Spotlight: Kirsten Dickerson, Founder of Raven + Lily

  • By Nicole Conser
  • Published 12/10/2015

Small business is about more than making a profit. It’s about following your dreams and serving others. Whether they’re Borrowers, Backers or Able investors, the members of our Network are doing amazing things, and the purpose of this Spotlight Series is to shine a light on their work behind the scenes.

Kirsten Dickerson isn’t just a savvy small business owner. She’s a pioneer in the world of social business and ethical fashion. Kirsten has been invited to speak to audiences at SXSW Interactive, Social Good Summit, Texas Women’s Chamber of Commerce, University of Texas Business for Good Summit, and more.

After graduating from Baylor University, Kirsten traveled to India to volunteer with Mother Teresa and Compassion International. She then spent 15 years doing styling work in the film industry, traveling extensively to over 30 countries, studying in Africa, living in Estonia, and working alongside global non-profits.

Raven + Lily’s jewelry makers in India.

Inspired by her travels, Kirsten started Raven + Lily with a group of friends in L.A. as a non-profit project aiming to help women build more sustainable livelihoods. Motivated by the belief that each person is valuable and uniquely created, she quickly developed a passion for social business models as a means of alleviating poverty.

With no outside funding, Kirsten and her friends launched their initial partnerships through volunteer parties with designer friends. They started making products from donated remnant materials to raise funds for getting the partnerships started. After a few years of operating alongside a non-profit, Raven + Lily was able to launch as a social business model in 2011. It stands in stark contrast to the often horrific world of fast fashion.

Today, Raven + Lily is a B Corp and currently helps employ over 1,500 marginalized women in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Pakistan and the USA. Creating this brand allowed Kirsten to unify her passions and capitalize on her experience in both the humanitarian and fashion worlds.

One Year After Funding

Kirsten in front of Raven + Lily’s second flagship location.

One year ago this week, Kirsten came to Able. She had recently cemented new retailer partnerships and she needed growth capital to meet the increased demand. She had the opportunity to raise equity from investors, but she didn’t want to give up too much control of her company, so she combined her equity raise with an Able loan. She recruited Backers to fund 25% of her loan, which unlocked the remaining 75% of the money from Able.

That boost of capital helped create another growth spurt, and Kirsten recently partnered with Able for a second loan to fulfill ever-growing purchase orders. This strong market traction and wave of smart growth inspired Kirsten to take action and announce big news: Raven + Lily will open a second Austin location in 2016.

Fun Facts About Kirsten

Reviewing the Raven + Lily lookbook in Guatemala.

Kirsten and her filmmaker husband live in a 400-square-foot “tiny house” in the country outside of Austin, Texas, on Green Acres — a boutique retreat for artists, families and sojourners. As enthusiasts of slow food and “slow fashion” — and the positive impact they have on people and the planet — Kirsten and her husband maintain a minimalist lifestyle.

Raven + Lily has been featured in magazines such as Marie Claire, InStyle, Lucky, Fast Company, GOOD Magazine and Elle, and Kirsten has received awards for:

  • 2012 Classy Award: Philanthropic Business of the Year
  • 2013 Rising Star: Austin Fashion Week
  • 2014 Blazing Star from Texas Women’s Chamber of Commerce
  • Ethical Fashion Forum: Sustainable Brand Leaders for Jewelry

Entrepreneurs like Kirsten inspire our team at Able to continue seeking exceptional small businesses to fund. She had a vision for empowering other women, and turned it into reality. She also recognized something that far too many entrepreneurs overlook: you control the way your business grows. In the coming year, we’re excited to track the impact Raven + Lily makes — not only in Austin, but through its broad network of women around the world.

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