As you may or may not know, I’ve been vocal on social media about my disgust for the U.S. president, his white supremacy, and the importance of standing with the Black Lives Matter movement. And in doing so, I’ve received some comments saying things like “I don’t come here for this.”
I want to address this.
And I want to make it clear that this will not change. I will continue to speak out about these things.
And I also want to share with you the ways in which I’m implementing anti-racism and inclusion into StartUp FASHION at its foundation as well as within our growth plan.
So let me just get this out of the way: If you are annoyed that I am addressing human rights through my musings and our social media and feel that you look to me and my platform for fashion business advice, not “political” opinions, you’re going to want to stop following me, because
(1) I’m not going to stop this conversation
(2) Nothing about this is political- it’s human rights, and
(3) If you think what’s happening in this country doesn’t have a direct impact on you and your business, it’s time to wake up.
OK, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I hope what I’m about share with you is helpful.
I know that you either have launched or hope to launch a fashion business. You may be looking for some help in navigating how to make sure you are building and growing a business that you can be proud of— one that believes that Black Lives Matter, one that stands with all marginalized communities, and one that implements practices that demonstrate these beliefs in order to make sure everyone feels seen, heard, and safe.
Now, I’m no expert. I hired this expert to help me navigate everything. But just because I’m not an expert, doesn’t mean that I can’t be transparent about the steps I’m taking based on everything I’ve learned so far, to help you do the same within your own business.
Step one: Review your business mission.
So, the first thing I did was think about our mission and ask myself if our mission was serving fashion designers of all races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, sizes, and ages.
Our mission to help fashion designers succeed in business is tied to our belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to go after their dreams and goals. In thinking about it, I realized what a privilege that opportunity is. It became clear that our mission was not serving everyone equally. So I had (and still have) some work to do.
Step two: Ask yourself how your company can better serve BIPOC and other marginalized communities.
It became clear that I needed a better understanding of where the holes are. Where is our blog missing important information and support for the Black community and other marginalized communities? Where is our membership community missing important lessons and expertise for these communities? How diverse is the makeup of the people we hire? How diverse is the line-up on the podcasts that want to interview me or the events that want me to speak?
These are all questions I asked and addressed by implementing policies within the business.
As a product-based business, you can apply this to areas like representation (beyond tokenization), size offerings, sharing your network, hiring practices, asking questions of media about the people they spotlight, and talking to events organizers about the diversity of their speakers before participating in or attending the events.
Step three: Get vocal.
Standing on the sidelines, feeling sad about the state of things, but being too afraid to say anything for fear that you’ll lose followers or customers or opportunities, is not how anyone builds a business that not only truly cares but acts on that caring.
Making it a practice within your business to address important topics like a president who refuses to condemn white supremacy, an action that suppresses the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, blatant fatphobia, and more, is an important step in this process of building your values-based business.
Step four: Keep going.
This work isn’t just done once and that’s it. It is ongoing.
I created a spreadsheet for StartUp FASHION, with tabs for the blog and social, the membership, and our process for addressing in-the-moment happenings like protests so that we are constantly living up to what we say we believe. And I also created a monthly recurring task in my project management platform. The task reminds me to review this spreadsheet and implement something from the list regularly.
Listen, you aren’t expected to do everything at once. But your goal should be to create a system where you start to recognize the ways in which you can do more, get to a place where this recognition within your business becomes commonplace, and where you take action on what you’re realizing.
I’m not perfect at this. As I said, I hired a diversity expert to help me. But my hope is that some of what I shared here will help you within your own fashion business to make note of where you can do better. Because there is always room to do better, for all of us.
I’m going to continue to listen and learn and make changes. I hope you’ll join me.
Lots of love and encouragement,