After growing her audience to over a million followers on Instagram, Houston fashion blogger Dede Raad felt the pressure to expand her business — but she didn't feel inspired by any particular line of business to grow into.
"In the blogging world, which I've been doing for about seven years, everyone's next step is to start a brand and to start something of their own," Raad, founder of Dress Up Buttercup, tells InnovationMap. "I just don't have anything in my heart that I was really passionate about. I know once you start something, you have to give it your all."
But what Raad realized — after a year of thinking about her next move and a chance viewing of Shark Tank — was that tons of business founders were passionate about their own brands, and there was an opportunity for Raad use her community to support them instead of coming up with something of her own.
She put the call out to her followers to find founders with growing brands. Raad launched "Build Up Buttercup," an initiative that featured small business pitches for a select group of investors, with her husband, Ted. The event, which happened last October, resulted in eight business pitches across four episodes uploaded to Dress Up Buttercup's page that garnered hundreds of thousands of views. The initiative also resulted in a handful of investments and cash prizes.
"It was a crazy four days, but it was so cool to see the brands and the passion behind it and for Ted and I to help in both a financial and advising way," Raad says.
Raad was joined at the event with fellow investors, which included Houston-based investment firms Curate Capital and Trend Ventures, the investment arm of influencer management company Trend Management, founded by Ted Raad.
Of the eight that pitched, four companies received investments. Dress Up Buttercup invested in Houston-based jewelry company Burdlife and children's clothing brand Poppy Kids. Trend Ventures made investments in Cold Cork and Houston-based tech startup, AIM7, which closed its seed round in December.
Raad tells InnovationMap that she'd be interested in hosting another edition of "Build Up Buttercup" in the future, but for now she's focused on her two new brands. Her role within both of the companies is very hands on, she explains, and meets with the founders at least once a week. She also markets both brands to her Instagram community.
"We're not just sending you a check — we want to be involved," Raad says. "I've worked with brands for the past seven years, and I've seen what people are buying. I have such a power in my community, and I know what they like."