How eCommerce Can Help Minority-Owned Businesses: Six Success Stories

The COVID-19 pandemic affected minority-owned businesses—especially Black and Latinx-owned businesses—at a much higher rate than white-owned ones. Many entrepreneurs were forced to make the shift to eCommerce from an in-person model.


Fortunately, many consumers felt a greater bond with small and minority-owned businesses during the pandemic crisis. In a survey from June 2021, 31% of respondents said they bought more from minority-owned businesses during the past twelve months than they had before. The survey suggests that this trend will continue, with half of respondents who intentionally chose to buy from minority-owned businesses claiming they intend to do so in the future.


The pandemic crisis accelerated the growth of eCommerce, but even so, the eCommerce share of retail sales has been increasing steadily over the past five years and will continue to expand. More and more minority-owned businesses are either branching out into eCommerce or starting stores that are online from the cradle.


Minority entrepreneurs face obstacles such as the digital divide, difficulties securing funding, and a lack of representation in their industries. However, eCommerce is creating amazing opportunities for minority-owned businesses during the pandemic crisis and beyond.


Earlier in 2021, Operation Hope partnered with Shopify to create the 1MBB (One Million Black Businesses) initiative, which provides entrepreneurship training and guidance in eCommerce for current and hopeful Black business owners. Meanwhile, other programs such as Comcast RISE are providing free business, marketing, and technology services to small businesses owned by people of color.


Here to inspire you are six success stories of minority-owned businesses that have thrived through eCommerce, either as a tool to scale their existing business or as their primary sales platform.


Partake Foods


Founded by Denise Woodard in New York, Partake Foods sells healthy, allergen-free snacks. Woodard was inspired to start the business when her infant daughter was diagnosed with severe food allergies that prevented her from enjoying healthy, tasty snacks as she grew older.


Women of color are underrepresented in the natural foods and consumer packaged goods industries, but Denise Woodard, who had previously worked in the white, male-dominated corporate world, wasn’t deterred. She felt in charge of her own destiny when she became a business owner, which empowered her to pursue funding opportunities for minority-owned businesses and relationships with the supplier diversity teams of her retail partners.


Through Partake Foods, Denise Woodard became the first Black woman to raise one million dollars for a packaged food company. Today, she’s committed to lifting as she climbs so that Black entrepreneurs have more opportunities in the industry. Her company’s Black Futures in Food & Beverage program provides fellowships for HBCU students who are interested in getting involved in the consumer packaged goods industry.


Initially funded by the prize money from a business pitch competition, Partake Foods is now a thriving Black-owned business that sells its products online and in stores such as Target, Whole Foods, Kroger, Freshdirect, and more. The Partake Shop, the store’s own online store, is incredibly popular and full of information about healthy, safe eating for everyone regardless of their dietary needs.


Jungalow


Jungalow is a lifestyle brand started by Justina Blakeney as a design blog in 2009. This eCommerce business sells original Justina Blakeney and Jungalow designs as well as beautiful home goods from around the globe.


Jungalow is committed to “good vibes,” which they define as designing, manufacturing, and sourcing their products with care for the environment and the communities around them. Jungalow also partners with Trees for the Future to plant at least two trees for every purchase that is made in their store.


Thanks to being an eCommerce business, Jungalow was able to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic and keep all its employees working from home. They were even given a shout-out by singer Beyoncé as a Black-owned business to support. 


Blakeney’s design blog continues creating community, driving traffic to Jungalow, and sharing insights into home decor and creative expression to this day. As an offshoot of her blog, Blakeney has published three best-selling books—The New Bohemians, The New Bohemians Handbook, and Jungalow: Decorate Wildthat are also sold through Jungalow’s online store.


Edible Arrangements


As a gourmet gift shop founded in 1999 by Tariq Farid, Edible Arrangements has been growing and evolving for over two decades. Edible has over 1,200 local franchise locations throughout the United States and Canada as well as a flourishing eCommerce business.


Tariq Farid immigrated from Pakistan when he was 11 years old and bought his first business, a flower shop, when he was just 16. After working at McDonald’s for many years, Farid’s love of fruit and entrepreneurial spirit inspired him to found Edible Arrangements. The store was franchised just two years later. 


In 2010, after opening almost a thousand franchise locations, Edible launched its eCommerce site and started selling delicious fruit arrangements online. Soon afterwards, the company was recognized as a standout in social media marketing, and it currently has almost a million likes on Facebook.


Farid was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the International Franchise Association in 2009 and inducted into the Connecticut Immigrant Heritage Hall of Fame in 2015. He designed the software Edible Arrangements uses for order processing and supply chain management. His foundation gives almost one million dollars annually to help fund hospitals, schools, homeless shelters, and programs that assist refugees around the world.


Bevel


With the explicit purpose of making health and beauty simple for people of color, Bevel is inspired by the resilience of Black communities and dedicated to serving their needs. Bevel was established in 2013 by Tristan Walker and carries products that are suited specifically for Black hair and skin.


Multi-blade razors, which are the most common shaving products offered in stores, are not well-suited to coarse and curly hair texture and may even cause ingrown hairs. Single-blade razors like the ones created by Bevel are much more well-suited to many Black men’s skin and hair, as well as men of all ethnic backgrounds who have similar problems with traditional razors.


Bevel began as an exclusively online store, but eventually its products were offered in Target stores and on Target.com. In 2016, the company was bought by global giant Procter & Gamble, though Tristan Walker stayed on as the CEO. Bevel’s website still has a number of online exclusive products as well as products that are also available in physical stores. All their products have hundreds of positive reviews on the Bevel shop, Amazon, Walmart, and other online stores.


In addition to the shop, the website highlights education about Black men’s skin and hair care, with a “masterclass” series of videos featuring celebrity barber Marcus Harvey explaining how to use the Bevel trimmer. The website also spotlights the stories of different men’s relationship to shaving, skincare, and confidence in their appearance.


Recently, Bevel began donating a portion of all its sales at Walmart to support anti-recidivism legislation, continuing education, and job training for returning citizens. Mass incarceration and recidivism among Black men is devastating to the communities the company serves. Tristan Walker considers ending recidivism to be the most important work he will ever be a part of. 


Mighty Kind


Nadine Fonseca started Mighty Kind, an anti-bias educational company, six months before the national shutdown imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fonseca was forced to transition to eCommerce unexpectedly as the independent bookstores they partnered with had to shut down and cancel their wholesale orders of Mighty Kind’s magazine.


Instead, the company developed a digital version of the magazine and marketed it to families who suddenly found themselves with children stuck at home. They found success online, with over a thousand new customers in their first month and steady growth ever since.


Fonseca was inspired to create Mighty Kind by her diverse upbringing and the lack she felt in her own children’s experience growing up in a much more homogenous area. The company’s anti-bias curriculum is meant to spark conversations about empathy and respect as well as empowering children to develop their civic identity and engage in change-making. Anti-bias is an umbrella term that Might Kind uses to encompass anti-racism as well addressing biases such as sexism, ableism, classism, and more. 


Mighty Kind is staffed by volunteer moms and has contracts with dozens of BIPOC artists and illustrators from around the world. On its online store, it sells hard copies and digital versions of its magazine issues, monthly subscriptions options, posters, and prints. Its issues are now in elementary schools and public libraries across the United States.


Bonita Fierce Candles


Melissa Gallardo founded Bonita Fierce Candles a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic. She had always used candles as a form of self care, but she realized the scents she had grown up with weren’t represented in the home fragrance industry. She realized there was a gap in the market, and her identity and sense of home were impacted by that gap.


Bonita Fierce candles are meant to celebrate Latinx heritage and home. They are also made with clean ingredients and eco-friendly packaging. The company’s signature scents include Cafecito con Leche (their best seller), Mucho Amor, Abuela’s Bakery, Coquita, Floristería, and more. Their Cultura Collection celebrates Latinas with scents such as Make Jefa Moves, Just a Badass Latina, Greetings From Mi Casa, and many more.


All the company’s candles are hand-poured in small batches by Gallardo herself, who is completely self-taught. The candles are made from coconut and soy wax, which comes from renewable resources and is free of many common toxins and chemicals. All of their packaging is biodegradable, including the seed paper dust covers, which can be planted in soil to grow annual wildflowers. The website contains instructions for how to plant the seed paper dust covers as well as how to clean and reuse the candles’ glass jars.


Since its launch, Bonita Fierce Candles has been highly successful and received press from publications such as Cosmopolitan, Univision, Good Housekeeping, and more. It’s currently an online-only store, though Gallardo hopes to someday offer her candles in big box stores as well as opening her own physical store in New York City, where she lives.