We Got Funded: Emirati-Founded Online Fashion Marketplace Boksha Secures US$1 Million In Seed Funding Round
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Boksha, an online marketplace for independent fashion designers with a focus on Khaleeji themes, has secured US$1 million from a group of investors, which includes Sandooq Al Watan and family offices.
Founded in 2018, Boksha has 800 boutiques and more than 15,000 products, such as abayas, kaftans, travel wear, and dresses, listed on its platform. Yahya Mohamed Saleh, co-founder and CEO, says that 90% of the designers presented on the platform are UAE-based, with the majority of them being women between 18 and 35 of age.
"We provide designers with a wide range of online and offline services so that they can focus on what they do best- designing,” Saleh says. "A designer on the platform can be someone running their businesses from home, or someone with their own studios and retail shop, and Boksha differentiates itself from other online fashion websites by not selling any global brands, hence, designers are keen to join the platform. Our product offering is unique, custom-made, and is from creative local talent.”
Boksha -the name is derived from an Arab Gulf dialect referring to a piece of fabric traditionally used as a pouch or head carrier by female merchants for the storage of their garments and goods- aims to empower the region’s independent fashion designers with technology in order to help them to expand their reach and become global players.
“We provide designers with their own unique shop front on the website and the app, with a backend to manage orders and financials,” Saleh explains. "We also see ourselves as a one-stop shop for the designers where we provide customer service to shoppers, delivery, photography, videography, and access to events. Finally, we don’t operate on a consignment model; items are picked up from boutiques on demand."
Boksha ships its orders to more than 40 countries worldwide, including across the GCC, USA, UK, France, Australia, and Canada, with Saleh noting that approximately 70% of sales are international. It should therefore come as no surprise then that Boksha has been recognized by investors as a largely scalable business. Indeed, the Boksha team aims to utilize the seed funds to scale up operationally, and further invest into its technology in order to enter new markets in the GCC region.
"Amongst the most important things that investors look for are track record, potential to grow and scale, and most importantly, team strength,” Saleh says. "We can demonstrate to investors that we have been able to drive high growth consistently, come up with new product lines on the go, in addition to being able to bootstrap the business to where it is today. The traction we had confirmed our conviction that there is strong demand globally for such a unique product from this region.”
In addition to giving GCC-based designers access to a multi-billion-dollar fashion market globally, Saleh points out that Boksha’s significant social impact in terms of job creation, individual empowerment, and export of regional talent resonated very well among their investors. The Emirati startup is supported by Sandooq Al Watan, a social initiative launched by a group of Emirati businessmen to build a sense of social cohesion among members of the community, and several local family offices.
When asked to share a few tips for fellow entrepreneurs on how to pitch to family offices, Saleh explains that the region’s startup success stories have convinced local family offices to venture into startup investing; however, some challenges do remain. “The mindset of some can still be more around the traditional way of running a business which can make it difficult to sell the business plan that is more focused on top line growth,” Saleh says. “On the other hand, institutional investors understand the valuation methods and typical commercial terms within the industry much better, but are bound by other challenges such as expecting a much higher return on their capital.”
He adds, "Traditional family offices could be a difficult party to bring along on board as they could come with a very different mindset that is not necessarily fit for a tech startup investment. That being said, our advice is to approach family offices that have a good understanding of the venture capital and tech space, and that would not only provide financial capital, but also provide strategic input to the business.”