Aurora James, founder of the Fifteen Percent Pledge nonprofit, announced plans to award the initiative’s first round of grants to Black-owned businesses.
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According to Footwear News, the round will include awarding one finalist a $200,000 cash award. Two other finalists will receive $35,000 and $15,000.
James launched the company in 2020 as an initiative to create a more equitable economic future. To pursue her mission, she approached several major retailers and corporations to devote 15% of their shelf space and annual purchasing power to Black-owned businesses.
“Those of you who know my own entrepreneurial journey know that I was greatly impacted by a grant I won very early on,” James said. “It changed my business and subsequently changed my life. This is why we are over the moon to be in a place to award our first [Fifteen Percent Pledge] Achievement Award for Black-owned businesses.”
Eligibility requirements for the grants state that applicants must be a member of the Fifteen Percent Pledge’s Business Equity Community, sell a product, and have annual revenue of $250,000 or more. Additionally, businesses must have between three and 15 employees, which includes the founder. At least one person who self-identifies as Black must have 50% or more equity in the company.
Applying businesses “should foster inclusivity and showcase community impact by pushing against systemic infrastructures that have not prioritized unique consumer needs,” according to the eligibility criteria.
Businesses are welcome to apply through December 9.
Fast Company reported that within the first year of launching, the Fifteen Percent Pledge nonprofit landed a total of 26 commitments from national companies who signed the pledge, including Macy’s, Sephora, and Gap. These commitments allowed 385 Black-owned brands to launch their products on the shelves of major retailers.
As of this year, 29 companies across three countries have committed to the pledge, as previously reported in BLACK ENTERPRISE. These commitments have awarded the nonprofit approximately $10 billion worth of relationships, equity, and money.