When Brown Girl Jane launched the #BrownGirlSwap pledge on social media, the founders of the CBD-based beauty and wellness brand knew they were just getting started. The hashtag began as way to encourage people to buy Black, asking Instagram users to replace (at least) five of their go-to products with brands owned by Black women, and became a directory for people to discover new Black-owned businesses through the #BrownGirlSwap tag. Now, the women behind the brand — Malaika Jones Kebede, Nia Jones, and Tai Beauchamp — are gearing up to take their already impactful initiative to a whole new level in partnership with SheaMoisture, the Black-founded global brand that values at close to a billion dollars.
The #BrownGirlSwap caught the attention of SheaMoisture this year, and the company reached out to help the indie founders take their mission of reinvesting in the community even further. In coming together, the two brands reimagined the newly expanded #BrownGirlSwap, which will now offer extensive support to Black-owned independent beauty and wellness brands and aspiring interns. "We quickly got together with our teams and brainstormed what it could mean to impact Black women-owned businesses in the beauty and wellness space — and how we could change the face of these spaces in a meaningful way," Beauchamp tells Refinery29.
For a mass-market behemoth and a smaller independent brand, the collaboration was surprisingly seamless." "We were so inspired by Brown Girl Jane's three dynamic founders, and the ability of other Black beauty founders to build dynamic businesses," says Cara Sabin, Sundial Brand and SheaMoisture CEO. "Our brands connected even further over the shared mission to support and uplift these businesses as we continue SheaMoisture's long history of meeting Black women's unique needs in personal care."
To create real systemic change, the brands knew they had to offer more than one solution. So they conceived five pillars: Amplify, Fund, Empower, Diversify, and Swap. Under these points, they aim to give Black female founders a platform to amplify their brands, enable them to receive entrepreneurial mentorship from industry veterans, and award funding with an investment of a $250,000 grant fund. Additionally, the initiative will be offering a semester-long, paid internship program for Black college students in 2021 — and that's not all. The brands are also set to host a free virtual summit that serves as a business boot camp and networking space this September.
Whether you switch out your own products with the pledge, show support as a company, or get investment and mentorship as a Black-owned indie beauty or wellness business, there's something for everyone. "We wanted to make sure that the approach was not only comprehensive, but touching people in different stages," says Jones Kebede.
"It's important for us to create and partner on opportunities and spaces that encourage the growth of women of color in business."
Cara Sabin, Sundial Brand and SheaMoisture CEO
Far from just another advantageous partnership, every aspect of the initiative is rooted in personal experience. Venture capital currently invests in fewer than 1% of Black female founders, and major beauty and wellness companies have less than 5% Black representation — when Black Americans spent over $1 trillion on the consumer market in 2019. The founders of BROWN GIRL Jane are all too familiar with the racial economic divide in these industries, and want to change that reality for Black-owned women entrepreneurs. "Everything we do and the way that we do it is really about our personal experience and centering women who are like us," says Beauchamp. Sabin adds, "It's important for us to create and partner on opportunities and spaces that encourage the growth of women of color in business."
Ultimately, SheaMoisture and Brown Girl Jane hope to not only help remove the roadblocks for current and future Black women entrepreneurs but also inspire big corporations to contribute in more significant ways — including by supporting smaller brands. "It's not about competition. It's more about the power of collaboration and recognizing that we all have a role to play in creating and supporting change," says Beauchamp. Jones Kebede adds, "Big brands should look to the communities that they're aiming to serve for both partnership and feedback as they build."
According to the Brown Girl Jane founders, the mission of the #BrownGirlSwap will continue to grow from here, and they're excited to see its continuation and ongoing impact. As Jones Kebede says, "Just to be able to point to these future or current entrepreneurs and know that the #BrownGirlSwap has a small role in helping to power and push us all forward is why we're doing this. That's our fuel to keep this going."