A stock photography company focused on showcasing people of color and other underserved communities.
A couple years ago, Karen Okonkwo had a difficult time finding photos of women of color for her blog, Sorority Secrets. "If I ever found them, it took me hours, and the imagery was not up to par," Okonkwo says. This experience inspired her to start a stock photography company focused on showcasing people of color. She met photographer Joshua Kissi, and they launched Tonl in August 2017. "People equate a lot of imagery to social media, so it may feel full and robust based on people's profiles and Facebook and Instagram and all types of social media platforms, but when it comes to stock photography, that isn't the case," Kissi says. "That's where we come in." With no employees, the Seattle-based company relies on its small team of contracted workers--seven, to be exact--to keep the business humming. After just five months of operation, the company brought in nearly $47,000 in 2017 revenue. Tonl expects that number to quadruple to $188,000, thanks to partnerships with companies like PopSugar, Sundial Brands, and Google. "There's an opportunity to tell more stories, because that's what really moves people, within photography, and we really want to go into the depths of that when it comes to people of color," Kissi says. --Sarah Jackson
Touch of Modern
A curated, online shopping website for men offering unusual products, clothing, and accessories.
For the founders of Touch of Modern, the third time's a charm. The San Francisco-based men's clothing and home goods seller initially launched in 2010 as an app to help people find things to do on the weekend. Less than a year later, it relaunched as an event planning app. "It's really hard to scale and make money when you have to manage all of these small businesses and be hyper-localized," says 29-year-old co-founder and CTO Steven Ou.
Rather than give up and return their investors' money, Ou and his three co-founders pitched their VCs one last idea: a destination for stylish guys to find unique products. To test the idea, the company ran two preview sales before its official launch in 2012. The sales brought in more revenue than the previous two companies combined. The idea worked, but the logistics were an afterthought. The team had no idea how to ship the $7,000 Danish couch they had advertised on a whim. When a customer unexpectedly bought it, it took six months to get it to her. "She was very patient," Ou says.
Touch of Modern has raised a total of $17 million in funding and says its revenue is on track to hit $200 million in 2018. The brand takes more than a million orders a year, the bulk of which come through its mobile app. Top-selling items include luxury watches, clothes, art, and--everyone's favorite James Bond accessory--a wrist-mounted flame thrower. --Lindsay Blakely