When I was a little girl, my dad was banned from Disney World for protesting apartheid. He and his friends refused to attend the park – even though we lived in Orlando at the time – and stood outside the theme park holding signs like “Apartheid is Goofy” to urge Disney to divest from South Africa and put economic pressure on that country to end segregation. My father’s ban has become family lore, always reminding me that our spending should reflect our beliefs.
After last year’s Black Lives Matter protests and this year’s protests against anti-Asian acts of violence, many people sought to further racial progress by supporting businesses owned by people who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC). Conscientious spending has also led many to peer more deeply into their favorite companies and to stop frequenting businesses whose leaders hold racially problematic views. The increased intentionality was rooted in both showing support for BIPOC communities and recognizing the effect outright racism and implicit bias have had on business.
What are these effects? In my post on Imposter Syndrome, I wrote about how Black employees are more likely to be negatively affected by economic downturns. BIPOC businesses are, too. In the early months of the pandemic, the number of Black business owners dropped by 41%, Latinx business owners by 32%, Asian American business owners by 26%, and white business owners by 17%, according to a Stanford study. This may be because BIPOC communities tend to have less financial cushion due to historic legal and cultural discrimination that prevented BIPOC people from owning homes, accumulating equity, or bequeathing wealth. BIPOC businesses are also less likely to receive loans – even with similar credit ratings. For example, a Brookings Institution study showed that Black entrepreneurs are denied bank loans at twice the rate of their white counterparts and receive higher interest rates; racial disparities have remained present for Black and Hispanic businesses during the pandemic as well, research shows.
In our family, we’re trying to more consciously support BIPOC businesses as well as businesses that recognize that Black Lives Matter and back their beliefs with action.
Buying more conscientiously has required a bit of a shift for me. I’m learning to be less impulsive, to plan ahead, and to be okay with waiting an extra day or two to receive my purchase. Basically, I’m learning to give myself enough time to make economic choices that reflect my values, rather than waiting until the last minute and desperately ordering from Amazon.
I’m also learning to pay for what I love. Buying intentionally can sometimes be more expensive. Many small BIPOC-owned businesses don’t benefit from economies of scale like larger businesses that can buy in bulk or negotiate lower prices. BIPOC businesses also may work with smaller suppliers and demand higher-quality products, which is especially the case if you’re buying from a boutique. And, as Ade Hassan mentioned in my interview with her about her company Nubian Skin, pioneering a new product can be expensive. Overall, I don’t think I end up spending more money than I usually do by supporting BIPOC and BIPOC-friendly businesses, but I do end up with fewer things by focusing my purchases on products that I really like, that are made well, and that are made fairly.
Full disclosure: I am not perfect at conscientious buying and I’m not striving for perfection either (that would be way too overwhelming). I still order from major retailers and I don’t research every single product that enters my house. Rather than perfection, I am looking for progress by supporting companies whose products and purpose I believe in and who are making a difference. I’ve also noticed that many BIPOC-owned and BIPOC-friendly brands actively give back to communities, and for me, this is a way to make my dollar go even further.
Five Tips for Supporting BIPOC-Owned Businesses and Buying Conscientiously
If you’re hoping to purchase more conscientiously, I’ve included five tips below that have helped our family move in this direction. Further down, I also share a list of BIPOC-owned companies I love that ship nationally.
1. Think beyond restaurants.
I love supporting BIPOC-owned restaurants, but sometimes I think we buy our soul food dinner or our pupusas and call it a day when it comes to ending racism. If your only interaction with people of color is with servers at a restaurant, it’s easy to think of BIPOC people as here to serve and make you happy, and it may be more difficult to challenge your own biases. Don’t get me wrong – I want you to support BIPOC restaurants frequently, to tip well, and to tell your friends. But don’t stop there as so many of us do.
2. Use your local Black or minority Chamber of Commerce as a resource.
Looking for a new contractor, insurance agent, or lawyer who is a person of color? Try your local minority Chamber of Commerce. Many have searchable member directories or a way to contact leadership for recommendations. These efforts can yield more lasting professional relationships with people of color and may offer an important shift toward recognizing the breadth of talent within communities of color.
3. Use the internet.
This seems like a given, but it’s easy to forget that a more diverse economic experience is often a few clicks away. We often rely on recommendations from our social networks, which tend not to be very diverse. Try Googling “Black owned businesses in [your city]”, “Hispanic dentists in [your city]”, or “BIPOC beauty brands.” You can also follow Instagram or Facebook accounts that highlight BIPOC businesses locally or nationally.
4. Spread the word about BIPOC businesses.
Once you find BIPOC businesses, buy from them, become a loyal customer, and tell your friends. Referrals are the best way of building any small business and BIPOC-owned businesses are no exception.
5. Support BIPOC-friendly brands.
Each month, read up on one of your favorite brands. A few things you may look into: Do they recognize that Black Lives Matter? Have they done something beyond putting up a black square on their Instagram page? Do they use models who are diverse in color, shape, and ability? If they’ve made missteps with regards to inclusion, have they owned up to it? Do they have an action plan for change? How do they treat their BIPOC employees? This type of research has led me to make Ben and Jerry’s my ice cream of choice (they’ve been vocally and financially supportive of justice reform), to buy clothes from Laude the Label (they’re a Certified B Corporation, a member of the Fair Trade Federation, and have an anti-racism accountability plan), and to feel more comfortable buying from Target (they consistently carry and highlight Black-owned brands). I also try to take the extra step of telling businesses that we appreciate their stances and their work so they know their practices have an impact.
A Few of My Favorite BIPOC-Owned Brands
Below, I’ve included some of my favorite BIPOC-owned brands that ship nationally. This list is not exhaustive, but I hope it gives you a starting place for your own journey.
Fashion and Beauty
- Nubian Skin – Nubian Skin sells high quality lingerie and men’s underwear in nude hues that match Black and brown skin tones. Last June, the company also donated a portion of proceeds to Black Lives Matter. (Want to know more about this brand? Check out my interview with founder Ade Hassan).
- Papa Rozier Farms – Owned by a Haitian-American family, this Brooklyn-based brand sells moringa oil, castor oil, and other skincare and haircare products. According to its website, Papa Rozier grows its ingredients in Haiti without pesticides and is very involved in the processing of its oils. The company also supports a school in Haiti to help continue economic progress where its ingredients are grown.
- Gifted – Located in Fort Worth, Texas, Gifted sells beautifully curated and planet-friendly skincare, makeup, home, and baby products. Gifted’s owner, Esther Miller, also uses the store’s platform to highlight Black-owned businesses in Fort Worth.
- Camille Rose Naturals – Camille Rose makes luscious haircare products that are great for coily, curly, wavy, and straight hair. The all-natural products are perfect for my sensitive skin and always yield soft, moisturized results (their algae deep conditioning mask is my favorite). Camille Rose is available directly from their website, or from Target and other national retailers.
- Orenda Tribe – The antidote to fast fashion, Orenda Tribe aims to support sustainable fashion through its beautifully upcycled clothing and original designs. Founded by Amy Yeung, who is Diné, Orenda Tribe has also used its funds to found the Dził Asdzáán (Mountain Woman) Command Center, which provides meals and personal protective equipment to Diné community members. Though I haven’t yet bought from this company, I’ve been drooling over the brand’s Oaxaca top and jasper rings.
- The Dock Bookshop – A Fort Worth institution, The Dock Bookshop has a wide-ranging collection of Black-authored books in every genre. It’s a fun shop to browse if you’re in Fort Worth, and I especially love that my kids can see a sizeable collection of children’s and young adult books with Black protagonists. You can also purchase from The Dock Bookshop online and have books delivered to your doorstep (if you prefer to hold a book in your hands) or inbox (for ebooks and audiobooks). Additionally, the store promotes literature and literary arts through the nonprofit the Texas Literacy Connection Corp.
- Leaves – Leaves, a book and tea shop, is another Fort Worth favorite. Leaves is committed to showcasing books with diverse authors, stories, characters, and subjects. If you’re in town, definitely give their sparkling tea a try while you peruse the shop. If you’re out of town, you can still benefit by having books delivered to your door, phone, or e-reader.
Food and Fun
- Our Place – Our Place makes my very favorite piece of cookware, the Always Pan, a beautiful, non-toxic nonstick pan that cooks like a dream (once I fried an egg in this bad boy, I knew there was no going back). The brand also donates to causes that further racial justice and equity, like the Immigrant Defenders Network and the Equal Justice Initiative.
- Partake Cookies – Since going gluten free to help with my eczema, I am always on the lookout for tasty treats, and Partake fits the bill. They sell treats and baking mixes that are free of common allergens (I love their chocolate chip cookies). Partake also runs a Black Futures in Food & Beverage fellowship for juniors at Historically Black Colleges and universities and partners with the Food Equality Initiative to improve access to food, education, and allergy-friendly products. You can buy directly from Partake or purchase at Target.
- Culture Tags – This game makes acronyms super fun by transforming Black cultural touchpoints into abbreviations that players take turn guessing. Our entire family, including my white husband, loves this game – we often just play a few rounds after dinner for a quick and fun family activity. We bought our game at Target, but you can also purchase directly from their website.
What are your favorite BIPOC-owned businesses? Let me know in the comments!