The 15 Percent Pledge and Google Shopping Unite to Provide Essential Training to Black Entrepreneurs

Aurora James
Designer Aurora James, founder of the Fifteen Percent Pledge. Image: Christian Cody

The Fifteen Percent Pledge recently announced a new partnership with Google Shopping in an effort to increase access and opportunity for Black-owned businesses. Additionally, today, the Fifteen Percent Pledge launched its online database of Black business owners, the Business Equity Community.

“I wanted to make sure there was a place where all of these small businesses are able to put their best foot forward,” Aurora James, founder of the Fifteen Percent Pledge and the accessories brand Brother Vellies, tells EBONY. “I’m excited to do as much as we can to really engage this community to think outside of the box and embrace themselves as much as possible instead of feeling like they have to fit into a mold.”

By way of the two-year partnership, Google will provide Black entrepreneurs with digital trainings and workshops tailored to assist them with increasing the online presence of their businesses.

“Google really wants to equip Black business owners with training and resources to grow and scale their businesses,” says Stephanie Horton, Director of Marketing, Google Shopping. “The trainings support all of the things people need, especially in this digital landscape, to get their businesses off of the ground and make sure that they are discoverable through search. Some of the first trainings will show businesses how to reach consumers online. They will learn how Google Search works, how people might find their businesses, and then we will walk them through the latest tools and search engine optimization strategies, and building a really strong online presence.”

The initiative is exclusively for members of the Business Equity Community.

“It’s really to elevate and support Black businesses and make sure that they have the tools they need to succeed in the digital landscape,” Horton goes on. “Businesses, today, you have to be online because you need to meet customers where they are.”

In addition to the trainings, Google will continue showcasing Black-Owned business via their Google Small Business channels by way of their Black Owned Friday campaign, which launched in October.

“This is a part of our small business effort. This is really centered around small businesses and getting them more notoriety and visibility,” Horton adds, noting that the tech giant saw searches for Black-owned businesses spike by 600 percent last year. “Online is kind of challenging if you don’t know how it works and how to optimize. Our goal is to level the playing field and give people the tools that they need.”

Founded in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in 2020, the Fifteen Percent Pledge is a nonprofit organization with the goal of urging major retailers to commit 15 percent of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses.

“I was getting a barage of calls and texts from friends and colleagues asking, ‘What do we do?'” Aurora recalls of the days following Floyd’s passing.

Among the trends she noticed were leaders at retail companies wondering if they had done enough after making donations to Black-led organizations. After ruminating the question, “What does it really take to support change and be anti racist if you’re a major retailer?” and considering the fact that “40 percent of Black-owned businesses were expected to close because of the pandemic,” The Fifteen Percent Pledge was formed.

Today, 28 companies have taken the pledge—including Ulta, Sephora, Rent the Runway, Medmen, Yelp, Vogue, Macy’s Inc., Bloomingdales, Blue Mercury, InStyle, Indigo (CA), West Elm, Crate & Barrel, CB2, Crate & Kids, Madewell, Gap Inc., Old Navy, Athleta, Banana Republic, KITH, and more.

To learn more about the Fifteen Percent Pledge and the Business Equity Community, visit fifteenpercentpledge.org.

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