Black History Month is an annual celebration of the achievements and contributions of African Americans to U.S. history and a time of admiration for the current and future successes of Black Americans. In 1926, Carter G. Woodson, a noted Black historian, scholar, educator, and publisher, created “Negro History Week,” which blossomed 50 years later into the month-long celebration we know today.
Carter G. Woodson at his desk in 1948. Source: Smithsonian Institution archives.
It’s exciting to see 2022 is yet another year driven by conscious consumerism, including growing demand from consumers for supplier diversity across retail shelves. And at RangeMe, we’re thrilled to play a part in paving the way for a more diverse future in retail and consumer packaged goods (CPG) by presenting opportunities for diverse-owned brands, and spotlighting diverse brands that are making an impact in CPG and their communities. In tribute to Black History Month this year, we are highlighting three Black-owned businesses on RangeMe that are setting trends for the industry, social efforts, and beyond.
BLK & Bold is a specialty coffee roastery specializing in 100 percent arabica coffee that is micro-roasted and strictly sourced from fair trade and direct trade practices. Behind every bag of coffee is the mission to make purpose popular and allow consumers to further increase their social impact footprint. Thus, they contribute 5% of their profits to initiatives across the U.S. that support youth in need. Co-Founders Rod Johnson and Pernell Cezar initially met as kids while playing basketball together in Gary, Indiana, and bonded over their love for coffee. As consumers and coffee lovers, it was hard for them to see the lack of diversity within the coffee and tea industry. Fast forward several years and they now own and operate the first nationally distributed Black-owned coffee company that puts purpose over profit. Being a diverse business owner is no easy feat, but Johnson and Cezar set the perfect example for diverse entrepreneurs looking to support their dreams and community.
“Launching your first product can be a daunting experience! You should be intimately knowledgeable of your competitive landscape and how your approach to solving the identified problem is mutually beneficial for the retailer you are looking to launch with.”
Pernell Cezar, Co-Founder, BLK & Bold Specialty Coffee
The BLK & Bold team uses RangeMe to seamlessly showcase their brand’s core values, certifications, and relevance to current consumer trends for retail buyers to see. “It’s one of the best ways to get the integrity of what your brand and product represents to the fingertips of your next great retail partnership,” adds Cezar. You can find BLK & Bold in retail locations such as Target, Whole Foods, Walgreens, Meijer, Albertsons, and more.
Buyers on RangeMe can learn more about BLK & Bold specialty coffee on their profile here.
Growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, food, family, and entrepreneurship were always at the center of Toyin Kolawole’s life. What started as a labor of love at home to provide exciting new ways for her family to eat healthy gradually grew into a fully developed business called Iya Foods, which translates to ‘My Loving Mother’ in Yoruba. Iya Foods re-imagines everyday foods made with better ingredients and African superfoods that are plant-based and gluten-free. Last year Iya Foods launched campaigns promoting the sayings “Share The Love” and “Let’s Eat” as their core brand message.
“People are incredibly divided right now, but food is loving; it reminds us of our shared humanity and that we are more alike than different. I feel it’s impossible not to connect with someone you share a meal with, so we hope to be a part of the healing we so desperately need.”
Toyin Kolawole, CEO, Iya Foods
When it comes to launching a brand, Kalawole encourages entrepreneurs to “create the product you would want to buy.” She emphasizes that fear is normal, but it shouldn’t ever guide your decisions. “The world needs new products and innovative ways to feed people,” says Kalawole. “If you don’t put it out there, it won’t get the chance to succeed, so do it!”
Kolawole started using RangeMe before the pandemic, stating, “RangeMe has had a huge impact on us as a minority-owned small business. During COVID-19, RangeMe’s impact has more than doubled. It’s a platform that enables us to get seen by buyers in ways we didn’t have prior.” Even two months into 2022, Iya Foods has already had a phenomenal year on RangeMe, and their retail strategy will continue to depend heavily on RangeMe.
Buyers on RangeMe can learn more about Iya Foods by browsing their profile here.
About 30 years ago, Anastasia Chikezie opened her first hair salon that supported natural hair types, something that was unheard of at the time. Chikezie is a leader in Trichology and has more than three decades of experience within the natural hair care industry. Purely Natural salon flowered into an award-winning line of natural holistic hair care products from sandalwood hair tools, natural butters, and oils encompassing African and Caribbean influence. Nature is the brand’s muse, and the products certainly reflect this with harm-free ingredients and high-quality, sustainable packaging. Chikezie credits part of her vision to her Nigerian mother, who would send her to school as a young girl wearing traditional Nigerian hairstyles, making her realize how her hair made her unique and stand out from her classmates.
Chikezie explains it’s hard to understand inclusion until you have been excluded, and as a Black female entrepreneur, she faced difficult obstacles at the beginning of her journey as a business owner. “The lack of access to financial services because of my race and gender was repeatedly a major constraint,” explains Chikezie. “Bank loans were challenging to achieve.” However, there is support out there. “I’ve also met very helpful people who believed in me and my brand. Expect the unexpected because sometimes you can get lucky. You just have to believe in yourself,” says Chikezie.
“Be patient if not every product flies off the shelf immediately. A flexible marketing strategy will enable you to successfully keep ahead of the game and change things if needed. Don’t be afraid to recruit people who have skills you don’t have. We all can’t be the best at everything.”
Anastasia Chikezie, Founder, Purely Natural by Anastasia
Buyers on RangeMe interested in learning more about Purely natural by Anastasia can view their profile here.
Turning fear into fuel
Conquering fear and shaping it into strength and motivation is something that each of these brands had to face at some point in their journey as Black entrepreneurs. The world is changing, and consumers want to see culture and diversity behind the products they buy. As a leader in the product discovery space, RangeMe is here to help suppliers from all backgrounds get in front of retailers who have pledged to discover and support minority-owned brands.
Are you a buyer on RangeMe interested in discovering Black-owned businesses for your stores? Browse our curated Collection here.