11 black-owned businesses that are changing the world
An often-overlooked aspect of racial equality is economic equality — without dollars and opportunities firmly rooted in communities of color, there is no power.
That's why black-owned businesses are so important in the fight for racial justice. When you buy from these businesses, you support financial freedom and agency in the black community. And your purchase goes even further when those businesses' missions focus on charitable efforts.
We've rounded up 11 businesses in the U.S. that build service and altruism into their business models, giving back to a number of communities and causes.
From environmental conservation and sustainability to combatting domestic abuse and poverty, these entrepreneurs have all found unique ways to contribute to the greater good.
1. Haute Hope
IMAGE: HAUTE HOPE
In 2014, Jess Puccinelli left her job in PR and created Haute Hope with a mission to make it easier for people to give more meaningfully. She creates curated gift boxes of products that give back to the environment or community — The Cherie gift box, for example, contains items that are ethically made, help fund micro-loans to trafficked women, and use recyclable packaging.
"I realized that there are a lot of people that want to 'give good,' but it can be really hard to find businesses that allow them to," she tells Mashable.
IMAGE: KYRA'S SHEA MEDLEYS
Kyra's Shea Medleys is a line of multi-purpose, vegan shea butter creams for your skin and hair, and they're safe for babies, too.
As a student at UCLA, Kyra Nicole Young became aware of how difficult it was to find products for her naturally curly hair and black skin in stores. So she started researching online and discovered shea butter — a West African beauty ingredient that works wonders for black hair and skin. She ordered some on Amazon, and started experimenting in her kitchen with essential oils, vanilla and avocados. The outcome was better than she anticipated, so Young started sharing the with friends and family. After their praise and encouragement, she founded Kyra's Shea Medleys.
Growing up in South Central Los Angeles, Young was always aware that her community lacked a lot of resources, so she knew she'd eventually give back — and she kept her word, as is evident through the "KSM Gives Back" initiative.
In only two years of business, she has donated more than 1,700 jars of product to a number of homeless shelters and organizations in the area, as well as monetary donations and volunteering time.
IMAGE: MUSE MOHAMMED
Nana Boateng Osei started Bôhten with the goal of creating an eco-luxury eyewear line that pays "homage to a love of fashion without the loss of social responsibility." To accomplish this goal, all of the company's products are made with reclaimed wood from West Africa, and manufactured in a zero-waste facility in Canada.
In addition to his environmentally conscious manufacturing process, Osei works withSightsavers, a UK-based charity that works to prevent blindness, restore sight and advocate for social inclusion for people with disabilities. Through the "Impact of One" partnership, Bôhten makes a donation for every pair of eyewear sold to Sightsavers' work in countries like Ghana to prevent and cure blindness.
Tashah Johnson grew up with an entrepreneurial mother who always prioritized giving back. So, when she started Candlessentials (after many other projects), incorporating social good was a no-brainer. Her soy candles are free of animal products or additives, and the packaging isembedded with seeds. Instead of just throwing the box away, you can plant it and watch flowers bloom.
The business also dedicates 10% of its annual sales to Lori's Daughter Foundation, which aims break the cycle of sexual abuse in women's lives, through service, advocacy and mentoring.
"I had been volunteering with them and going to events for a while, so I was already invested in the organization and believed in their vision," Johnson tells Mashable.
She plans to give more to the foundation in the future, as her business continues to thrive.
In 2011, Michelle Olomojobi went shopping for a crop top, but failed to find something that reflected her African heritage and culture. She ended up buying fabric and made her own, adorned with images of the African continent.
At Llulo, service is an integral part of the business plan.
"Of course I want to be profitable, but if I’m not giving back, then there’s no point," Olomojobi tellsMashable.
Olomojobi is Nigerian, and in the past has used proceeds from Llulo to buy school supplies for children in her native country. This summer, she plans to make a trip to Nigeria herself, to help women create their own businesses.
"There are so many women in Nigeria creating these beautiful dresses, without a pattern, without fancy machines — it's just all in their heads. I want them to be able to showcase their talents, set up online stores and be able to make a living," she says.
IMAGE: NUBIAN HERITAGE
Nubian Heritage had humble beginnings as a street vendor stand in New York City's Harlem neighborhood more than 20 years ago. Its three founders had just graduated from college, didn't have jobs and decided to share their knowledge of natural healing traditions with the community — and it began with just African black soap and shea butter.
Now, this company boasts an extensive line of hair and body products sold online, at Vitamin Shoppe, Target and elsewhere.
"Community commerce" is an important part of the Nubian Heritage business model. The company is committed to alleviating poverty in the communities where its ingredients are sourced.
For example, the women who produce Nubian Heritage's shea butter in Ghana are not only suppliers, but partners, and the company helps them develop self-sustaining businesses in addition to making water more accessible in their communities.
IMAGE: ENBOIS BY MAXIM
Maxim Thuriere founded this wooden watch and bracelet company in his college dorm at the University of South Florida — but he wanted his small business to serve a greater purpose than simply selling accessories for profit. Born to a Haitian mother, he decided to use proceeds from Enbois to improve educational opportunities and distance learning programs for children in southern Haiti.
The company donates $1 or more from each item sold to the Haitian Resource Development Foundation (HDRF). In 2015, Thuriere was able to give $850 to the foundation, which will enhance the learning experiences of Haitian children.
Based in Chicago, beelove gives back by providing transitional opportunities for people in the community who struggle with barriers to employment, especially those with a criminal history. Mass incarceration and its aftereffects impact black people at a disproportionate rate, and beelove (and its parent company Sweet Beginnings, LLC, a subsidiary of the North Lawndale Employment Network) is doing its part in helping those most affected.
The company produces both raw edible honey and honey-based beauty products using honey harvested at its five apiaries in Chicago. In addition to the online shop, its products are sold through local Chicago retailers.
Your purchase helps disadvantaged people in Chicago establish a work history, learn productive work habits and gain marketable skills —and you get to pamper yourself with soothing honey, too.
In 2013, Dechel McKillian decided to leave her exciting career as a celebrity wardrobe stylist and start her own clothing company. Working in the industry, she became very aware of the ills of corporate fast fashion, such as treatment of employees, pollution and unfair working conditions. GALERIE.LA was the result of her passion for sustainable fashion and desire to use her creativity and talent to build her own brand.
"GALERIE.LA has sustainability injected at its core ... It's why we exist," McKillian tellsMashable. "Our motto is 'fashion with integrity,' and our mission is to have a positive environmental and social impact that is not at the expense of style."
Her Los Angeles boutique is a curation of sustainable women's clothing from designers who are "changing the infrastructure of fashion," and in March, the e-boutique will open for eco-friendly fashionistas everywhere. In an era when fast fashion is popular, the main challenge for GALERIE.LA is "getting people to care" — but McKillian says she's in it for the long run.
IMAGE: BEESWEET LEMONADE
When she was just four years old, Mikaila Ulmer came up with the idea for BeeSweet Lemonade. She had been stung twice by bees, and as a result, her interest in the insects grew. She realized how important they are for our environment, and decided to do something to save them. Using her family's flaxseed lemonade recipe, she started the company with the motto, "Buy a bottle, save a bee."
After securing a $60,000 investment on the entrepreneurial competition show Shark Tank, BeeSweet Lemonade is now distributed in stores across the country, including Whole Foods. Through proceeds from BeeSweet Lemonade, Ulmer makes donations to organizations that help save bees like Heifer International and the Texas Beekeepers Association.
11. Bené Scarves
IMAGE: BENE SCARVES
"Buy a scarf, educate a girl" is the mission of Bené Scarves. When Michelle Blue and Sasha Matthews went to Ghana for a college study-abroad trip in 2011, they did service work in the community to empower girls with educational opportunities so they could live independently. After the trip, Blue and Matthews wanted to find a way to continue making a positive and sustainable difference in the lives of the young women they met. Three years later, they launched their collection of Ghana-inspired scarves.
Today, the proceeds from the scarves provide tuition, books, supplies and uniforms for schoolgirls in Ghana so that they can further their education. Bené Scarves' sponsorship has had a tangible impact on the lives of five girls, each of whom have received a year of education. They hope to sponsor more girls in the future.
Hyperlocal: Farms to Grow
This Oakland, California-based farmer's market gives back to the local community with fresh, organic, pesticide-free produce grown by black farmers. It also installs gardens at schools, teaches free culinary classes and sells Harvest Boxes of fresh produce.
Brand-new: BASE BUTTER
She'Neil Johnson was inspired by her older sister, Tashah Johnson of Candlessentials, to create her own business that gives back. In her new business, BASE BUTTERS, Johnson creates "all natural mini-butters for your lips, skin and anywhere else you please." She donates $1 from each purchase to Her Success, a nonprofit that specializes in expanding the limits of extraordinary young women.