In just two weeks, Enrou went from scrappy startup to winner of Forbes’ “$400,000 Pressure Cooker” pitch competition held this week during the Forbes Under 30 Summit.
Days after finding out it was one of five finalists for the “Shark Tank”-style contest, Enrou jetted to Philadelphia on Saturday. By Tuesday, the e-commerce startup learned it had won.
“It’s been pretty surreal,” said Chief Executive Ann Wang.
The Westwood e-commerce platform, in exchange for a small equity stake, will receive $100,000 from Revolution Growth founder Steve Case and $50,000 from Forbes and Atom Factory Chief Executive Troy Carter. It also won $250,000 in advertising and services from Forbes. Wang said she has yet to discuss with her eight-person team on how the money will be used.
Enrou, whose name derives from the startup’s mission to be en route toward change, offers an online marketplace for apparel, jewelry and accessories that are made by independent retailers from developing communities. Bios are included in product listings to inform consumers on how their money will directly benefit a vendor.
“It’s really about empowering people to find a way to make a massive global impact on their everyday life,” Wang said.
The socially conscious market has proven to be a popular, and sometimes lucrative, business model. Toms Shoes, which pledges to donate a pair of footwear for every pair purchased, was estimated to be worth $625 million after it sold a 50 percent stake to Bain Capital.
The feel-good consumer industry has also gotten flack for undermining local vendors and being ineffective in bringing about change in struggling communities.
That’s why Enrou wants to be transparent about how it vets its brands and be cognizant of where it accepts money. Wang said Enrou plans to open a financing round before the end of the year.
“We see other companies in the space that aren’t able to sustain themselves because of certain investments that come in,” she said.
Enrou launched a beta site in November with $5,000 from Wang and co-founder Jessica Willison. It held a small friends and family round soon after, though Wang declined to share the size of the raise. The startup also received $5,000 through UCLA’s 2014 summer accelerator Startup UCLA. No equity was sold to the university.
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