“Lift while climbing” is an expression used by black American women in life and business since the late 1800’s. sheamoisture, the iconic hair care company that is so much more than a beauty brand, is putting those words into action by reinvesting in the community and supporting black entrepreneurs and their small businesses. It’s all part of an effort to close the $11 trillion racial wealth gap in the United States.
To date, the company (a Unilever subsidiary) has reinvested $10 million to support Black communities and businesses through programs, partnerships and donations. This initiative is funded through the purchase of SheaMoisture products, so every mask and body lotion sold is an opportunity for consumers to look good and do good.
One meritorious business that has benefited from a partnership with SheaMoisture is Brown girl Jane, which offers herbal supplements and personal care products in chic, minimalist packaging. The brand was founded in 2020 by sisters Malaika and Nia Jones and boyfriend Tai Beauchamp, who all first met while attending college at an HBCU. The trio were inspired to start the brand while all working at the company and, as CEO Malaika Jones puts it, “are everything to everyone”. At this point in her busy life, she recalls, “we looked up and realized we weren’t taking care of our own well-being.”
They decided to create the kind of wellness products they couldn’t find on the market yet – vegan, plant-based solutions that catered to a multicultural audience. In creating effective and accessible wellness products, Brown Girl Jane’s mission is to create a much-needed space for women of color in the wellness industry. “Communities of color have always lived off the earth and have been able to harness the power and magic of plants,” says Malaika Jones, speaking on behalf of her partners. However, “For far too long, women of color have not been included in the wellness conversation. [We’ve] ignored and, frankly, misunderstood in terms of our nuanced needs and even the language that best serves us.”
In just over two years, Brown Girl Jane has not only revolutionized wellness, but like SheaMoisture, positioned herself as a positive force in black business. In June 2020, the then-new brand launched the #BrownGirlSwap promise online. “We asked followers to trade five of their daily wellness and beauty products for black shop assistants,” says Jones. “A call became a movement, and it’s an example of how these small steps can really make a difference in the lives of founders and for our community.” The initiative put Brown Girl Jane on SheaMoisture’s radar, and the brands have been ever since Partner.
Together, the two brands created a grant program #BrownGirlSwap, which helped raise half a million dollars for other black women entrepreneurs. In addition to funding, recipients will receive entrepreneurial mentoring from industry veterans and a platform to strengthen their brands.
“I don’t know of any initiative like this between an indie brand and a big conglomerate,” says Jones. “It’s allowed us to learn from some of the best and I think it’s allowed them to partner with a company that’s closer to the ground. It was wonderful, mutually beneficial.”
According to Jones, there is no end in sight to the partnership. “The way we work together is continuous, conscious and intentional,” she says. “We’re so aligned in terms of community focus and giving back. Being able to help others in this way and learning from the process has been one of the joys of our business and quite frankly our life.”