One beautiful thing that came out of 2020 was the appreciation of small businesses! We rallied around the importance of putting our money into our communities, supporting our friends and our neighbors.
As a black woman, I’d like to tell you what I’m looking for in a business before I lend my support.
Recently one of my favorite small, women-owned businesses ran a contest on Instagram. As with a lot of Insta contests, you gained an entry by liking the accounts of other small, women-owned businesses. And of course I did it, because I wanted to win ALL the things. But following the announcement of the winner (not me, btw), I unfollowed nearly all of the accounts. Why? Because upon liking a new account, I always do a deep scroll. If that account only includes white faces, I make a choice. The internet is a beautiful thing sometimes, and I can find just about anything by a POC-owned business if I choose to…so why patronize a business that doesn’t want me?
And yes — that is EXACTLY what they’re communicating.
In 2021, we no longer have to quietly accept this exclusion. A complete lack of diversity means that you either live under a rock, or have chosen to act as one (ya know — won’t be moved). After the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement last summer, and with all of the education that many Americans have taken on, there’s no excuse for diversity to be a blindspot.
If you have a business or brand and have not yet included any diversity in your offerings, here are some steps to take:
1. Consider why.
Do your images only include white faces because you only know white people?
Have you never noticed the homogeneity, and diversifying hasn’t even crossed your mind?
It was pointed out to me by a friend that one of my favorite local boutiques (actually, the one whose contest I entered) doesn’t feature any women of color in their socials. I pointed out that they also don’t include any white women. Or men. Or humans, really. Most of their items are pictured on mannequins or hangers. I’m not an unreasonable person — I can deal with this and continue spending my dollars there because I don’t feel that I am being omitted. It’s different, though, when I see page after page after page of white faces with not a speck of melanin in sight.
2. Make a plan.
- Think about how to include your clientele of color into your brand. People love seeing products modeled by real people!
- Reach out for help. Ask a trusted POC for their input, or look to organizations doing equity and inclusion work. Folks would love to help you on this important mission!
Commit to learning, to doing the work, to including all walks of people in your world. Don’t make these changes long enough to get folks in the door and then revert to what’s comfortable. Dive into the uncomfortable and grow from it!
This extends outside of doing business, too.
I am immediately disheartened and learn a lot if I scroll someone’s socials (or look around at their wedding) and see zero POC. I know that these snapshots don’t say everything about a person; but they definitely say something. What is it that you want to say?