Community Impact

‘Cultural representation of our communities is so important’

Nathaniel Wade co-founded online marketplace Wakuda to create a space for African and Caribbean brands

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Growing up, childhood friends Nathaniel Wade and Alfred Larter struggled to find products that represented them. They couldn’t find birthday cards for their dads with a Black figure on them, for example. It would take seeking out independent retailers to find items that represented who they were.  

It’s this need for representation that inspired the pair to co-found Wakuda, an online marketplace working exclusively with African and Caribbean retailers.  

“We’d always struggled to find products that represented our cultures,” Nathaniel says. “But we knew that there were business owners out that that were solving these problems and filling that gap, but trying to access them wasn’t the easiest. So we wanted to find ways to help amplify them and get them out there.” 

Nathaniel grew up in South London and had to find specific stores to buy products – like greeting cards – that represented him.  

But it was the killing of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement that really spurred them on to start Wakuda. There was a sudden wave of people across society wanting to find a way to support Black communities, he says. 

“After his murder there were a lot of tensions. You had a lot of people talking about supporting Black businesses but not necessarily having access to them.” 

‘Our message has always been inclusive’

It was an “intense time”, Nathaniel says. “I think it was also frustrating because there was this whole hyper awareness of the inequality that is faced by the Black community. But in my mind, I already knew that this is only going to last for so long before things head back to how they were before.  

“So even though there was a lot of big companies and initiatives saying we’re gonna do certain things, I was like, we need to build something that is actually sustainable,” he says. 

Building sustainability and longevity was essential to the foundations of Wakuda.  

“I’ve seen a lot of retailers are pushing for diversity and creating more diversity, but they realistically can only do so much, so we very much firmly see our position and mission as bridging that gap.” 

Although they only promote Black-owned businesses on the site, Wakuda is for everyone.

Although they only promote Black-owned businesses on the site, Wakuda is for everyone. “Our message has always been inclusive,” Nathaniel says. 

“Yes, it’s from this community and it’s a celebration of this community, but it’s for everyone.” 

He says they’ve managed to build a diverse community of customers while maintaining and promoting cultural representation – values that are at the heart of Wakuda.  

“We have such a strong ethos, and sellers love that kind of passion and love the ability to connect with their community.”  

That passion goes both ways. “The customers that struggled to find diverse products and cultural representation in their products, we’re literally the site for them now. These are people from all over the UK who are now able to find relatable products.”  

He hopes Wakuda will become a global platform that connects African and Caribbean heritage brands to the wider community and celebrates them.  

Ultimately, it’s his own family and experience that drives him. “It’s super key that my two daughters see themselves and see relatable products rather than just seeing other objects that aren’t them. That representation is so important.” 

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