“And unless there’s a study like this that points to and pinpoints those discrepancies so that more courageous conversations are going to be had, you’re never going to find a way to level the playing field,” Grace notes.
Leveling the playing field includes Black people having a seat in rooms where important industry decisions are being made, she says. Last year, cosmetic companies responded to the #PullUpOrShutUp challenge, with some openly admitting there is work to be done in hiring more Black employees, particularly in leadership positions.
“So I just want to make sure that 2020 goes beyond those flash-in-the-pan commitments and social media proclamations to long-term change,” says Grace.
There are Black-owned beauty brands seeing that momentum from 2020 continue into the new year, like Janell Stephens, CEO of the brand Camille Rose. Stephens has been offered grants to advertise in the circular ads of some of the stores that carry her product, and those stores have made coveted shelf space more available to her.
“I’ve seen that [advertising] discounts are being given and breaks are being given to smaller brands like mine,” she explains. “Before, they would charge a [Unilever] the same amount they would charge a Camille Rose. It’s impossible for us to compete that way, and they’re realizing that.”
The study notes that, for Black-owned beauty businesses, “access to capital will be the great equalizer and allow for all things to be made possible.”
However, when it came to how those same panelists would rate their relationship with their banking officer since the pandemic, the top two responses are “OK” (35 percent) and “Not Applicable” (33 percent), suggesting that either there is no person-to-person relationship at their respective bank and, if there is, it’s base level, the study notes.
This played out in the pandemic in the case of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, says William Towns, adjunct professor of social impact at Northwestern University. He says Black people have historically experienced challenges related to connections and relationships with banks or lending institutions.
“When these opportunities to find support during a crisis or a pandemic happen, it’s really the banking relationship managers and that team that’s reaching out to the businesses themselves,” explained Towns. “When you don’t have that relationship, by the time you begin to find out PPP is available, you’re too late.”