Empowering African and Caribbean brands and cultures

Every year, the Small Awards celebrate the smallest and greatest firms in the UK. Online business Wakuda – an online marketplace for black-owned brands – was awarded the Digital Star category at this year’s Small Awards. Co-founder Nathaniel Wade tells us more about the journey so far.

Tell us about your Wakuda

Wakuda is an online marketplace that connects exceptional African and Caribbean brands with buyers craving culture and inspiration. Our curated platform showcases unique cultural gifts and lifestyle products from talented black creators, that celebrate the vibrancy of African and Caribbean cultures. Products range from Candles to handmade jewellery and greeting cards that you won’t find on the high street.

When did you set the company up and what was the thinking behind it?

Wakuda was born out of a desire for greater representation and inclusivity. Established in 2021, myself and my co-founder and childhood friend Albert were frustrated with the struggle to find products that represented us and our cultures in mainstream retail. From Albert trying buy a father’s day card featuring a Black dad, to me trying to buy a doll for my daughter that actually represented her. We saw the connection between the lack of diversity in products to the lack of diversity in the creators of the products in the retail environment.

Additionally, we recognised the challenges faced by African and Caribbean brands to gain visibility and recognition. It wasn’t that there aren’t creators producing these products, but rather that accessing them was nowhere near as easy as it should be.

In the wake of the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter Movement and the global shift in awareness that surrounded it for supporting Black-owned independents and creators, we launched Wakuda. We wanted to create a space where their talents could shine, their stories could be heard, and our communities could be celebrated.

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024

You recently won an award at the Small Awards. Tell us about that.

Winning the Digital Star category at the Small Awards was a moment of joy and validation for us. Among strong competition, our dedication to digital marketing and promoting Wakuda’s brands stood out. Culture is integral to what makes us human. We’re passionate about using digital to build a shopping experience that put this at the centre and allows Wakuda to become a bridge connecting buyers with these incredible brands. Marketplace aside, Wakuda, at its core is a space for connection. We’re bringing the human connection back to your shopping experience. Whether you want to personalise a product or go directly to a brands profile to learn their amazing stories and why they do what they do.

This award isn’t just for us; it’s a victory for our entire Wakuda community of buyers and sellers. It fuels our determination to continue pushing boundaries, amplifying voices, and championing cultural diversity in the retail space.

What advice would you give other people thinking about setting up their own business?
For those considering starting their own business, my advice is simple: Believe in yourself and your vision. Surround yourself with a supportive network of mentors and like-minded individuals. And never lose sight of why you started the journey.

Sum up your business in three words.

Culture, community, authenticity.

The Small Awards are organised by Small Business Britain, which champions, inspires and accelerates the nation’s 5.5 million small firms.

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024