Journal Profile: Bre Cruickshank applies radical style to VC, empowerment, apparel

Journal Profile: Bre Cruickshank applies radical style to VC, empowerment, apparel

Not long ago, Bre Cruickshank was going through some belongings from her childhood home.

Within the pile was a paper she estimated she wrote in early elementary school, signed not with her full name, but rather “Bre Inc.”

Looking back, Cruickshank says it was “the most obvious thing” that she was destined to become an entrepreneur. She recalls running lemonade stands and constantly coming up with creative ideas to make a little money, for example charging her classmates to draw on their shoes.

But Cruickshank’s path in the business world — she is now CEO of Radical Girl Gang Inc., a buzzy online marketplace for emerging women-owned brands — has not always been a cakewalk. Growing up, she got the general message that she should “take up less space” and be more of a lady. While deep down she knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur, “it was kind of this unspoken, secret dream that I had,” Cruickshank said.

“I was the quintessential little girl that was just very quickly labeled bossy and aggressive, all of these traits that men have that make y’all phenomenal, kick-a** leaders,” she said.

These days, Cruickshank is prepared to circumvent the male-driven venture capital world in order to build her company.

Radical Girl Gang has launched a fundraising campaign on Republic with the goal of raising $25,000 to $350,000 in the next few months. By late November, the campaign had raised $16,500.

“A big part of why I decided to raise there is that I really believe in the ethos of crowdfunding and democratizing investing,” Cruickshank said.

Prior to this, Cruickshank worked to raise capital from VC firms and angel investors, with mixed results. Cruickshank recently wrote an op-ed in Austin Business Journal about the experience of raising money for Radical Girl Gang, which she started in 2019 as a “side hustle” while working in digital merchandising for Austin-based apparel brand Outdoor Voices.

Cruickshank says she is proud of how Radical Girl Gang has built a community despite the relative lack of institutional backing. The company has nearly 28,000 followers on Instagram and has grown its revenue exponentially in each of the past two years. Cruickshank was named one of Austin Business Journal’s Profiles in Power winners in 2021 .

“Our growth rate is even faster than last year. We’re about have our most successful Q4, coming in significantly above target. Last year, we [grew] 263% year-over-year, this year we should be about 270%, which is super exciting,” Cruickshank said. “We’re at $10K in monthly recurring revenue, which we just hit this summer. So our growth trajectory has never been better, despite a serious lack of resources.”

When did you realize this was more than a side hustle? It was eight months in, and we were in the Smithsonian by that time, we were being carried internationally, we were in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Really the turning point was me finally having enough of that inner confidence and conviction to say, “F*** it, I’m going to really bet on myself, and I’m going to stop betting on other people.”

How can crowdfunding change the game? Women statistically do better than men with crowdfunding. A huge part of that is just that we’re reaching a different audience. I’m reaching people at this coffee shop. You’re just reaching a completely different demographic that is, a lot of times, going to be receptive to your message.

What’s something about being an entrepreneur and fundraising that they don’t really tell you about in the movies or in popular culture? It’s all a game. I don’t even know what to add onto that.

What’s the hardest part about playing that game? That it’s rigged. So you can be focused on being the best person at playing this game, you can follow all the rules, you can play it longer and harder than anyone else; but at the end of the day, the game is rigged. The sooner that we are honest with women about the reality that venture capital is not a viable path for women, based on the statistics, the more I think we’re benefitting women by opening them up to different paths for raising capital for their businesses.

What was the most important thing you learned working at Nike? It’s that brands are not products. Everything I learned at Nike, I’ve been able to apply at [Radical Girl Gang]. What has made Nike so successful is not just the product, it’s about how you identify with it and what it means in your life. When you […]

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