“Lifting as we climb” is a phrase that has been used by Black American women in life and business since the late-1800s. SheaMoisture, the iconic hair care company that is so much more than a beauty brand, puts 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 subsidiary of Unilever) has reinvested $10 million in supporting Black communities and businesses through programs, partnerships, and donations. This initiative is funded by purchases of SheaMoisture products, so every masque and body lotion sold is an opportunity for consumers to look good and do good.
One deserving company that has benefited from a partnership with SheaMoisture is Brown Girl Jane, which offers plant-based supplements and personal care products in chic, minimalist packaging. The brand was founded in 2020 by sisters Malaika and Nia Jones, and their friend Tai Beauchamp, who all first met while attending college at an HBCU. The trio was inspired to create the brand while they were all working corporate jobs and, CEO Malaika Jones says, “being everything to everyone.” At that point in their busy lives, she recalls, “We looked up and realized that we were giving no consideration to our own wellness.”
They decided to create the kind of wellness products they couldn’t find out in the market already—plant-based, vegan solutions aimed at a multicultural audience. In developing effective and accessible wellbeing products, Brown Girl Jane’s mission is to carve out a much-needed space for women of color in the wellness industry. “Communities of color have always lived from the earth and been able to harness the power and magic of plants,” says Malaika Jones, who spoke to us on behalf of her partners. Yet, “for far too long, women of color have not been included in the wellness conversation. [We’ve] been 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 disrupted the wellness space, but—like SheaMoisture—has positioned itself as a positive force in the Black business community. In June 2020, the then-new brand started the #BrownGirlSwap pledge online. “We asked followers to swap five of their daily wellness and beauty products with those made by Black female vendors,” says Jones. “It was a call that turned into a movement, and it’s an example of how these little steps can really make an impact in the lives of founders and for our community.” The initiative put Brown Girl Jane on SheaMoisture’s radar, and the brands have been partners ever since.
Together, the two brands have created a #BrownGirlSwap grant program that has helped raise half a million dollars for fellow Black female entrepreneurs. In addition to funding, recipients receive entrepreneurial mentorship from industry veterans, and a platform to amplify their brands.
“I do not know of any initiative like this between an indie brand and a major conglomerate,” says Jones. “It has allowed us to learn from some of the best, and I think it has allowed them to get aligned with a company that’s closer to the ground. It’s been wonderfully, mutually beneficial.”
According to Jones, there’s no end in sight for the partnership. “The way we work together is ongoing, deliberate, and intentional,” she says. “We are so aligned in terms of the focus on community and giving back. Being able to help others in this way and learn from the process has been one of the joys of our business, and honestly, in life.”