These Initiatives Are Supporting Black-Owned Wellness Businesses

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  • The Black British Foodies Fund is looking to raise capital to support black-owned businesses in the food and beverage sector
  • Move follows lead set by music star Beyonce Knowles who teamed up with the NAACP to launch the Black-Owned Small Business Impact Fund in the US
  • A 2018 study found black women in the US received only 0.0006% of the $424.7 billion raised in the US in venture capital since 2009
  • In the UK, only 0.67% of the country’s 5.9 million businesses are black-owned, despite black people accounting for 3.3% of the population
  • Juici Jerk director Troy Johnson says: “I launched the BBFF because I wanted to empower diversity in the food industry”

LONDON, United Kingdom — Caribbean catering business Juici Jerk has launched the latest initiative to support black-owned businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement. 

The accelerator — called Black British Foodies Fund, or BBFF — will offer cash grants up to £1k for British businesses in the food and beverage sector, as well as mentoring, legal advice and masterclasses on financial planning and business modelling. 

Juici Jerk has launched a £5k drive on Gofundme to set up the fund, which will open for applications in August. 

Director Troy Johnson explained he was compelled to launch the BBFF having long witnessed and experienced a lack of support and representation for black-owned food businesses in the UK. 

“This seems to be a lot more apparent in the [fast moving consumer goods]FMCG side of the industry,” he told Welltodo, highlighting how many products are limited to the disproportionately small “international foods” section of supermarkets. 

“It’s quite insulting,” Johnson continued. “We have been told numerous times that as a ‘Caribbean’ trader they cannot accept any more foods from that region, yet these same places are three-quarters full of burger or pizza units. 

“Culture appropriation is also something that worries me as the need for international foods is on a massive rise in the food and beverage industry but the support tends not to go to the minorities.” 

Speaking to The Grocer last week, Johnson also added: “I launched the BBFF because I wanted to empower diversity in the food industry. Launching a food startup is hard in itself, but I do believe that launching a food startup whilst being a young, black man is even harder.” 

Why now?
The Black Lives Matter protests in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, set against the global uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, have triggered a surge in fundraising efforts to support black-owned businesses around the world. 

Earlier this month music star Beyoncé Knowles teamed up with the National Association For The Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to launch a new fund to give black-owned businesses grants through her BeyGOOD foundation. 

The Black-Owned Small Business Impact Fund, intended to “assist our small business communities that have been directly impacted by the recent events across the country”, will provide grants of $10,000 (£7,923) for small businesses in select US cities. 

In April, Beyoncé donated $6million (£4.8m) to coronavirus relief efforts through the foundation and a partnership with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s #startsmall initiative. The money was used to help communities of colour and organisations within them as the coronavirus pandemic spread across the US. 

Beyoncé and her stylist Zerina Akers also launched Black-Owned Everything on 19th June to coincide with Juneteenth celebrations, spotlighting black-owned businesses from fashion and beauty to homeware and beyond. 

These Initiatives Are Supporting Black-Owned Wellness Businesses

Images: Solely Fit, LAPP, Bekura Beauty, Femly Box (L-R)

The 15 Percent Pledge
In the fashion industry, Canadian designer Aurora James launched the 15 Percent Pledge in June, a nonprofit calling on retailers to match their representation of black business owners to the black population of America. 

The retailers tagged in her initial post included Sephora, Net-a-Porter, Target and Saks. Sephora pledged within 14 days, followed closely by Rent the Runway. The accompanying petition has almost 80,000 signatures. 

Last month Visa also announced it would be offering $100,000 in grants to US-based, black-women-owned businesses as part of a series of initiatives to support small businesses. The application process opened last week and extends through July 31st, 2020. 

The grant program will award 10 $10,000 grants via IFundWomen, with the goal of helping to close the funding gap for the black female entrepreneurs who receive it. 

In June, London-based media brand Courier also launched The Courier Fresh Fund, a $50,000 fund to support founders of black-owned businesses, inviting black founders under the age of 25 to apply, while beauty company Glossier committed $500K towards organisations fighting racial injustice. It put up another $500K in the form of grants to black-owned beauty businesses. 

“We’re focusing on companies that sell physical beauty products: cosmetics, skincare; products or tools for face, body and hair,” read a statement on Glossier’s site. “We recognise that this is only one facet of the beauty world, but we believe it’s where we can have the most impact.” 

“Overwhelmingly white, male, Ivy League-educated”
In the US, a 2019 study conducted jointly by RateMyInvestor and DiversityVC, found most venture-backed startups are “overwhelmingly white, male, Ivy League-educated and based in Silicon Valley”. 

The report, which examined publicly available VC-backed deals over the last five years and polled over 10,000 founders, revealed 77.1% of founders were white, women-founded startups received only 9% of investments and just 1% of venture-backed founders were black. 

The current landscape for black female business owners is even more shocking. According to a separate 2018 study by DigitalUndivided, black women have received only 0.0006% of the $424.7 billion raised in the US in venture capital since 2009. 

The situation in the UK is equally stark. Of the UK’s 5.9 million businesses, approximately 40,000 are black-owned. That’s equivalent to 0.67% of the business base, although black people account for 3.3% of the population.

Juici Jerk’s Johnson believes the combination of the pandemic and George Floyd protests have created the climate of “revolution” for black people, with big corporations and small businesses alike trying to make a difference. 

He said: “2020 has been a momentous year for everyone and the effects of it are going to last well into the decade. 

“COVID-19 has literally been a slap in the face for the food industry as it has highlighted the fragility of our environment. An online presence is vital and businesses will need to react fast, adapt quickly and minimise liabilities to survive in this new climate. 

“The Geroge Floyd protest sparked what I hope will be called a revolution in years to come. It has made everyone have a good look at themselves, no matter colour, gender or even social status. 

“Big corporations and small businesses alike are trying to make a difference to bring equality to black people as this is something that has not been an important topic for many many years. 

“I know there will be some bandwagoning and false intentions but there are many people and organisations that are out to do good for the human race.” 

These Initiatives Are Supporting Black-Owned Wellness Businesses

Image: Juci Jerk/Black British Foodies Fund

It’s About Damn Time
Attempting to redress the balance, akin to Juici Jerk, is Backstage Capital, a VC firm with a mission of investing in women, people of colour and LGBT founders. 

According to its website, Backstage Capital has so far invested over $7m in more than 130 companies led by underrepresented founders, including their “It’s About Damn Time” fund, a $36 million seed investment vehicle that supports underrepresented founders initially overlooked by many VCs. 

Its portfolio includes Hidrate, a smart water bottle that syncs with your phone to tell you how much water you should drink each day; Journey Foods, which is changing the face of food science behind snacks in offices, hospitals, workplaces and schools.

Backstage Capital also support many women-led startups, including Lorals, a feminine care brand that’s using consumer tech to close the pleasure gap; and Lacquerbar, a feminist-focused nail salon overhauling the $20b antiquated nail salon industry. 

“Good intentions are not enough”
Also attempting to change the narrative in a meaningful way is Atlanta-based Collab Capital

Set up in 2018 by a trio of black founders, Jewel Solomon Burks, Justin Dawkins and Barry Givens, Collab Capital is unapologetically emphatic about its focus on only investing in black founders. 

Its goal is to raise a $50 million fund that invests in a way that is different from traditional venture funds: a profit-sharing model versus giving capital for equity. 

The coronavirus pandemic struck when the fund was nearing its first fundraising close, but now business has resumed and last month it was able to make its first investment, a $500k injection into Hairbrella, makers of an innovative rain hat. 

“This [George Floyd] situation has opened a lot of eyes, and we are here to help others diversify their own investments by investing in us as a fund,” Givens told Crunchbase News

And its impact is already starting to bear fruit. The last time Collab Capital held a pitch competition for black founders, more than 420 founders applied. 

Meanwhile in the UK, Eric Collins, the head of London-based venture capital firm Impact X, set up in 2018 to invest in minority-owned businesses, recently called on British banks, businesses, charities and universities to put their money where their mouths are. 

Impact X has a £100m fund that has so far invested in 17 businesses across Europe. Speaking in the Financial Times, Collins called on other investors to step forward. “Good intentions are not enough. Liberal values are not enough. Change things,” he said.

“Foster a community of black-owned brands”
Juici Jerk’s Johnson is also calling on major corporations and government bodies in the UK to better promote black-owned F+B businesses, along the lines of Sainsbury’s Future Brands initiative and Young Foodies efforts to “empower the brands of tomorrow”. 

“It would be great to provide some vital learning about what makes a successful brand and the infrastructure to help the black community,” Johnson said, acknowledging the support Juici Jerk received from the Business Launchpad charity in London. 

“I know there are some epic ideas in our community, we just need the right environment to foster them. A lot of success is down to learning and this just isn’t available enough across the board, let alone in the black community. 

“I know Sainsbury’s has a challenger brand programme but we need more programmes aimed at helping diverse offerings get on mainstream shelves.” 

Applications for the Black British Foodies Fund will open in August, with Juicy Jerk looking for businesses that “have a clear idea of where the funds will be spent” and “what they look for in terms of growth services”. 

The BBFF Gofundme page continues: “The Black British foodies fund will foster a community of black-owned food and drink brands and provide expert knowledge, experience and growth services to enable them to thrive.” 

Johnson said: “We have hit one fifth of our funding goal and we still have a long way to go but I am very optimistic and I can’t wait to start putting some programmes together.” 

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