Elenas sells consumer goods to 11 million women in Latin America through catalogs and door-to-door sales. It’s about digitizing that process so you can easily sell from home.
Founder and CEO Zach Oshin launched the Colombia-based social commerce company in 2018 (and participated in Latin American Startup Battlegrounds that year) to move the traditional freelance sales process online.
Here’s how it works: Entrepreneurs browse a portfolio of hundreds of thousands of wholesale products in areas like beauty, personal care, home goods and electronics, decide what they want to sell, how high to price it, and then promote it. Brands on social channels like WhatsApp and Facebook.
Elenas also takes care of product sourcing, delivery and payment collection. Last year, more than 100,000 women in Colombia and Mexico sold more than 2 million orders and earned millions of dollars.
To accelerate that trajectory, Elenas has raised $2 million in seed funding in 2020 and another $6 million in Series A capital in 2021. Now the company is back with a $20 million Series B round. This gives the company more than $28 million in funding to date.
While Oschin didn’t elaborate on Elena’s estimate, he said it was an increase from the previous round. He also said that the company has grown revenue more than 5x between rounds.
Dilla Capital leads this new investment and is joined by FJ Labs, Endeavor Catalyst, Inter-American Development Bank IDB Lab, Broadhaven Ventures, Mercado Libre, Grupo Bolivar and Leo Capital.
“Elenas is revolutionizing the direct sales industry by selling thousands of products through its digital catalog to millions of people in the region,” said Alejandro Diz Barroso, Managing Partner of Dilla Capital, in a written statement. “We are confident that we are supporting the right team in the right market at the right time.”
With three times the population of Colombia, Mexico is poised to become the company’s biggest market next year, Ocean said.
In the year Since its launch in 2021, Elenas has been able to raise 30 percent, which means that Mexico will account for more than a third of the business in one year, which he said took two and a half years to achieve in Colombia.
Meanwhile, other e-commerce companies haven’t fared as well, Oshin said. For example, starting with low-ticket items like grocery delivery, he noted, some companies have not been able to reach the right profit profile or build infrastructure at the level needed to reach profitability.
In 2021, there was a significant growth of highly funded social business companies, but that also meant an increase in less profitable social business models. “Some have reached unicorn status, and now we’re seeing some models pull back, close or lay off staff.
Elenas subsequently bucked this trend by focusing on products like lifestyle products, home furnishings, fashion and accessories from the start, achieving healthier profit margins and higher ticket prices.
Not building his own infrastructure was another way. That model has allowed the company to reach 600 cities across Colombia and Mexico, including rural areas that had not been done before.
In addition to growing revenue 5x between the Series A and Series B rounds, the company more than doubled its workforce to 230 people.
Next year, Elenas will continue to expand its dealer network in both markets, focusing on major expansion next year to invest in better products and experiences for both dealers and suppliers.
It will also invest some capital into engineering and production to build additional core features, for example, vendor business management tools such as customer relationship management, product recommendations and financial services.
“We want to expand into the financial services that drive their businesses,” Oshin said. “Fifty percent of our sellers have never had a bank account before, so this is an underbanked population, and access to financial services is essential when doing business. Our collaboration with Grupo Bolivar works on this.