Amazon.com is celebrating Black History Month with “Remarkably Black – Black and worthy of remark” — a month-long celebration of all things that are remarkable about being Black. The company has made it easier than ever for its more than 300 million customers to discover and shop thousands of products from Black-owned businesses during February and beyond.
To learn more about this initiative, Total Retail recently interviewed Keri Cusick, director, small business empowerment at Amazon.
Total Retail: Tell us about the Remarkably Black initiative that Amazon has launched. Why is it important that Amazon has created such a campaign?
Keri Cusick: Amazon’s Black History Month theme is “Black is remarkable,” which is part of our ongoing commitment to supporting entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity in the Black community. You can read more about Amazon’s Black History Month activities here.
TR: How is Amazon boosting support and promotion of the Black-owned businesses that sell on its marketplace?
KC: All month long, Amazon is celebrating the stories and products from remarkable Black-owned small businesses on our marquee Buy Black storefront. We’ve made it easier than ever for customers to discover thousands of products from Black-owned businesses as well as the stories behind those small businesses, including ICONI and Epic Everyday.
Additionally, for the first time, Amazon is celebrating Black-owned small businesses at all nine Amazon Pop-Up locations around the U.S. Customers can visit Amazon Pop-Up locations to shop products from Herbal Goodness, Hair Rules, Red Bay Coffee, Southern Elegance, and Miles and Milan.
Finally, throughout the month, an Amazon Fashion storefront will showcase Black-owned brands, Black influencers, and Black creators from The Drop, which is Amazon’s destination for discovering on-trend and exclusive fashion styled, designed or curated by influencers and celebrities.
TR: What is Amazon doing to attract and retain more Black-owned businesses?
KC: At Amazon, supporting small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) is a fundamental part of our work and an extension of our customer-centric culture. Our success depends on their success. Over half of everything purchased on Amazon is sold by independent third-party sellers — mostly SMBs.
Last year, we launched the Black Business Accelerator, a $150 million investment to help build sustainable diversity and provide growth opportunities for Black-owned businesses. The initiative, which explicitly targets barriers to access, opportunity and advancement created by systemic racism across America, was created in partnership with our Black Employee Network and a coalition of strategic partners. We invite Black business owners to explore and participate in this initiative, which provides financial support, business education and mentorship, and marketing and promotion of their brands and products as third-party sellers in our store.
TR: How have corporate social responsibility initiatives, such as the Remarkably Black program, grown in importance for Amazon?
KC: At Amazon, we look to leverage our scale for good and use our ability to innovate quickly to strengthen communities around the world where our employees and customers live and work. Amazon’s culture is built around solving impossible problems, which is why we’re able to take a different, more hands-on approach than most. We work side-by-side with community partners helping to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges and build long-term, innovative programs that have a lasting, positive impact. You can learn more about our impact here.
TR: Going forward, what is Amazon doing to ensure that support of Black-owned businesses is not just happening during Black History Month (February)?
KC: Amazon spotlights and supports Black-owned businesses in a number of ways throughout the year. In addition to the Black Business Accelerator, which supports Black-owned businesses year-round, we have always-on consumer and business storefronts, our ongoing exclusive partnership with Oprah’s Favorite Things, and our annual Black History Month campaign.
TR: Can you share an example or two of Black-owned businesses that have thrived selling their products on Amazon?
KC: Angel Johnson, founder of ICONI, has a remarkable story. Angel recently joined Amazon’s Black Business Accelerator and is also a participant in Amazon’s Seller University, which she credits for helping take her customer experience to the next level. Selling in Amazon’s store has been instrumental in helping ICONI reach a large demographic of customers. Last year, ICONI received orders from customers in all 50 U.S. states and was able to expand to Canada — all in the brand’s first year, which is something Angel never expected. She’s even received inquiries from people in the U.K. wondering when they’ll have a chance to purchase ICONI gear.
Another great example is Red Bay Coffee, based in Oakland, CA. Red Bay Coffee, owned by Rachel and Keba Konte, was impacted heavily by the pandemic in 2020, forcing the business to close some of its stores. The brand needed a way to stay connected to its customers, and Amazon played an important role in that. Amazon helped Red Bay Coffee reach its existing customers as well as a new audience outside of its geographic area. As a result, Red Bay’s year-over-year sales grew by 100 percent in 2021.