Kimberly Seals-Allers: As much as we black moms clamor that we want products that reflect our culture, and that we want children's books, clothes and more with images that actually look like our children, the question is: Do we actually support those products when they do exist -- or are we just talk?
I'm starting to wonder.
Historically, we haven't done a good job supporting black businesses. One of our major problems as blacks in America is the fact that every dollar we make circulates only once in the black community. By comparison, every dollar the white community makes circulates ten times or more in their community, according to some research.
When I traveled the country interviewing entrepreneurs for my book "The Mocha Manual to Turning Your Passion into Profit," I met several entrepreneurs who started businesses for black consumers, only to find themselves not well-supported by African-Americans.
When I launched my Mocha Manual maternity T-shirt line (which has slogans like "Chocolate Bun in the Oven") and, later, my new-dad tees ("Strong Black Father Under Construction"), I thought the response would be off the charts. After all, I'd received so many e-mails from people saying how they wished there were more products for pregnant African-American women, and how they wished we had more positive messages about black families and black fathers. Though the response has been great, it hasn't been what everyone on my business team expected. Why isn't there the support we envisioned?
One notable exception is Lisa Price and her company Carol's Daughter, and she received celebrity funding and support by way of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Mary J. Blige and others. But as I think about other businesses that create products for African-Americans, I've wondered if we do actually support products that showcase us -- or do we just talk a good talk? My admittedly not-so-scientific survey of many of these businesses indicates that black moms aren't putting their money where their mouth is. This saddens me.
Black women have billion-dollar buying power, and we are often the key decision makers in our families. So why aren't we using that power to support black-owned businesses or buy kid products with positive African-American images? When we use that power to get the self-reflective products we deserve, we have to support them with our purses.
Recently, I was approached by one of my favorite party-supply companies, Birthday in a Box.com. They have launched several African-American-themed party lines, from a black ballerina pattern perfect for little girls (which I love!) to a first-birthday party collection featuring a brown baby. The company has invested a sizable amount of money into producing these goods, only to face lackluster sales. They asked me if I had any idea what they were doing wrong. Umm ....
I have my own ideas as to why their great products haven't received the sales support they would like to see. But I was deeply moved by their sincerity and commitment. Birthday in a Box is hosting a survey just for black moms to elicit their feedback and insights on how they plan their kiddie/birthday parties, and to find out what types of African-American-themed party products they would like to see. I'm urging all black moms to click this link and answer the brief survey. You will even be entered to win a $50 gift certificate to the Birthday in a Box site. But more importantly, we can show at least one business that we do have opinions, that we will speak them and that our voices do matter.
And then let's put our money where our mouth is.