Entrepreneurs and small business owners have been hit hard by the mandatory closures of non-essential establishments. As a result, SheaMoisture has committed $1 million to help women of color business owners keep their doors open and get the tools they need to survive the COVID-19 crisis.
As a part of the Community Commerce Fund, 10 business owners in the restaurant, hospitality, grooming, entertainment, and wellness industries who have the ability to convene communities online for good, distribute goods door-to-door, or through e-commerce will receive a $10,000 grant to support their business and minimize financial disruption.
The fund is driven by the brand’s long-established Community Commerce business model and the core belief that commerce and reinvesting in communities the brand serves creates economic opportunities and economic independence. The Community Commerce works to empower women, transform communities, and support purpose-driven businesses.
We spoke with Simone Jordan, SheaMoisture’s head of Community Commerce, as she leads the team charged with finding innovative and inclusive ways to invest in women entrepreneurs.
Supporting Women Entrepreneurs in Crisis
As the head of Community Commerce, how did you and your team decide that it was best to respond to the COVID-19 crisis?
It’s honestly how we have always responded to the persistent lack of funding that women of color have experienced as entrepreneurs and small business owners. It’s clear that the current economic downturn will gravely impact most, if not all, companies. That also means that businesses already cash-strapped and drowning in debt will have an even bleaker future. For most black-owned and women of color businesses, this will be their outlook. Notwithstanding this reality, these businesses still have not back downed from the charge of taking care of their communities.
They are stepping up, as they historically have, to ensure that their communities are not overlooked during this crisis. From reconfiguring their facilities to produce hand sanitizer and face masks to turning their restaurants into delivery services for families in need of food, these businesses are literally using what little savings they have for others. This is how we decided on how to take action. It was critical that we develop a Fund under our model that would provide some relief to these businesses. The Community Commerce model was created as a way for our consumer to invest proceeds from their SheaMoisture purchases in the businesses and people that will help improve their communities. It’s our responsibility to maintain their investments and put it to work when our community needs it most.
Community is vital to SheaMoisture. What impact does the company hope to have of entrepreneurs and their companies through this initiative?
Our hope is that small minority-owned businesses will survive this. This is a resilient community of business owners and entrepreneurs that have already experienced setbacks and are accustomed to starting over. This makes me optimistic that many will overcome this. However, SheaMoisture’s $1 Million Fund wants to put in place some assurance that businesses that are vital to helping their communities survive this. For women of color, the Fund intends to minimize any disruption to our prior efforts to provide them with entrepreneurial education and coaching. The e-learning lab will allow them to learn how to build a recovery plan from business experts and professors. Our goal is to also fund many of these plans and help women of color businesses withstand the new economic reality.
What charge does SheaMoisture have for those who are fortunate enough to receive funding as it relates to paying it forward to those in their community and other entrepreneurs in the future?
Community Commerce, as a model, is rooted in the ability of businesses to pay it forward to their communities. Our modification of this concept is that as a company, we are paying it forward to smaller, minority businesses so that they can continue the cycle of investment into their communities and allow others to thrive from that single investment. The outcome should result in healthier and wealthier communities. We have seen this from both our U.S. investments, and in our African Shea Butter supplier communities. This cycle of goodwill is desperately needed during the COVID-19 crisis if small businesses are to survive.
The fund is broken down into three elements to cater to the needs of entrepreneurs:
Applications open on Wednesday, April 8, 2020.