winter; inside with the hood flipped down as a cowl and then outside with the hood up to help maintain my core warmth.
Q: As a woman entrepreneur do you believe you have run into any problems that your male counterparts have not? Do you believe being a woman has given you a leg up on the guys in any way?
We live in a time where women stepping up in the work force is not only encouraged, but also highlighted and celebrated. My parents raised me to believe I could be anything I wanted to be. For example, when I was a kid, I remember thinking about running for president when I grew up. It never occurred to me that I couldn't do it because I was a woman, it was more a thought like "I'm probably not going to run for president someday because being in the political system isn't the game I want to play....but if I did...what if I won? Wouldn't that be cool?" Entrepreneurship is the game I want to play, and I haven't, to date, run into any problems (that I know of) that my male counterparts have not. I have received support from organizations specifically targeted at women, and I do feel very supported by my community because I am a woman entrepreneur.
Q: I notice that you have done a lot of crowdfunding of your business via Kickstarter and Kickfurther. Is there any reason you have chosen this type of funding?
A: Kickstarter was an obvious and fun way for me to get started, as it enabled me to test my idea among the community and only manufacture orders that were previously placed. It is an amazing way for a new entrepreneur to test their proof of concept, build a customer base, and also get through the inevitable first round of learning experiences that come with launching a new product. We've successfully completed two Kickstarters and one Kickfurther. I also received a loan from Kiva and the Tory Burch Foundation, both of which are paid back.
Q: Where did you first hear of Kickfurther, and why did you decide to use them?
A: After I did my first Kickstarter successfully, I started getting emails from companies eager to help with the next phase of funding. Kickfurther caught my eye, and I decided to use them because the immediacy of the raise was advantageous to my timeline and I liked the idea that backers might turn into future customers, as they did on Kickstarter.
Q: You successfully finished your first Kickfurther campaign a month early, which I'm sure made your investors happy. Are you planning to use Kickfuther again anytime soon? Why or why not?
A: Yes, I hope this made them happy! I am not planning on using Kickfurther again. While I really like the team and concept, the interest rates are really high and I'm currently switching to a line of credit. Additionally, I didn't find that the backers on Kickfurther translated into customers or helped at all with sales (as was the case on Kickstarter) so from a purely monetary standpoint Kickfurther no longer makes sense for me.
Q: Would you recommend Kickfurther to other business owners? Why or why not?
A: I would recommend Kickfurther to a business if their needs matched what the platform delivered. I've referred a few friends to date, actually.
Q: Have you tried Kickfurther from the investor side? Why or why not? Would you recommend it to friends or family who have money to invest?
A: I am an investor on Kickfurther. When I decided to launch my campaign, I wanted to know what it was like to both sides. I would recommend it to friends and family with caution. Most of my investments have gone really well, but one person completely dropped off the planet and I'm still waiting to see how that will work out. It is probably the case that the money I'll make in the investments that went well will equal the money I will lose on the one that went bad. So in the end, although a good learning experience, it will probably not be a financially lucrative experience.
Q: Would you like to offer a giveaway?
A: Sure, how about we do a $20 gift certificate to my website?
I'd like to thank Avi for joining us today and for offering a $20 gift certificate. You can visit Wild Mantle at their website, They are also on Instagram, facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
If you want to know more about Kickfurther, click the "Kickfurther" label under this post. I've written extensively about Kickfurther and my experiences with it. If you would like to invest with Kickfurther, use this link and you get $5.00 off your first investment. If you have a business which needs money to purchase inventory, if you use my link, I get referral credit, and bloggers have to eat too!