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People Are Offering Black Business Owners “Mentorship”

A new article by Sierra Leone Starks in Allure is outlining just how hard the pandemic has affected black business owners. While of course it has hit black business bottom lines, it has also affected how black entrepreneurs are addressed in the business space. Read the story below for more.

Credit: Getty Images

At the start of 2020, Eunice Cofie-Obeng was on track to launch nine new products for her skin-care brand Nuekie.

That was, of course, before the coronavirus pandemic upended business plans around the world. In Cofie-Obeng’s case, not receiving the bottles, jars, pump dispensers, and other packaging items sourced from manufacturers overseas was a tremendous setback.

A lot of those businesses in China shut down,” she explains to Allure, adding that the closures were sudden and without notice. “We would constantly email or call, and no one was responding.”

Be it Black-owned beauty businesses like Nuekie, or anyone else who set yearly goals for their enterprise, no one could have imagined or truly prepared for an economic disruption like COVID-19. In spite of the pandemic, however, many Black beauty entrepreneurs are feeling optimistic about the future of their businesses, according to a new economic data study from global think tank Ready to Beauty.

The study, “Readiness is the New Green,” brought together more than 70 Black beauty business founders, executives, and thought leaders to take an economic snapshot of the U.S. beauty industry from their perspective, Ready to Beauty founder Corey Huggins tells Allure. In a similar fashion, Ready to Beauty brought together more than 70 professionals from the general beauty market, to compare and contrast data findings. The general beauty market panel, which included current and former students from The Fashion Institute of Technology’s Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management graduate program, was made up of people with leadership positions in the beauty industry, according to Huggins.

Credit: Ready to Beauty

Tadrya Mitchell Jackson, head of marketing at The Lip Bar (TLB), says the company doubled its business in 2020, adding that the brand saw success in quickly adapting to the disruption caused by the pandemic. After pushing back several product launches as a result, she says the brand’s digital messaging changed “to reflect a sensitivity and compassion for what our customers were experiencing.” Mitchell Jackson says they then boosted morale with product giveaways before announcing new product launches. Cofie-Obeng solved her packaging problem by joining forces with other Black-owned businesses to share and trade materials they needed amongst themselves.

Both brands also saw a boost in business from the Buy Black movement, which came out of social unrest and national headlines surrounding the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor last year.

“We saw support from non-Black customers, we saw support from even non-Black influencers, who I think did a really good job boosting and supporting Black businesses across the board,” says Mitchell Jackson. “We definitely rode the tailwind of that into the end of 2020.”

The support for Black-owned businesses must continue, though, in order for lasting change to occur, says Cheryl Grace, former senior vice president of global marketing, shopper, and community engagement at NielsenIQ.

Grace, currently a strategic adviser to Ready to Beauty’s data study and author of the study’s foreword, was assisted by a team of researchers from Nielsen for the qualitative data review. She says there are a number of instances that showed a disconnect between what the Black panel participants say they need from the industry and what members of the general market panel presumed they need.

When it came to the resources to conduct business, key findings of the study highlight one of those differences in perceptions.

“Specifically, 93 percent of the general market panel believe that the beauty industry should be assisting Black/African American entrepreneurs and brands with mentoring and business management skills development,” according to the study.

When the Black beauty brand owners were asked the same question, 92 percent pointed instead to investments and/or working capital as the top economic reform needed to better assist Black-owned brands, with mentoring and improving business skills coming in at second (77 percent).

Read the rest on Allure here.

Vanessa Roberson

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