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Aurora James is Calling Walmart, Sephora, Target, Wholefoods to Live Up to the 15% Pledge
By Jill Rocco
June 23, 2020
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15% Pledge featured on WOMANBOSS
Photo by @fifteenpercentpledge via Instagram
“There is no liberation, without economic empowerment.” - 15 Percent Pledge

As the fight against systemic racism moves forward in the US, we have seen brand after brand come forward with notes of solidarity. COVID-19 completely altered the climate for small business owners everywhere and we are seeing extremely disproportionate numbers amongst our Black community. It has been recorded that over 40% of Black small business owners have little faith that they will be able to bounce back from the pandemic. Aurora James, founder of Brother Vellies asked herself if these brands would actually step up to promote change… instead of waiting around for an answer, she went out to ask them herself.

In late May, Aurora took to Instagram and wrote, “what if major retailers like Walmart, Sephora, Target and Whole Foods started devoting 15% of their shelf space to products from black-owned businesses to align with the population of African-Americans in the United States? It would fuel the growth of the brands and attract new investments that would ultimately extend to black communities.” It’s known that Black people in the US make up nearly 15% of the current population. The 15 Percent Pledge calls for retailers to dedicate 15% of their shelves to Black owned brands. Not only does this promote equality and inclusivity in the stock of large retailers, but also accounts for how much the Black population supports these businesses. The 15 Percent Pledge not only calls for change, but they request that long term solutions be made in order to divide and disperse resources back into the Black community.

It has been shared that Target CEO Brian Cornell, has pledged $10 million to help the entire Black community. Although a great donation, the 15 Percent Pledge wants to ensure that long term practices will be made at Target to solidify year after year that they will be supporting Black–owned brands which in turn helps the community. It is not enough to just pledge money anymore. In order to have a lasting impact during this climate, brands and consumers alike need to carefully come up with practices to better support Black-owned brands.

15% Pledge featured on WOMANBOSS
Photo by @fifteenpercentpledge via Instagram

One brand that has pledged a great deal of support is Sephora. After the pledge called on four large retailers, Sephora was the first to step up to the plate. They agreed to work together to create long term solutions to stock their shelves with Black–owned brands and raise those numbers annually. Sephora took to Instagram stating, “we recognize how important it is to represent Black businesses and communities, and we must do better. So, we’re starting now.” In a series of Instagram posts, Sephora explained that they will take stock of the current percentage of shelf space and contracts dedicated to Black-owned businesses. They will take ownership of their findings, understand blind spots and disparities and identify concrete next steps. Sephora will also take action to publish and execute their plans for growing the share of Black businesses they help to empower to at least 15%.

Although they do not have a concrete plan of attack currently, they are actively looking at all areas of their business to determine how they can provide support to Black-owned businesses. They have pledged to start by bringing all of their knowledge to the table freely, so aspiring founders have access to it. They will provide connections to and support from funders and the venture capitalist community which is so important. The 15% pledge records that only 1% of Black-owned brands receive a bank loan in their first year. Having access to funds can be an incredible asset to Black-owned businesses. Sephora has also pledged to help launch and develop Black-owned businesses with strategic plans for long-term success.

15% Pledge featured on WOMANBOSS

Calling out bigger retailers like Target, Sephora, Whole Foods, among others can make a huge impact on the Black community. If more and more retailers follow suit, there will be more opportunities for Black-owned brands to get the recognition they deserve. From beauty to farming, Black businesses do not see enough economic growth and support from large retailers and this is more than a great time to start focusing on these brands. When we look at the facts, we see that Black-owned businesses represent 1.3% of total US sales compared to White-owned businesses which are 88%. Large retailers can give Black businesses millions of potential customers and billions of dollars in potential sales. If more retailers took the pledge, thousands of Black-owned brands can flourish.  

 

To learn more about the 15% Pledge, or to sign their petition click here 

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