Written by the Philadelphia chapter of Publicis Groupe's VivaWomen of Color Business Resource Group (BRG), Buying Black; A Guide to Black Owned Local Businesses in the Philadelphia Area could not come at a better time for struggling businesses in that city. Launched during Black History Month and during the pandemic, this directory highlights all Black-owned local businesses across all types of categories including art, catering, creative services, health and wellness, restaurants and spas, etc., available as an interactive PDF.
The struggle for small businesses reached a critical point during COVID-19, which added to the already difficult business environment. These challenges hit Black-owned businesses especially hard. According to CBS News, an estimated 90% of Black-owned firms were either ineligible for pandemic related support money or denied loans. The reason behind this is, "these small business owners are less likely to have relationships with commercial banking," so when they want to apply for a loan, the time frame required to establish a relationship, qualify and apply for a loan often requires too long a wait time, explained Suruchi Sheth, producer at Digitas Health.
How the Directory Started
According to Tiffany Ford, senior human resources generalist at Razorfish Health, the directory started as an idea for an in-person holiday bazaar event, "that highlighted Black owned businesses in the Philadelphia area." But the holiday event was converted into the virtual directory as the pandemic raged. This not only placed further stress on already struggling businesses, it also underscored the deep need for a wider, ongoing effort to help consumers recognize and support local Black-owned businesses. Ford wanted the directory to address the questions, "What can I do? What kind of personal impact can I make?"
Philadelphia was the perfect city to launch the first of what is hoped to be many city guides. Sheth noted that, "One out of five small businesses in Philadelphia are owned by people of color. It's a big part of what shapes Philadelphia."
Marketing the Directory
As far as the marketing rollout for the guide, is concerned, "Publicis has an internal global AI connectivity platform for all of its employees called Marcel which is all encompassing, a network that we use, accessed by every single Publicis employee across the globe. We've been highlighted there," Ford stated. Especially amid the pandemic, Marcel has been an integral tool that helps to connect and engage the company's 80,000+ people across the globe during a time of isolation and create a strong sense of unity across markets. It has also helped saved over 2,000 jobs through its "Gigs" feature.
This gave the directory an enthusiastic global presence. Additionally, "Publicis Health has highlighted the directory on their social media platforms such as Instagram and LinkedIn." "We (also) published it on a website called Issuu … and when you upload a PDF to that site, it turns it into this cool online magazine where you can open up the link and flip through the pages. Because it's on Issuu anyone can access it anywhere," stated Sheth.
All of this would not be possible without the efforts of the VivaWomen of Color Business Resource Groupe (BRG). Publicis Groupe is home to 11 National BRGs (Business Resource Groups) with 77 local chapters across the U.S. with over 8,000 members. These BRG communities have each been central to connecting with talent in new and meaningful ways, especially amid the pandemic. From learning sessions to mentor circles, the BRGs are creating macro- and micro-connection moments that have made a positive difference for so many in Publicis' agency communities. They play a central role in helping to inform Publicis Groupe's broader talent inclusion and engagement strategies and helping to author the future of the organization as a more diverse, equitable and inclusive place.
"VivaWomen of Color launched in 2014 with chapters in New York and Chicago and it has since grown to more than nine chapters and 950 members across the country including Philadelphia," noted Arnetta Whiteside, director, multicultural research and knowledge management, Publicis Media Cultural Quotient & national co-lead, VivaWomen of Color. The group itself was created to form a network for women of color to help break down silos and create a sense of community at agencies and within the advertising industry. "Our programming centers around four core pillars -- Holistic Authenticity, Professional and Leadership Development, Internal Organizational Impact and Advocacy and Community Service and Outreach," she explained. Ford added that the BRGs have had great impact in Publicis and, "are really influencing the company."
The plan for the directory going forward is focused on expansion. Ford explained that, "We would love to have other editions of this and update them seasonally because we know that as things start to open up businesses will start to open up as well as new offerings from existing businesses."
"It is not one and done," added Sheth, "Because it's an interactive guide, people can come back to it." The directory, "was a big passion project for us. With so much negativity going on in the world and so much stress … this guide brought a boost of positive energy into our lives and motivated us through many other things," she concluded.
Photo credit: Ebby Underwood, art director at Digitas Health."
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