Fifteen Percent Pledge

Fifteen Percent Pledge And Shop With Google To Award $250,000 To Black-Owned Businesses

Obtaining capital to flourish remains an ongoing struggle for Black entrepreneurs who wrestle with the issue more often than their nondiverse peers. The Fifteen Percent Pledge aims to help reduce the disparity by partnering with Shop with Google to offer its second Achievement Award worth $250,000 for Black-owned businesses.

The award that includes three cash offerings is back this year. Christina Funke Tegbe, founder of the African beauty brand 54 Thrones, won $200,000 of it last year.

Launched in 2020, the Pledge is a nonprofit organization encouraging retailers to commit at least 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses.

One Black entrepreneur could win $200,000, and two others could each pocket $35,000 and $15,000. Potential winners can apply now and view a video of Pledge Founder Aurora James announcing the prize. Both new and mature businesses are encouraged to apply.

The funding is truly needed. As of late 2022, it was reported that Black startup founders got just $264 million of $33.6 billion in capital allocated, which is less than 1%. On the banking front, 57% of Black business owners were denied a loan during the formation of their business.

For its part, the Pledge is taking new steps to support entrepreneurs of color year-round.

BLACK ENTERPRISE recently connected with the Pledge’s Executive Director LaToya Williams-Belfort via email to discuss upcoming plans on how the nonprofit aims to help Black entrepreneurs.

BE: Has the Pledge organized any recent events to further support Black business owners?

LaToya Williams-Belfort: We partnered with Victoria’s Secret to organize our first-ever Business Matchmaking Event this past August. Our goal was to create a space where Black business owners could gather alongside partners, esteemed suppliers, and community leaders to create Secret professionals, 68 community leaders, and 68 business owners seeking partnerships. Business owners walked away from our event with meaningful connections and knowledge on what they need to grow, scale, and do business with large corporate retailers.

BE: It recently was reported the Pledge and its partners have “created the potential to shift” over $14 billion to Black entrepreneurs and businesses.” We learned that so far, over 625 Black-owned businesses have been supported by 29 companies—including Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Sephora—that have taken the Pledge. Can you share more about that?   

Williams-Belfort: Our work over the last three years has resulted in over two dozen multiyear contractual partnerships with billion-dollar corporations. This data point ($14 billion) speaks to the revenue impact that will be transferred to Black businesses based on the publicly available revenue data of the 29 companies that have taken the Pledge.

BE: We understand the Pledge has an ambitious target of generating $1.4 trillion in wealth for Black entrepreneurs by 2030. How many participating retailers does the Pledge  have now, and how many does it hope to have? 

Williams-Belfort: To date, the Pledge has had 29 companies across three countries commit to multiyear contractual agreements, which can be found here.

We’re also expanding and fostering more connections between businesses and corporations, which is why we created the Business Equity Community (BEC)—an online ecosystem to connect Pledge takers directly with Black entrepreneurs. To date, we have more than 5,000 Black businesses across all industries and product categories in our BEC and are so excited to see how it will continue to grow.

BE: What other specific action is the Pledge taking to try to boost the number of retailers it works with?

Williams-Belfort: We are always finding new and creative ways to work with corporations to propel this collective action movement, our advocacy, and tangibly support Black businesses. Corporations like Yelp, Vogue, and Victoria’s Secret have demonstrated how companies can change their business structures to support Black entrepreneurs and increase the share of Black entrepreneurs represented in their business ecosystems.

As part of our Gifteen Holiday Campaign with Citi in 2022, we opened the Pledge’s first physical location, giving over 100 Black brands access to prime retail space during peak holiday shopping. The campaign created more than $1 million in estimated revenue growth for participating brands, as well as propelled their brands’ marketplace visibility.