Fifteen Percent Pledge Director LaToya Williams-Belfort Provides Update On Program’s Goals and Future

Fifteen Percent Pledge Director LaToya Williams-Belfort Provides Update On Program’s Goals and Future

The Fifteen Percent Pledge, founded in 2020 by Aurora James, has a simple goal: dedicate 15% of retail space to Black-owned businesses to represent Black America’s share of the U.S. population.

Fifteen Percent Pledge Executive Director LaToya Williams-Belfort provided an update on the pledge and its future outlook to Bustle Magazine. The pledge, which was boosted by the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement and the focus on equity has seen that support fade as the pandemic continued, something that didn’t surprise Williams-Belfort.

“In 2020, we were having very difficult, courageous conversations about race,” the executive director told Bustle. “Over the last two years, the news cycle changed, the conversations become tiresome. The stress and trauma of systemic racism is real. That’s why the accountability piece is so important.”

Despite the dropoff in support, Williams-Belfort told Bustle so far “625  Black businesses have created partnerships with our 29 retail partners” which “translates into $10 billion in relationships, equity and money.”

According to Williams-Belfort, the Fifteen Percent Pledge is working with 29 retailers that have signed commitments to create different strategic opportunities for emerging Black businesses that have yet to hit store shelves. The pledge is also working with Google Shopping, which powers its business equity community of more than 2,000 Black businesses, to create online shopping guides, product and founder features to promote Black businesses involved in the pledge.

Black businesses are enjoying an unprecedented post-pandemic growth led mostly by Black women who have started their own businesses during the beginning days of the pandemic. However, Black businesses still represent just 2.4% of U.S. businesses. Additionally, Black businesses still struggle to obtain credit, seed funding, and battle inflation and supply chain issues.

With a looming recession hanging over the heads of Americans, the pledge is all the more important to help and unite Black businesses across the U.S. Williams-Belfort added that the future is bright for the Fifteen Percent Pledge, which aims to create more visibility, opportunities, and revenue for Black businesses to help close the racial wealth gap which has increased during the pandemic.

“Personally, I have two Black sons. My oldest son wants to be an entrepreneur,” Williams-Belfort said.

“If we keep doing this with the collaboration of our retail partners and our Black businesses — fingers crossed — my son will show up to a world [with] a professional environment where his ideas, his entrepreneurial journey will be based on the quality of his work.

One of the things the Fifteen Percent Pledge is currently working on is creating more in-person opportunities for Black entrepreneurs and business owners to come together as a community and share ideas, insight, and opportunities to potentially collaborate and grow.

Fifteen Percent Pledge partners include Macy’s, Nordstrom, Old Navy, Ulta Beauty, Vogue Magazine, Crate&Barrel, West Elm, and many others.