Building on the momentum of its inaugural yearlong partnership with Buy From a Black Woman, H&M USA has extended the union for a second year.
Founded in 2016 by Nikki Porcher, the nonprofit organization focuses on empowering, educating and inspiring Black women business owners and the people who support them.
H&M will continue to support BFABW with special events and activities, including a $250,000 donation. Those funds will be used in a variety of ways, like for a new docuseries titled, “The Living Examples” which will highlight the personal stories of 25 Black female entrepreneurs. The first video will debut Thursday. The financial support will also be used for a grant program, a business accelerator, the H&M USA-sponsored BFABW’s Holiday Market and Buy From a Black Woman Inspire Tour, a multicity tour across the U.S. highlighting Black women business owners and their stories.
Having taken the Inspire Tour to five cities in 2021, the plan this year is to hit more with new stops including Memphis, Tenn.; Dallas; Oakland, Calif.; Detroit and Milwaukee. This year’s tour will kick off in New Orleans on June 30. H&M USA and BFABW will also be increasing the number of cities where they host pop-up shops and other special events from 16 cities to 20, Porcher said.
H&M USA’s head of inclusion and diversity Donna Dozier Gordon, said the partnership exemplifies the impact the company wants to have “in empowering and creating capacity in the communities in which we live and work.”
Interest in providing Black business owners with the financial means to build and strengthen their companies has increased as of late. Last week, Serena Williams announced that her new venture capital company Serena Ventures has raised $111 million. In a recent tweet denouncing the New York Times for running a photo of her sister Venus with the news story about the fund, Williams said the $111 million would support “the founders who are overlooked by engrained systems woefully unaware of their biases. Because even I am overlooked. You can do better @nytimes.”
To celebrate the BFABW-H&M USA partnership extension, 30 female Black entrepreneurs were invited to Philadelphia last weekend. Although Amtrak train cancellations inhibited 15 from attending, those who could get there, reveled in the experience, according to Porcher, who described the gathering as “just magical…there was so much smiling, laughter, tears and hugs — just love in the room.” What stayed with her, she said, was “the sense of community between BFABW and H&M USA, and their ability to come together to show Black women that they are worthy and deserving, and that we can make time in our lives to celebrate not just ourselves but each other.”
On another front, BFABW recently announced a partnership with Goldman Sachs for its One Million Black Women initiative, which is geared toward addressing the gender and racial biases that Black women have faced for generations. With the help of Black women-led organizations and other partners, Goldman Sachs is committing $10 billion in direct investment capital and $100 million in philanthropic support. BFABW is the newest partner in the “Black in Business” program, a 12-week online business course Goldman Sachs is providing to 300 Black women business owners. Porcher is part of the interviewing committee and some of the decision making, and is also helping to guide some of the participants through the process.
Making the point that Black women have always been starting their own businesses, Porcher said her organization has been able to assist in the work that Black women have been doing. Since it’s inception, BFABW has helped people “to see that Black women do a lot,” and is helping to amplify what Black women are and have been doing, she said. In 2016, the group gave out one $500 grant and last year it awarded seven grants amounting to more than $10,000, Porcher said. Keen to make sure that Black businesses are protected, BFABW also awarded four trademarks and is helping business owners with their websites, including ensuring that they own them.
“I’m grateful that Buy From a Black Woman has been doing the work, and has not just social proof but also financial proof through our grants, programming, events and our community to show that we are a strong supporter of the Black women business community,” Porcher said.
She once wrote a “love letter” to herself, when she needed encouragement and affirmation. That is now imprinted on a poster given to each Black woman who joins the organization as part of a welcome kit. During recent travels across the country to film the docuseries, Porcher has seen those posters in offices, factories and women’s homes in frames.
“They have said they read the poster every day because it helps them. Yesterday we read it together in unison, and I got so choked up,” she said. “These were words that I wrote to encourage me and now they are encouraging a whole community of Black women business owners. I just never would have imagined that.”