Exclusive Interview: Elaine Welteroth on the Power of the #BuyBlack Movement

Elaine Welteroth on Meta's #BuyBlack Friday show. Image: courtesy of Meta

Many of us can recall a specific Black business in our neighborhood that remind us of a memory from our childhood or exposed us to individuals who were significant pillars in our community. Such allegiance to these entities has sustained the Black business ecosystem for generations across the country. They need our support and commitment.

Last month, Meta (formerly known as Facebook), rolled out #BuyBlack Friday show as a way to provide assistance to Black business owners in need as they approach another difficult holiday season. Hosted by bestselling author, judge of Project Runway, and soon-to-be mommy Elaine Welteroth, the show highlighted a variety of Black-owned businesses that have continued to push forward despite the difficult economic climate stacked against them as a result of the pandemic.

A proud supporter of Black businesses of all kinds, Welteroth chatted with EBONY about her experience on the #BuyBlack Friday show and her love of buying all things Black-owned.

EBONY: Your #BuyBlack Friday Show, in collaboration with Meta, just wrapped not too long ago. How has the process of shooting for the show revealed how you look at Black businesses? 

Elaine Welteroth: It was an incredible experience being able to work with folks who look like us—folks who care about the things we care about. People prioritize the causes that matter the most to them and it was a really like-minded group of people who came together around this mission of amplifying Black businesses, specifically small Black businesses. The goal was to keep the momentum moving around the #BuyBlack movement. 

The Buy Black movement was elevated last summer after the murder of George Floyd through hashtags and there was a surge of interest in investing in the Black community. I think it’s up to all of us to keep that momentum going in order to prove that it’s more than a moment. So, it was incredible to host a series like this that prioritizes the things that I personally care about.  I’ve been a long-time advocate of buying from Black businesses and I take pride in dedicating myself to initiatives such as helping Aurora James start the 15% Pledge. It matters because I know that as a Black woman with a certain amount of access to decision-makers, I have to use my platform to affect change on this. I don’t take my position for granted. For me, this was an extension of that part of my mission. 

It was also really fun. We’re all hoping that this is kind of just the beginning and that they’ll be more programming like this rolling out.

What are some tips or suggestions on how people can uplift Black businesses and the #BuyBlack movement in ways that are not solely economic?

I think using social media as a tool for bringing attention to Black businesses that you want to see thrive is a really effective way to support them, even if you’re not able to patronize them. The hope is that we can be more conscious consumers and invest the money that we’re already spending on day-to-day things back into the Black community. The best place to start is looking at your spending habits and seeking opportunities to shop and support Black. It’s a mindset, a shift in priority but it can’t happen if we aren’t prioritizing this and keeping it as part of our agenda.  I try to think about it in my own spending and the vendors that I work with and the people that I hire. I try to be really mindful and deliberate about speaking about Black partners and products as often as I can. It’s very important to me.

Additionally, I do want to say that word of mouth is the most powerful marketing engine. I think we can’t underestimate the power of referrals and using Instagram or Twitter to talk up Black business owners. A lot of Black businesses don’t have as many marketing dollars to compete in their states so it’s really important that we do our purchase and place other Black businesses on each others’ radar.

Elaine Welteroth. Image: courtesy of Masterclass

What are some of your earliest memories of supporting Black businesses? 

I’ve been doing this all my life. I wrote about this in my book but I grew up in a Black hair salon that was owned by my aunt Janet who is one of my role models. From the time I was really little, I would spend my Saturday there and I’d help out at the salon in different ways—sweeping up hair, answering the phones, checking folks in, and simply getting my hair done as well for special occasions. My mom also always got her hair done there every week which taught me to be really intentional about supporting Black entrepreneurship. It was a priority in my household. 

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Former Georgetown Hoyas basketball player Alonzo Mourning watches the game during a college basketball game against the Butler Bulldogs at the Capital One Arena on February 9, 2019 in Washington,DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

My mom also enrolled me in West African dance class with a woman who taught it out of her garage. So, my mom really taught me these values at a very young age which is why I was so encouraged to see when buying and supporting Black businesses became mainstream trending topics that were energized in the media and on social media. I love to see people who don’t look like us investing in our businesses and in Black founders as well. We need that support coming in from every community. 

Are there any other brands that you’ve really loved this year that you really want to see pop in 2022?

I love Telfar. I love how he is reenergizing luxury and the luxury market. There are so few Black men who are at the top of their game. I also enjoy Brooklyn Tea—my husband and I love to support them. Also, Camille Ariane has an amazing brow pencil that is my absolute favorite. As a former beauty editor, I’d always have to review products while getting my makeup done so I had the opportunity to try out a lot of different products. 

Additionally, other products I specifically enjoy are the Pyer Moss x Reebok sneaker, the Fear of God Essentials hoodie, and Shaquanda’s Spicier Smoke Hot Pepper Sauce.

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