The online marketplace Wakuda showcases products made and sold by Black-owned businesses. “It enables everyone to vote with their wallets,” says co-founder Nathaniel Wade (pictured above left). Wakuda sells everything from candles to chocolate, beauty products to books.

He launched Wakuda in September 2020 with co-founder Albert Larter (above right). “In the wake of the Black Lives Matter marches, we had lots of candid conversations with friends. The consensus was that people wanted to take action and do things to support but that they didn’t necessarily know how to. With Wakuda, we’re aiming to be the bridge between all consumers and Black-owned businesses.”

There are more than 2000 products listed on Wakuda from more than 300 businesses. Orders are sent to customers all over the world. Nathaniel, 30, and Albert, 31, run Wakuda alongside full-time jobs and manage their business finances on the go using the Starling app.

“The word ‘Wakuda’ means Black in Chichewa, which is the main spoken language in Malawi. Malawi is a country considered by many as the heart of Africa, so it fits with what we want to do - to be that centre for Black-owned business.”

From friends to business co-founders

Nathaniel and Albert, both based in London, have known each other since they were children. “We went to primary school together so we’ve got a relationship that spans 25 years. We also have a history working together in business and we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” says Nathaniel.

He has a background in engineering and property, while Albert’s expertise lies in digital marketing. “Albert heads up marketing and brand awareness and I handle operations, including the website and customer experience. And we do strategy together.”

Building a marketplace

Social media has been key in kick-starting and growing Wakuda. “We use social media for three main purposes: growing the brands on our marketplace by connecting with them through their social media channels, telling the story of our brand and mission, and advertising products which are listed on Wakuda,” says Nathaniel.

“We’ve found Instagram works best for us. Wakuda is a product based marketplace and I think the visual element of Instagram with multiple formats (grid, reels, stories and IGTV) helps us to express this.”

PR has also been important for Wakuda. Wakuda has been featured in MyLondon, Time Out London and the Evening Standard. “I recommend contacting journalists that write about things that are related to your brand.”

The co-founders give marketing and PR workshops for the businesses listed on Wakuda. “We run masterclasses where people can learn what it takes to build a brand or take it to the next level,” he says.

Nathaniel’s favourite part about running Wakuda is helping the listed vendors grow. “We can support and empower them.”

Business banking with Starling

Nathaniel started using Starling for his personal banking in 2018 and hasn’t looked back. When it came to choosing a business bank account, Starling was a natural choice. “It’s a very powerful tool and it makes life a lot easier,” he says.

“The categorisation of outgoings is very useful - it enables me to spot trends at a glance. Another of my favourite features is Spaces. I can section off funds for specific purposes like unexpected costs/web development/bills. I have much more oversight of the day to day budget, without needing to do a lot of work,” he says.

“When you want to focus on building a brand or company, you don’t want to have to worry about banking. It’s also great that we don’t have to pay fees.”

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