When I started Taylor Made, my full intention was (and really still is) to walk you through my life as a business owner. My goal through this newsletter series is to take you behind the scenes, give business tips to those starting or growing their business, share what's helped me along the way and so much more.
I never intended to speak endlessly on a virus that has come close to destroying small business or to have Volume 4 be about social justice but the thing I've realized, is that I have a voice and a platform that we have built for years to use that voice. I want to take all that I've gathered and share that in hopes of educating others as I learn more about walking through this chapter of racial injustice in the society we are living in.
Curveballs are inevitable, we're just not used to this many
When it's all said and done, having unexpected curveballs left and right is part of being a business owner, 2020 has just thrown more than we've ever seen and more than we might ever see again. From shifting our entire business model in the middle of a pandemic to figuring out a way to leverage our resources and community to fight racial injustice, it's all been things we didn't anticipate walking through this year. But every bit of it have been important things to fight for and has taught us a lot about ourselves. But this volume isn't about me. It's about fighting for what we believe is right. Black Lives Matter
As the real human behind our brand, I feel it's important to put all that I had mapped out to talk about by now on hold and focus on something more important.
I want to take my chance to talk about my perspective on current events that are not only relevant but very necessary to talk about. I'll keep working towards the business tips, tricks and behind the scenes but I can't move forward without speaking on the topics that 2020 keeps amplifying. I just wouldn't feel genuine and right moving forward without speaking first, in previous blogs about the devastating impact of COVID-19 and now about the racial injustice that is still very much a thing we need to fight for in our current society.
Tanner and I have spent most of our waking hours the past few weeks educating ourselves on how we can do better and how we can use our platform, resources, privilege and abilities for good. We will forever remain committed to asking ourselves: How can we continue to do better?
Black Lives Matter. But don't all lives matter?
Yes, they certainly do but that's not our current topic here. I put together a few images that I feel have summed this question up perfectly:
We never want to say the wrong thing but trying is better than not.
Like many, I have never felt comfortable publicly speaking about my stance on racial injustice because I never wanted to say the wrong thing or offend anyone. I have just always felt that if I could treat people well in my personal life and extend opportunities in ways I knew how, I was doing the right thing. I will forever stand by that but I also know now that there is more I can be doing and there's more WE can be doing. What the past few weeks has taught me though is that now, more than ever staying silent is the reason our society isn't moving towards progress and it's time to realize that and fight for what's right.
I'm still anxious and nervous that I will say the wrong thing but I'm willing to fight and try and be called out if I do so that I can learn. Like most things I have found in life, there is no straight path and in order to actually fight for something and work towards progress, a bumpy path is inevitable and I'm willing to walk through that.
I have always, truly done my best to be inclusive of people of color. I have always thought of them as equal as far as I was concerned in regards of how they should be treated. We spent much of our time growing our business by giving internship opportunities and mountains of our time and care to listen and help students of color grow and to hopefully have them leave with the confidence to excel in the world like anyone else. Being a part of that made my heart full. I felt for many years that I was doing my part to have a diverse team and treat everyone as equals the best way I knew I could. But what has really struck me through the past few weeks is that while all of that is great, it's not enough to actively work towards progress on a larger scale. Our society still has a long way to go.
The past few weeks challenged my privilege and everything I felt I knew. Growing up in history class, I always learned about the Civil Rights Movement and I always looked at that as a stamp in history, something from the past that lived in the past. As I went through college, I spent much of my time learning about how people of color are disproportionately impacted in the criminal justice system as well as with job opportunities. I knew for a while that unconscious bias was still very much in full effect and as we began to hire and recruit, I forever remained mindful of not being that way in our own company. I thought for a long time that while we still had progress to do as a society, we had come a long way and opportunities for everyone were becoming more equal.
I was wrong, and that realization of that came at me full force. Learning of the death of George Floyd shook us to realize that we, as a society need to do better. Our eyes instantly became opened to the fact that we need to make a huge change as a society. Not just now, but for the rest of our lives.
I have spent the past few weeks actively listening and educating myself. We have halted most of our current operations to stop and figure out how we as individuals, and a company can do better.
We have always cared but now we are committed to not just being inclusive, but to go beyond that and to actually fight. We don't have a road map for what that looks like, but we're going to take the time to figure that out.
We've seen humanity show its true colors
As individuals and as a brand, we have seen how other individuals and brands have responded. We know that there might not be a perfect way to address this but I think we can all agree that if we see others approaching this with their best intention and with the willingness to learn from their mistakes then we can acknowledge that as a step towards progress.
We've seen companies refuse to speak on this because they don't want to "get political." To me, this isn't simply politics, it's basic human life and that is something we should all be willing to fight for.
We've seen companies and individuals step up to be a positive voice and resource and have also unfortunately seen owners be exposed for their blatant acts of racism towards their employees. I'm not the type to publicly call them out but I will say that it's been disappointing to hear. The silver lining here though is that with the backlash they have been faced with since being exposed, we can see action happening. We've seen thousands of customers take a stance with refusing to shop at an iconic Denver bookstore because of their response and prior discrimination. We've seen an owner of a large company get called out by former employees on social media for her blatant racism that occurred frequently. The next day she removed herself from the company indefinitely.
My point here is that while it's been a shame to see that not every company runs with integrity, it has been powerful to see just how quick the community has come together to hold them accountable for their actions. This can't go on anymore.
As a Company, we launched the Black Lives Matter Campaign as our first step to being committed to do better:
We wanted to launch the campaign for a few reasons:
Create clear ways for our community to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and keep the conversation going beyond the initial news cycle
Raise more money for organizations we believe in than we would otherwise be able to donate as a small business
100% of the profits of this campaign will go directly to one of the 3 organizations (NAACP, ACLU, Black Lives Matter) based on the design that was chosen. In addition to donating 100% of the profits, we have also made the commitment to donate up to $1,000 in supply costs to create these products and the labor necessary to see this project through. We know that our support must take many forms and that this campaign is only the beginning. We feel that it is our responsibility to use our platform, resources and voice to actively work towards change, not just through this campaign, but forever.
I want to do better, I want to see true justice and equality in my lifetime and I know that the only way to see that is going to be for all of us to step up and fight.
I will admit that we are privileged and that I will truly never understand what it feels like to be Black. I will never sit and try to relate or minimize what they have gone through because I know that I will never be in that position because I was born white. But what all of us in that position can do is take the time to be allies, to take the time to learn and educate and to hold ourselves accountable for working towards progress for the rest of our lives.
But here's what I can do (that you can do to):
Listen and learn. Not just now, but forever When we feel confused about what we can do to do better, the best we can do is educate ourselves on other perspectives and actively listen to open our eyes.
Donate time to get involved in organizations or protests The biggest thing that's stuck with me is that there is more work to do then simply being nice or inclusive to people of color when your paths cross. It's time to truly actively seek out ways in which we can do better. Some get out and protest and others donate their time to work with organizations. I am still figuring out the best way to donate my time here. I don't have all of the answers but I'm determined to figure it out.
Donate dollars to organizations doing the really heavy lifting The first thing I did when I didn't know where to start with fighting for change was to donate money to organizations that I learned of. As I've continued to educate myself, I see that my support can go beyond my wallet but I felt like this was a good starting point. Remember, it's okay to donate a small amount if that's all that you are able. With the help of the masses, small donations build up and make a huge difference.
Seek out, follow and support black owned businesses, activists doing powerful work, creatives etc. (list below of who I have started to follow). I hate to say that prior to the past few weeks, I didn't actively step up to follow Black owned creatives and activists because it didn't frequently cross my mind to seek out. But now I have and I will continue to do so. My gosh am I impressed by their work.
Vote. We have the right to vote and that is a privilege. I have been baffled by the way our current "leadership" has handled our current events (I'll stop there with politics). We have the opportunity to use our vote to make a change on that front. VOTE, VOTE, VOTE!
Get uncomfortable. I hate to say it but we have been living in our bubble of privilege our entire lives. There will be times where we are wrong and we say the wrong things but how about we take that as a chance to learn? Not a reason to be afraid? I've struggled as a woman in business at times but when it's all said and done, we've had equal opportunity and while growing a business has been full of challenges, my race and privilege has never been one of those challenges. It's time to get out of our normal and fight, fight, fight.
Take a mental break to do better. Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Social media has been blasting and there has been a lot to process at once. This should be the case, this should be heavy. If it was easy and peaceful then we wouldn't understand and feel the severity of the situation and with time, again the topic of this conversation would fade but the issues wouldn't. We need to keep taking care of ourselves so that we can continue to do better for others.
Use our privilege and platforms for good. I can acknowledge our privilege and I can acknowledge that our lives have been easier because of it. So where do we go from here? Do we keep pushing forward ignoring the fact that others don't have it as easy? Or do we sit here and think of how we can use our privilege for good? We have a network so we can be a voice to that network. We have resources and skills so how can we use those to work towards doing better? We have launched a series of products that we are donating our time to make and have found organizations to donate all profits to. With our network that we have built over the years, it's our hope that we can use our network to raise money and spread a message that we feel is very important to us.
Set goals to do better. It's true, I have never gone out of my way to buy a book or seek out education on anti-racism but I have NOW made the commitment to actively seek out education, follow black leaders, actively support black owned businesses and keep myself in check frequently, for the rest of my life to do better.
Speak to your friends, family and peers. I get it, this topic can feel heavy or difficult to talk about especially if you feel like someone might not agree or if you feel like you are going to say the wrong thing. One thing that has helped me is to be okay (and actually embrace) somebody calling me out if I'm wrong. If I messed up because I simply didn't understand something was wrong, enlighten me so I can do better. And if we can learn those perspectives and share those with others who are willing to do the same, we can work towards spreading the messages that need to be heard and addressed. Try to remember that most people are trying their best. You might not always agree with their perspective but if you can look at their intention, please try to hear their perspective and know we will all make mistakes in this process. Try to keep the people around you motivated to do better. By telling them they are flat out wrong because you don't agree, you might push them away from trying because they won't want to say the wrong thing again.
I’ve done the best with what I’ve known. Now I know more. So now I can do more.
Some books I have ordered:
Strong black voices to follow
Black leaders in the outdoor industry:
Outdoor Afro: Celebrate black leadership in nature
Slim Pickins Outfitters: 1st Black-owned outdoor shop in the nation
Soul Trak Outdoors: Nonprofit to connect communities of color to outdoor spaces