Now in the second year of its partnership with Buy From A Black Woman, H&M USA will continue to support the program through a variety of activities aimed at continuing the growth and success of the small business owners, beginning with a donation of $250,000. This summer, H&M USA will again sponsor the organization’s Buy From a Black Woman Inspire Tour, leveraging H&M USA’s channels and brick and mortar locations to highlight Black Woman-owned businesses across the country.
“Really, we just continue to elevate the partnership,” said Donna Dozier Gordon, head of inclusion and diversity at H&M region America. “Last year, we signed on with Buy from A Black Woman in March. We committed to support the Inspire Tour and the it was such a success, that it begat the holiday market we opened in Times Square. The platform that we are using to kick off this year’s inspire tour at the Essence festival, really takes the level and kicks up our support, and, of course, having Tracee Ellis Ross join us as the ambassador of the partnership, is another indication of the way we continue to build this relationship.”
The breadth and depth of the program is expanding. “We had four vendors that we showcased by the end of the year and that included the inspire tour and the four weeks that we were in Times Square. We will have about 11 vendors with us in New Orleans for the two days of that activation,” Dozier Gordon added. “We’ll have another almost 30 vendors, which we engaged for the remaining stops on the tour, and then we envision the holiday market again in December of this year, so I would say at the end of the day we will engage more vendors than we did last year.
“Many of the women have never seen their product in a retail environment prior to this experience, and so to see how their vision for their business really grow as a result of having participated in the tour was meaningful for us,” Dozier Gordon continued. “The sales they were able to generate – I would say without question, most of them sold out of everything they had in their inventory.
The benefits of the program went beyond simply sales to impact the womens’ sense of self-worth and confidence. “When you think about the personal stories from the tour where one of the vendors was able to resolve all the debt that she had and went on to buy a home for her family, which was a meaningful impact as a result of her participation in the tour.
“For H&M, it’s more than writing a check or adding our name to a pledge,” Dozier Gordon said, referring to the 15% Pledge movement started by Aurora James ?. “It’s really creating economic development and economic uplift in communities and we’re very proud of that. We have not signed on to the 15% pledge, but I think what we’re doing indicates the commitment that we have. In addition to the relationship with Buy from A Black Woman, we have launched a commitment to supplier diversity at H&M as part of the whole inclusion and diversity strategy so that it would include a commitment to purchase products and services from diverse suppliers in every aspect of the business.”
“This is a very exciting and important partnership,” Tracee Ellis Ross told me. “For me, what really struck me is that H&M is using their platform and their finances to support work that is already being done,” she said. “I think that so much of what’s happening is that people don’t know what to do, and sometimes people assume what should be done. But there’s people that have been doing the work to create fundamental change in the industry and to really support Black women for a long time, and they know what they’re doing, how to do it, and what they’re doing is working.”
Nikki Porcher is an example of that, and Buy From A Black Woman is a woman who has been paving a really fruitful and helpful road for entrepreneurs,” Ellis Ross added. “It’s really exciting, particularly for me as a Black CEO, founder and entrepreneur, knowing personally a lot of the roadblocks that existed. Even for me as a celebrity and a name, it was easier, but it still was not easy.”
“Well I think it does move the needle,” said Dozier Gordon. “It really depends on one’s perspective. for us it really moves the needle in a number of ways. Our focus on community engagement and community investment is really about amplifying and celebrating the work of organizations and individuals that are already doing great things in the community, so it’s really not about H&M per se, it’s leveraging our platform, our scale and our footprint to showcase and highlight the work that others are doing in service to the community already, so we become an activator, a facilitator. I think the relationship we’ve been able to forge with Buy from a Black Woman, is really an exemplar of what community engagement should be about.”
The fast fashion retailer was approached by Buy From A Black Woman founder, Nikki Porcher about partnering to bring more Black female makers to its shelves and hanging racks. “H&M was going in a direction and they wanted to work with grass roots organizations,” Porcher said. “It would be perfect for the Black Woman Inspire Tour that I do in the summer and we were able to find a way to make it work for us.”
H&M and Buy From A Black Woman have a symbiotic relationship where each party receives a benefit from the collective program. “We brought Black women to the stores, and were able to get more attention for the H&M home department because last summer all of our pop-ups were held in stores with home departments. We learned through all that what H&M home is and we were able to bring awareness to that,” Porcher said. “This worked so well that we came into Times Square for the holiday market. H&M sponsored that program, and also sponsors a grant and adds to our grant program.
“This is a lot, this is amazing,” Porcher added. “We said, ‘let’s keep the party going.’ We came into the second year. This woman needs to be celebrated on International Women’s Day, just to let the public know, this worked so well… let’s do it again.”