News, Uncategorized

Blackfishing or Black Empowerment?

Black Businesses in an Era of Racial Reckoning

By Chanel Cain, Corinne Dorsey, Cory Utsey, Donovan Thomas, Gregory Smith, Jr., Ryan Thomas, Brittney Dezwaan Isaac Welch, Taniyah Keve

Podcast: Briana Alvarado, Braxton Babb, Karla Dozier, Robyn Evans, Hadiya Presswood, Jarius Wells, Justin Palmer

Black consumers are impacting brands and corporations in unprecedented ways in 2021 and achieving headline-making results with their impact on sales and brand success. In 2020, popular brands were inspired to be socially conscious in part due to the waves of Black Lives Matter protests in response to several cases of police brutality.  The desire to support the Black community and Black business flourished. Or, so it seemed. 

As 2022 approaches, there is an overwhelming shift across many companies to showcase the importance of black-owned businesses.  But are they providing lip service or are they committed to equity?

Jamyla Bennu, the founder of Oyin Handmade, a black-owned hair company, discussed the impact on her business. “We’re learning as a community about the importance of supporting our local businesses. That’s also contributing to the rise and growth, and sometimes takeover of black-owned companies,” said Bennu. 

In the midst of protests and newfound racial awareness, Black-owned businesses helped major corporations grow inclusive by example. Companies like Target emphasized offering shelf life to black-owned businesses. In some cases major corporations forged lasting diversity partnerships like Sephora and their continued collaboration with black makeup artists. In other cases, they were acquired by larger better-funded white-owned companies or their styles and products were appropriated – like Shea Moisture when losing black ownership. 

“There’s an impact throughout the community whether a beloved black-owned company sells or takes on majority ownership or is no longer owned by its founders,” said  Bennu.

Photo Credit: Oyin Handmade

Companies that didn’t require many shifts were many black-owned businesses that already had a set interest and perspective on the best way to remain inclusive and implement proper diversity in their marketing strategies. With African American consumers accounting for $1.2 trillion annually in spending power, brands had a lot to gain by being intentionally inclusive.  

Through the impact of social media, Black businesses brokered a seat at the table and demanded that companies represent them in ways that resonate culturally and socially. 

“In the midst of Black Lives Matter protests and discourse, fashion designer Aurora James took to Instagram to post, “ We [black business consumers] represent 15% of the population and we need to represent 15% of your shelf space.” Since the creation of the post James has created a movement called “The 15% Pledge.”

To date, 28 businesses have signed the pledge. Yet, there is still the looming question of whether the companies are actually fulfilling the commitment of the pledge. After signing the pledge Sephora’s website featured a dedicated spot for Black-owned businesses where they had a total of 20. They carried a total of 296 brands which accounted for only approximately seven percent of all their brands that were Black-owned. Rent the Runway carried eight Black designers while having 800 designers total which accounted for approximately one percent dedicated for Black-owned businesses. 

Still, many Black business owners found their own ways to survive and thrive.

Looking ahead to 2022, here are several black-owned businesses discussing their business practices along with their connections with corporations in multiple industries.

“Black Beyond Measure”

Photo credit : LoniBooker

While the interests of Black consumers have not always been at the forefront of campaign marketing, the past few years have proven how financially profitable it is to cater to Black people. McKinsey reports that the consumer expenditures in Black households totaled over $800 million in 2019. In turn, brands are making a more prominent effort to diversify their campaign offerings, and corporations are now making a more prominent effort to amplify these brands. Target’s “Black Beyond Measure” campaign is one example of the newfound corporal effort to promote companies that cater to the Black community. Initially conceived in February 2020 for Black History Month, the campaign features several consumer goods, including beauty and haircare products.

Brands such as The Lip Bar, Mented Cosmetics, Beauty Bakerie and Range Beauty are just a few of the many brands featured. However, not all of the brands featured in “Black Beyond Measure” are actually Black-owned. Instead, some of these brands are Black-founded

Shea Moisture, for example, is featured in this campaign. Although Richelieu Dennis, a Liberian-American entrepreneur, founded the brand in 1991, British consumer goods company Unilever acquired the brand in 2018. This was done in effort to expand the business.

“We like to think of ourselves as a mission with a business. The mission needs to continue to be developed, but it needs to be developed at scale,” Dennis told Inc.com. “If we’re going to actually bring the economic impact and inclusion into these communities, into our supply chain, all of these women in West Africa, we’re going to have to find a much bigger platform.”

In the case of Black Radiance, a makeup company that champions itself as the “#1 trusted expert and resource for Black beauty,” the brand was never Black-owned..

Bennu, the owner of Oyin Handmade hair care products, finds that consumers care much more about ownership now than ever, and Black consumers specifically are seeking out brands that are actually Black-owned.

“People get invigorated or inspired to search out Black-owned companies that they can support and contribute to their growth,” she said. “I’m excited that we as consumers are starting to have these conversations about ownership.”

When considering the differences between Black-owned brands, Black-founded brands, and brands that simply cater to the Black community, Black business owners say marketing and promoting them using the same tactics can aid in the epidemic of businesses pretending to be Black-owned – what’s colloquially referred to as “Black-fishing.” . 

Beauty

With social media as a playground for companies to advertise their brands, the rise in Black skincare products has increased. This heightened awareness of what products are available to treat Black skin is revolutionizing the way Black businesses reach their audience. Brands like Fenty by Rihanna have paved the way for smaller Black-owned businesses like Black Girl Sunscreen. 

While skeptics question whether Black people need sunscreen, several dermatologists agree that sunscreen should be a part of everyone’s daily routine. 

Dermatologist Dr. Michelle Henry appeared on Good Morning America in June of 2021 to stress the importance of people with melanated skin weaning sunscreen:

 “Because of that lower index of suspicion on the part of both patients and physicians, when we do find skin cancers in patients of color, the outcomes are far worse. So if you look at melanoma, the five-year survival rate in someone with Black skin is about 65 percent, and someone with white skin is higher than 92 percent. And so this has real implications. We really need to realize that our melanin is great and it’s beautiful and it’s protective, but it’s absolutely not perfect. And so we still have to protect our skin,” said Henry.

Black Girl Sunscreen is a Black-owned skincare line created in 2016 by owner, Shontay Lundy after feeling underwhelmed by the lack of sunscreen options that catered to Black skin. The ideology behind the product is based on the misconception that Black people don’t need sunscreen when spending time in the sun.

Racializing protecting black skin from harmful UV rays and the lack of products that blend in completely on Black skin leaves many Brown faces without suitable skincare options. 

“Thanks to our melanin, we do have some natural protection from the sun’s harmful rays. But make no mistake, we are all susceptible to the damage caused by the sun,” Lundy told Business Insider. “We still burn and are susceptible to sun-induced damage such as sunspots, premature aging, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and cancer.

Lundy wanted to create a product that would blend into Black skin and moisturize with natural ingredients. 

Her resulting product, Black Girl Sunscreen, is currently the only independent Black-owned brand carried full-time in Target’s sun care section. It’s also sold in retailers worldwide. The company’s valuation reportedly topped $5 million, and earlier this summer, it secured a $1 million investment in private funding, Forbes reported.

Lundy says Black Girl Sunscreen has continued to see tremendous sales even as the pandemic began to sweep through the country and forced people to social distance and limit outdoor activities. 

The connectedness between Black Girl Sunscreen and its users grew stronger throughout the pandemic through their growing social media platform. “I told the team we need to change the narrative and be very nimble to survive this,” she told Forbes as they developed new strategies to attract her niche market..

Media 

Essence Communications Inc. was founded at a conference for aspiring African-American entrepreneurs in 1968 by Edward Lewis and Clarence O. Smith. The corporation officially began publishing Essence magazine in 1970 as a periodical aimed at Black women’s interests. 

Time Inc. entirely purchased Essence Communications Inc. in 2005. After approximately 35 years under Black ownership, the company adjusted to widespread ownership. In 2018, Essence Ventures fully purchased the corporation returning it to its entirely Black-owned status. Essence Ventures was created in 2017 by Richelieu Dennis, co-founder of Shea Moisture. 

Ingrid Sturgis worked as a website editor for Essence magazine from 2001 to 2005 in New York City. She explained that under Time, the magazine did not change a whole lot as the editors continued to tailor content to Black women. 

Nonetheless, there was change. Initially it seemed like a positive change.

“We got more resources and more support in business initiatives. We had more access to marketing and editorial research. We also received more technical support,” Sturgis told HU News Service.

Yanick Lamb also worked for Essence magazine. She worked as an  executive editor for the periodical from 1995 to 1996, before the change in ownership. Later she worked as a freelancer under Time, Inc. Lamb said readers noticed a change and less authenticity in terms of content.

“There was more conformity and more resources. Some readers felt that it affected the content,” Lamb described. 

Time, Inc. ownership did not change financial growth or losses for the magazine. Essence, a trusted brand,  is experiencing its highest circulation ever despite any criticism around content. With its circulation increasing from 50,000 in its first months, to 450,000 in the mid-1970’s, to now 851,000 copies distributed on average in a day.

Fashion

Throughout the years, fashion has been a form of expression that many Black people use to visually express themselves to others, as well as showcase their own creativity. From world-renowned designers and brands, such as Guccio Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Karl Lagerfeld, and Gianni Versace to smaller designers and brands such as Khloe Kardashian and Fashion Nova, Black consumers have been an important aspect in making these brands what they are today. But often, the ideas used in these brands do not showcase their own creativity because a large part of show designs  have been appropriated from lesser-known Black creatives. 

In 2017, Khloe Kardashian came under fire when independent Black lingerie and bodysuit fashion designer, Destiny Bleu, took to social media to accuse Khloe of purposefully copying her designs for her own brand, “Good American.” 

While Kardashian tried to cover her tracks by issuing a cease and desist letter to the up and coming designer stating that the designs were “inspired by t the 1990s and are evocative of clothing worn by Cher and others at the time.” She claimed that  her team had no idea who Destiney Bleu was,evidence proved otherwise. Emails were uncovered proving that Khloe Kardashian’s stylist at the time, Monica Rose, and Destiney Bleu were in contact regarding her lingerie and bodysuit clothing line, which she had let the stylist borrow. 

In addition, the Kardashian’s team was accused of buying one of everything from Bleu’s site, as well as requesting custom work. In May of 2021, both Bleu and Kardashian requested for the courts to close the case as they had reached a private agreement. 

Bleu’s attorney Stephen MacArthur told Huffington Post: “It is not illegal for Khloe to copy Destiney’s designs — it is just tacky, disrespectful, and in bad taste. There is also something deeply uncomfortable about someone with Khloe’s wealth and power appropriating designs and fashion directly from a black woman with a small business without crediting her, making cheap knockoffs, and then attempting to threaten her into silence. You should be ashamed.”

In addition to clothing, the sneaker industry has made Black athletes and entertainers millions, but the black business community hasn’t benefited in the same way.. 

The sneaker industry has changed significantly over the past decade. Sneaker lovers used to be able to go to the nearest Foot Locker, Footaction, Finish line, Champs, or Nike and purchase their favorite shoes. Over the past decade, it has grown harder for customers to purchase shoes such as Jordan’s, Nikes, and Yeezy’s. Players like Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant have had many shoes sell out in minutes.

Are resellers creating a new battleground for retail?
Photo Credit: @benjaminkickz

Due to the high demands of Air Jordan’s, highly anticipated releases aren’t even on shelves anymore. Sneaker stores used to have a first come first serve policy but now customers must download sneaker apps to their phone and join a virtual line. With the process becoming more complicated, resellers have changed the sneaker game by purchasing shoes in bulk and charging twice as much as the original amount. 

Donald Green,26, a sneaker collector in Dallas, Texas, said that buying sneakers has grown insanely difficult over the past five years. 

“It’s so hard to get my hands on a new pair of Jordans or Nike dunks these days,” Green said. “ I used to camp out overnight to make sure I got the shoe that I wanted, but now everything is raffled. There is a slim chance of winning a raffle ticket so most of the shoes that I buy are at least $100 overpriced.”

In 2020, Statista revealed  that global sneaker market revenue was valued at $70 billion, with that number growing to over $100 billion dollars by 2025. A variety of shoe brands were mentioned, but Nike was the top choice for consumers. 

Black athletes such as Jordan, Durant, Bryant, Kyrie Irving, Serena Williams, and Tiger Woods generate millions of dollars every year for Nike, yet Black resellers barely exist. In an article titled ‘Sneaker retailers are a ‘white boys’ club Black creativity – and capital,’ Black resellers shared stories about an industry  dominated by Black athletes.Black shoe resellers argued that they only made up five percent of the industry and  that they should have a much higher percentage. 

Photo Credit:     

Jared A. Ball, an African American professor and 

published author at Morgan State University. 

Jared A. Ball, professor of communications and African American studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, said that advertisers hire African American celebrities to reach the Black community, but the community as a whole doesnt profit.  .

“The entire economy is dominated by elite white corporations,”  said Ball, the author of ‘ The Myth and Propaganda of Black Buying Power. “ Once you factor in companies such as Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, Finish Line, and Footlocker there is barely any room for Black resellers to grow a profitable business.” 

Food

There has been a push to support a wider variety of Black-owned businesses within the past few years. While some corporations have adopted strategies to support these businesses, the amount of local support might seem harder to find. In Washington state, where significant social change was called for during the George Floyd protests, and many smaller BIPOC businesses faced hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lewis Rudd, a Black business owner himself,  saw this as the perfect timing to help uplift his community.

Rudd is the co-founder of Ezell’s Chicken, a now prominent restaurant chain that started in Seattle and has expanded to 17 locations across the Pacific Northwest. After partnering with Doordash, Rudd saw the need to support other Black businesses. This was the starting point of Rudd’s R.U.B.B, or Raising Up Black Businesses.

Rudd’s R.U.B.B. Initiative logo/Ezell’s

“When we were kids growing up down in the community of East Texas, if there was something that caused pain, discomfort, … skin the knee or something, the elders, my parents, my dad, my mom, the first thing they would say was ‘come over here and let me rub that for you,’” Rudd said. “So we’re putting a little rub in the community.”

The grant supplied 20 Black businesses with $2,500 each. The $50,000 pool was provided by The Rudd Family, including a brother and co-founder, Darnell Rudd and Doordash, with other companies such as  PepsiCo and Sysco agreeing to be partners for the future. 

As a Black business owner, Rudd sees this as an opportunity to give back to the community that has helped Ezell’s thrive for nearly 40 years, stating that “being able to make a difference in the community, it’s a great feeling.”

Ezell’s founders (left to right) Darnell Rudd, Faye Stephens, Lewis Rudd./ Ezell’s

“With all the awareness now to a level that people want to understand the impact of red-lining, and systemic racism and in some cases just blatant racism has had on the Black community and BIPOC community,” Rudd said. “There’s so many people now willing to sit, listen, with the intent to understand how they can help and support and make a difference now.”

Ezell’s plans to keep the initiative going in the future to further support and foster the ever-growing community of Black businesses in the Pacific Northwest.

Black Businesses in an Era of Racial Reckoning

By Chanel Cain, Corinne Dorsey, Cory Utsey, Donovan Thomas, Gregory Smith, Jr., Ryan Thomas, Brittney Dezwaan Isaac Welch, Taniyah Keve

Podcast: Briana Alvarado, Braxton Babb, Karla Dozier, Robyn Evans, Hadiya Presswood, Jarius Wells, Justin Palmer

Black consumers are impacting brands and corporations in unprecedented ways in 2021 and achieving headline-making results with their impact on sales and brand success. In 2020, popular brands were inspired to be socially conscious in part due to the waves of Black Lives Matter protests in response to several cases of police brutality.  The desire to support the Black community and Black business flourished. Or, so it seemed. 

As 2022 approaches, there is an overwhelming shift across many companies to showcase the importance of black-owned businesses.  But are they providing lip service or are they committed to equity?

Jamyla Bennu, the founder of Oyin Handmade, a black-owned hair company, discussed the impact on her business. “We’re learning as a community about the importance of supporting our local businesses. That’s also contributing to the rise and growth, and sometimes takeover of black-owned companies,” said Bennu. 

In the midst of protests and newfound racial awareness, Black-owned businesses helped major corporations grow inclusive by example. Companies like Target emphasized offering shelf life to black-owned businesses. In some cases major corporations forged lasting diversity partnerships like Sephora and their continued collaboration with black makeup artists. In other cases, they were acquired by larger better-funded white-owned companies or their styles and products were appropriated – like Shea Moisture when losing black ownership. 

“There’s an impact throughout the community whether a beloved black-owned company sells or takes on majority ownership or is no longer owned by its founders,” said  Bennu.

Photo Credit: Oyin Handmade

Companies that didn’t require many shifts were many black-owned businesses that already had a set interest and perspective on the best way to remain inclusive and implement proper diversity in their marketing strategies. With African American consumers accounting for $1.2 trillion annually in spending power, brands had a lot to gain by being intentionally inclusive.  

Through the impact of social media, Black businesses brokered a seat at the table and demanded that companies represent them in ways that resonate culturally and socially. 

“In the midst of Black Lives Matter protests and discourse, fashion designer Aurora James took to Instagram to post, “ We [black business consumers] represent 15% of the population and we need to represent 15% of your shelf space.” Since the creation of the post James has created a movement called “The 15% Pledge.”

To date, 28 businesses have signed the pledge. Yet, there is still the looming question of whether the companies are actually fulfilling the commitment of the pledge. After signing the pledge Sephora’s website featured a dedicated spot for Black-owned businesses where they had a total of 20. They carried a total of 296 brands which accounted for only approximately seven percent of all their brands that were Black-owned. Rent the Runway carried eight Black designers while having 800 designers total which accounted for approximately one percent dedicated for Black-owned businesses. 

Still, many Black business owners found their own ways to survive and thrive.

Looking ahead to 2022, here are several black-owned businesses discussing their business practices along with their connections with corporations in multiple industries.

“Black Beyond Measure”

Photo credit : LoniBooker

While the interests of Black consumers have not always been at the forefront of campaign marketing, the past few years have proven how financially profitable it is to cater to Black people. McKinsey reports that the consumer expenditures in Black households totaled over $800 million in 2019. In turn, brands are making a more prominent effort to diversify their campaign offerings, and corporations are now making a more prominent effort to amplify these brands. Target’s “Black Beyond Measure” campaign is one example of the newfound corporal effort to promote companies that cater to the Black community. Initially conceived in February 2020 for Black History Month, the campaign features several consumer goods, including beauty and haircare products.

Brands such as The Lip Bar, Mented Cosmetics, Beauty Bakerie and Range Beauty are just a few of the many brands featured. However, not all of the brands featured in “Black Beyond Measure” are actually Black-owned. Instead, some of these brands are Black-founded

Shea Moisture, for example, is featured in this campaign. Although Richelieu Dennis, a Liberian-American entrepreneur, founded the brand in 1991, British consumer goods company Unilever acquired the brand in 2018. This was done in effort to expand the business.

“We like to think of ourselves as a mission with a business. The mission needs to continue to be developed, but it needs to be developed at scale,” Dennis told Inc.com. “If we’re going to actually bring the economic impact and inclusion into these communities, into our supply chain, all of these women in West Africa, we’re going to have to find a much bigger platform.”

In the case of Black Radiance, a makeup company that champions itself as the “#1 trusted expert and resource for Black beauty,” the brand was never Black-owned..

Bennu, the owner of Oyin Handmade hair care products, finds that consumers care much more about ownership now than ever, and Black consumers specifically are seeking out brands that are actually Black-owned.

“People get invigorated or inspired to search out Black-owned companies that they can support and contribute to their growth,” she said. “I’m excited that we as consumers are starting to have these conversations about ownership.”

When considering the differences between Black-owned brands, Black-founded brands, and brands that simply cater to the Black community, Black business owners say marketing and promoting them using the same tactics can aid in the epidemic of businesses pretending to be Black-owned – what’s colloquially referred to as “Black-fishing.” . 

Beauty

With social media as a playground for companies to advertise their brands, the rise in Black skincare products has increased. This heightened awareness of what products are available to treat Black skin is revolutionizing the way Black businesses reach their audience. Brands like Fenty by Rihanna have paved the way for smaller Black-owned businesses like Black Girl Sunscreen. 

While skeptics question whether Black people need sunscreen, several dermatologists agree that sunscreen should be a part of everyone’s daily routine. 

Dermatologist Dr. Michelle Henry appeared on Good Morning America in June of 2021 to stress the importance of people with melanated skin weaning sunscreen:

 “Because of that lower index of suspicion on the part of both patients and physicians, when we do find skin cancers in patients of color, the outcomes are far worse. So if you look at melanoma, the five-year survival rate in someone with Black skin is about 65 percent, and someone with white skin is higher than 92 percent. And so this has real implications. We really need to realize that our melanin is great and it’s beautiful and it’s protective, but it’s absolutely not perfect. And so we still have to protect our skin,” said Henry.

Black Girl Sunscreen is a Black-owned skincare line created in 2016 by owner, Shontay Lundy after feeling underwhelmed by the lack of sunscreen options that catered to Black skin. The ideology behind the product is based on the misconception that Black people don’t need sunscreen when spending time in the sun.

Racializing protecting black skin from harmful UV rays and the lack of products that blend in completely on Black skin leaves many Brown faces without suitable skincare options. 

“Thanks to our melanin, we do have some natural protection from the sun’s harmful rays. But make no mistake, we are all susceptible to the damage caused by the sun,” Lundy told Business Insider. “We still burn and are susceptible to sun-induced damage such as sunspots, premature aging, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and cancer.

Lundy wanted to create a product that would blend into Black skin and moisturize with natural ingredients. 

Her resulting product, Black Girl Sunscreen, is currently the only independent Black-owned brand carried full-time in Target’s sun care section. It’s also sold in retailers worldwide. The company’s valuation reportedly topped $5 million, and earlier this summer, it secured a $1 million investment in private funding, Forbes reported.

Lundy says Black Girl Sunscreen has continued to see tremendous sales even as the pandemic began to sweep through the country and forced people to social distance and limit outdoor activities. 

The connectedness between Black Girl Sunscreen and its users grew stronger throughout the pandemic through their growing social media platform. “I told the team we need to change the narrative and be very nimble to survive this,” she told Forbes as they developed new strategies to attract her niche market..

Media 

Essence Communications Inc. was founded at a conference for aspiring African-American entrepreneurs in 1968 by Edward Lewis and Clarence O. Smith. The corporation officially began publishing Essence magazine in 1970 as a periodical aimed at Black women’s interests. 

Time Inc. entirely purchased Essence Communications Inc. in 2005. After approximately 35 years under Black ownership, the company adjusted to widespread ownership. In 2018, Essence Ventures fully purchased the corporation returning it to its entirely Black-owned status. Essence Ventures was created in 2017 by Richelieu Dennis, co-founder of Shea Moisture. 

Ingrid Sturgis worked as a website editor for Essence magazine from 2001 to 2005 in New York City. She explained that under Time, the magazine did not change a whole lot as the editors continued to tailor content to Black women. 

Nonetheless, there was change. Initially it seemed like a positive change.

“We got more resources and more support in business initiatives. We had more access to marketing and editorial research. We also received more technical support,” Sturgis told HU News Service.

Yanick Lamb also worked for Essence magazine. She worked as an  executive editor for the periodical from 1995 to 1996, before the change in ownership. Later she worked as a freelancer under Time, Inc. Lamb said readers noticed a change and less authenticity in terms of content.

“There was more conformity and more resources. Some readers felt that it affected the content,” Lamb described. 

Time, Inc. ownership did not change financial growth or losses for the magazine. Essence, a trusted brand,  is experiencing its highest circulation ever despite any criticism around content. With its circulation increasing from 50,000 in its first months, to 450,000 in the mid-1970’s, to now 851,000 copies distributed on average in a day.

Fashion

Throughout the years, fashion has been a form of expression that many Black people use to visually express themselves to others, as well as showcase their own creativity. From world-renowned designers and brands, such as Guccio Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Karl Lagerfeld, and Gianni Versace to smaller designers and brands such as Khloe Kardashian and Fashion Nova, Black consumers have been an important aspect in making these brands what they are today. But often, the ideas used in these brands do not showcase their own creativity because a large part of show designs  have been appropriated from lesser-known Black creatives. 

In 2017, Khloe Kardashian came under fire when independent Black lingerie and bodysuit fashion designer, Destiny Bleu, took to social media to accuse Khloe of purposefully copying her designs for her own brand, “Good American.” 

While Kardashian tried to cover her tracks by issuing a cease and desist letter to the up and coming designer stating that the designs were “inspired by t the 1990s and are evocative of clothing worn by Cher and others at the time.” She claimed that  her team had no idea who Destiney Bleu was,evidence proved otherwise. Emails were uncovered proving that Khloe Kardashian’s stylist at the time, Monica Rose, and Destiney Bleu were in contact regarding her lingerie and bodysuit clothing line, which she had let the stylist borrow. 

In addition, the Kardashian’s team was accused of buying one of everything from Bleu’s site, as well as requesting custom work. In May of 2021, both Bleu and Kardashian requested for the courts to close the case as they had reached a private agreement. 

Bleu’s attorney Stephen MacArthur told Huffington Post: “It is not illegal for Khloe to copy Destiney’s designs — it is just tacky, disrespectful, and in bad taste. There is also something deeply uncomfortable about someone with Khloe’s wealth and power appropriating designs and fashion directly from a black woman with a small business without crediting her, making cheap knockoffs, and then attempting to threaten her into silence. You should be ashamed.”

In addition to clothing, the sneaker industry has made Black athletes and entertainers millions, but the black business community hasn’t benefited in the same way.. 

The sneaker industry has changed significantly over the past decade. Sneaker lovers used to be able to go to the nearest Foot Locker, Footaction, Finish line, Champs, or Nike and purchase their favorite shoes. Over the past decade, it has grown harder for customers to purchase shoes such as Jordan’s, Nikes, and Yeezy’s. Players like Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant have had many shoes sell out in minutes.

Are resellers creating a new battleground for retail?
Photo Credit: @benjaminkickz

Due to the high demands of Air Jordan’s, highly anticipated releases aren’t even on shelves anymore. Sneaker stores used to have a first come first serve policy but now customers must download sneaker apps to their phone and join a virtual line. With the process becoming more complicated, resellers have changed the sneaker game by purchasing shoes in bulk and charging twice as much as the original amount. 

Donald Green,26, a sneaker collector in Dallas, Texas, said that buying sneakers has grown insanely difficult over the past five years. 

“It’s so hard to get my hands on a new pair of Jordans or Nike dunks these days,” Green said. “ I used to camp out overnight to make sure I got the shoe that I wanted, but now everything is raffled. There is a slim chance of winning a raffle ticket so most of the shoes that I buy are at least $100 overpriced.”

In 2020, Statista revealed  that global sneaker market revenue was valued at $70 billion, with that number growing to over $100 billion dollars by 2025. A variety of shoe brands were mentioned, but Nike was the top choice for consumers. 

Black athletes such as Jordan, Durant, Bryant, Kyrie Irving, Serena Williams, and Tiger Woods generate millions of dollars every year for Nike, yet Black resellers barely exist. In an article titled ‘Sneaker retailers are a ‘white boys’ club Black creativity – and capital,’ Black resellers shared stories about an industry  dominated by Black athletes.Black shoe resellers argued that they only made up five percent of the industry and  that they should have a much higher percentage. 

Photo Credit:     

Jared A. Ball, an African American professor and 

published author at Morgan State University. 

Jared A. Ball, professor of communications and African American studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, said that advertisers hire African American celebrities to reach the Black community, but the community as a whole doesnt profit.  .

“The entire economy is dominated by elite white corporations,”  said Ball, the author of ‘ The Myth and Propaganda of Black Buying Power. “ Once you factor in companies such as Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, Finish Line, and Footlocker there is barely any room for Black resellers to grow a profitable business.” 

Food

There has been a push to support a wider variety of Black-owned businesses within the past few years. While some corporations have adopted strategies to support these businesses, the amount of local support might seem harder to find. In Washington state, where significant social change was called for during the George Floyd protests, and many smaller BIPOC businesses faced hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lewis Rudd, a Black business owner himself,  saw this as the perfect timing to help uplift his community.

Rudd is the co-founder of Ezell’s Chicken, a now prominent restaurant chain that started in Seattle and has expanded to 17 locations across the Pacific Northwest. After partnering with Doordash, Rudd saw the need to support other Black businesses. This was the starting point of Rudd’s R.U.B.B, or Raising Up Black Businesses.

Rudd’s R.U.B.B. Initiative logo/Ezell’s

“When we were kids growing up down in the community of East Texas, if there was something that caused pain, discomfort, … skin the knee or something, the elders, my parents, my dad, my mom, the first thing they would say was ‘come over here and let me rub that for you,’” Rudd said. “So we’re putting a little rub in the community.”

The grant supplied 20 Black businesses with $2,500 each. The $50,000 pool was provided by The Rudd Family, including a brother and co-founder, Darnell Rudd and Doordash, with other companies such as  PepsiCo and Sysco agreeing to be partners for the future. 

As a Black business owner, Rudd sees this as an opportunity to give back to the community that has helped Ezell’s thrive for nearly 40 years, stating that “being able to make a difference in the community, it’s a great feeling.”

Ezell’s founders (left to right) Darnell Rudd, Faye Stephens, Lewis Rudd./ Ezell’s

“With all the awareness now to a level that people want to understand the impact of red-lining, and systemic racism and in some cases just blatant racism has had on the Black community and BIPOC community,” Rudd said. “There’s so many people now willing to sit, listen, with the intent to understand how they can help and support and make a difference now.”

Ezell’s plans to keep the initiative going in the future to further support and foster the ever-growing community of Black businesses in the Pacific Northwest.

December 23, 2021

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