Retailers’ range pledges are placing extra black-owned manufacturers on the cabinets

Cora and Stefan Miller started a hair care company after having their son Kade and struggling to find hair products for him. Young King Hair Care is now distributed by Walmart and Target.

Hair care for young kings

When Cora Miller had her son, she discovered the baby had full hair – and found few products on the market to style it.

Many gels, mousses and creams smelled of fruits and flowers or came in pink bottles. This search inspired Cora Miller and her husband Stefan to start their own company Young King Hair Care. They designed the line of herbal, natural hair products with little black boys like their son in mind, and launched the product just before his third birthday.

“I really wanted my son to see himself in the products he uses,” said Cora Miller, co-founder and CEO of the company. “It was an annoying, nagging feeling that wouldn’t go away.”

Young King is now on the shelves at two of the largest retailers in the country, Walmart and Target. It is among the growing number of black-owned brands national retailers began selling over the past year to better reflect their diverse customers and to promote racial justice after the assassination of George Floyd.

Companies made commitments and specific donations in the past year. Yet the growing assortment of black-owned goods on the shelves and websites of national retailers has become one of the most visible signs of change in the corporate world.

The Floyd murder Tuesday a year ago not only throws a harsh light on the police treatment of black Americans, said Americus Reed, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School. It led to a reckoning of how black companies were excluded from economic opportunities and reflected by offensive brands like Aunt Jemima or Uncle Bens.

In looking for more black suppliers, retailers have combined “social change and economic instinct” and taken a step that can increase companies’ reputations and sales, he said.

“It’s an investment,” he said. “Signaling to a community that ‘We have your back’ is a long-term game.”

More shelf space

Four days after Floyd’s murder, Aurora James challenged companies in an Instagram post.

“So much of your businesses are built on black purchasing power,” she wrote. “So much of your businesses are in black communities. This is how much of your posts can be seen in Black Feeds. That is the least you can do for us. We represent 15% of the population and we have to represent 15% of your shelf space. “

A year later, 25 companies – including prominent retailers like Macy’s, Sephora and Gap – signed up. James, a black entrepreneur with a luxury brand called Brother Vellies, leads the 15 percent pledge.

James said she had seen firsthand the companies’ progress. A company that goes along with the promise signs a contract with the nonprofit that reviews it every quarter. She said the nonprofit would look at their orders and see products displayed on the shelves. The group also shares resources such as B. A database of black-owned companies and suggests strategies that companies can use to build a diverse supplier base.

In addition to the number of products growing, retailers are becoming stronger and more supportive business partners, James said. For example, she added, companies not only target black entrepreneurs who have been left out in the past, but guide them through common challenges that companies face early on. Examples she cited were helping with the design of packages or logos, or paying deposits to companies when placing orders to provide up-front capital.

James recently met on Zoom with a group of entrepreneurs who are part of Sephora’s Accelerator program. All of them were women and people of color developing makeup and skin care products for women who look like them.

“Every day I hear messages from black-owned companies taking advantage of these opportunities,” she said. “It’s a real game changer. … Ultimately, if we actually empower entrepreneurs, who in many cases live and work in black communities, we will really see a big difference in this country, ”said.

Other retailers have announced similar commitments and new approaches.

Lowe’s had a “Shark Tank” -like competition to identify promising products from entrepreneurs of various backgrounds and reward them with shelf space, marketing support and small business grants. Ulta Beauty plans to spend more than $ 4 million on marketing to help Black-owned brands rise. Target is launching a new eight-week accelerator program for black-led startups, Forward Founders, as part of a commitment to spend more than $ 2 billion on black-owned beauty brands by the end of 2025 in a recent TikTok streaming event .

James criticized some companies that refused to keep the 15 percent promise, such as B. Target, saying that its initiatives do not go far enough and do not come with the same level of accountability.

“Whether or not Target wants to accept the promise or one of those other companies willing to accept the promise, we will still put their feet to the fire and urge them to do more,” she said.

Creamalicious Ice Creams founder Liz Rogers took her southern roots into account when creating her recipes.

Source: Bobby Quillard


That effort has already begun to help minority-owned brands hit shelves.

Creamalicious Ice Creams, founded by black cook and restaurateur Liz Rogers, hit Walmart stores in February. The pints arrived in the freezing department several months after Walmart CEO Doug McMillon sent a letter to employees last summer pledging to promote racial equality at his company.

“It’s very hard to get into that [ice cream] Category because it’s extremely competitive, there’s no shelf space, … and if you’re new they’re not very willing to make room, “said Rogers.” As a minority company that’s in the frozen dessert category collapses, you have to be much more innovative. You have to have a brain and a story, and you have to speak differently and stand alone. “

Rogers said that being authentic and true to her southern roots helped her ultimately succeed. “People told me, ‘Don’t call Walmart because they’re going to say no.’ And I said, ‘Well, you can say no.’ But in the end they said yes. And now I’m trying to work with other dealers. “

Creamalicious ‘ice creams sold online and in some Meijer grocery stores include Slap Yo’ Momma Banana Pudding, Uncle Charles Brown Suga Bourbon Cake, and Porch Light Peach Cobbler. All of them come with family recipes and are based on African American culture and childhood memories, Rogers said

“Doug McMillon didn’t just write a letter,” she said. “You welcomed me with open arms. … You taught me how to navigate the system and looked after me. You sincerely wanted me to win.”

Rebecca Allen was launched in 2018 as a shoe for women of color who were struggling to find the right version of nude shoes for them.

Source: Rebecca Allen

A shoe brand specifically geared towards black and tan women, Rebecca Allen, debuted on the Nordstrom website this week and her styles will be available in select Nordstrom stores later this year.

The department store announced last fall that it would generate $ 500 million in retail sales by 2025 from brands operated or designed by Black and / or Latinx people. Regardless, it’s committed to adding more Black-owned beauty brands to the merchandise mix.

Nordstrom’s purchasing team has since received a spate of Instagram messages and emails from black-owned companies, said Teri Bariquit, the chief merchandising officer.

“There was this momentum and this call to action that provided a platform for more and faster change,” she said. “There were a lot of very organic contacts with us directly. People see an open door and we always take these calls.”

Allen, a former vice president of Goldman Sachs, started the company because of her own problems buying shoes. The company’s range of heels, flats, and sandals come in a wider range of shades, including those to match the skin tone of women of color.

Allen said not only can retailers showcase brands to consumers, but they can also roll back black businesses for many years that don’t get access to the capital they need to grow.

“It is certainly not enough to just say that we will bring these brands to market. But it really comes down to: How do we help them to actually be successful and how do we define that success?” She said.

Allen has facilitated conversations between other black-owned brands with Nordstrom to share success and failure stories and learn from each other, she said.

“It won’t help anyone for any of these companies if they just say, Well, we did it, we got that 15% quota – or whatever it is,” Allen said.

Getting just a phone call or email from a buyer has often been a struggle for so many black business owners, said Young King’s Miller. Company history shows how a national retailer’s attention “changes the trajectory of your business,” she said.

Young King started selling products online in 2019. However, business accelerated after Target picked up its curling cream and conditioner from Walmart in January and March. Sales have tripled compared to the previous year, she said. This gave the company the catwalk to launch new styling products and move into a category outside of hair care, she said.

Target supported the company, for example, with its Beauty Accelerator. It also offered the company endcap displays in nearly 200 stores at a discounted price, she said.

She said she often walked the aisles of the store with her son Kade, now 4. The couple “preferred” by hiring other Black-owned companies, including the hair care products maker and the order fulfillment company.

“It took a long time to be honest,” she said. “It’s kind of crazy to think that there aren’t a lot of products for blacks or browns. It just didn’t exist. And that’s why I’m always so excited to learn about and see and see other emerging black owned brands fill in the gaps “and gaps.”

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