“WHO MADE this product?”
“What materials were used?”
“Who is profiting from it?”
These are just a few of the questions often asked by conscientious consumers mindful of a company’s impact on the environment or the way it treats it staff.
However, for an increasing number of buyers who are thinking about these wider issues, another important question is also being asked: “Is this a black-owned business?”
In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests across the world that followed the death of George Floyd in May many have been thinking about new, effective ways to challenge racial inequality in all areas of life.
One of the most prominent people to do is So Solid Crew’s Swiss.
He is the founder of Black Pound Day, an event aimed at celebrating black-owned businesses and giving the black community a financial and emotional boost, after the anger at racial inequality in the UK evident at the protests which followed Floyd’s death.
The inaugural Black Pound Day attracted support from high profile figures such as chart-topping singer Jess Glynne among others.
And #BlackPoundDay becoming the number one trending topic on Twitter in the UK.
Several businesses also shared on social media how they had experienced their biggest growth in sales this year following the day.
Black Pound Day is now set to become a regular event in a bid to encourage more Britons to buy products or services from black-owned businesses and invest in them.
The idea of supporting black businesses is a form of economic activism that has long been discussed in the black community.
For Swiss however, now is the right time for the black community to take action on it.
“I first conceived the idea about 12 years ago” he says. “I had a passing thought about us galvanising ourselves and pouring back into our community economically. It was a strong inspirational thought I shared with my friend’s older brother and that’s where it stayed.
“It had always been lingering and I’m still surprised that no one actually came up with the idea of having a day where we’re all thinking about going to support our own businesses and using that as a way to galvanise our community in thought and action.
” So when George Floyd’s murder happened it struck every corner of the world and people in many countries were protesting.
“But when I saw these protests and how the world reacted I thought ‘this is the same thing that happens every time’. There’s an outpouring of emotion but I don’t see any solution based practical actions that come out of that.
“I could see that this was a very strong, emotive signal that was coming from various communities, especially the black community and I thought this was really a good time to redirect that energy.
“I wanted to do my part to create something positive out of this. I followed the inspiration I as given and here we are, many people getting behind this movement. I’m just so happy that people have been open to it. Black Pound Day does what it says on the tin, it’s a very simple concept to understand.
“It’s a day where we unify all cultures, not just black, we utilise the emotional energy of recent months and turn that into an economic power as opposed to allowing those emotions to come and go as we know emotions do and nothing comes of it.”
Was he surprised at the positive reaction to the first Black Pound Day?
“I was very surprised. Anyone would be after putting their own brainchild out there and seeing it stir up so much interest in the community. Apart from songs I don’t think I’ve had an idea that has stirred up the emotions and the forward thinking of my community in that way.
The day can help our community shape an economic agenda. When we have control of our economic agenda we can move from a position of power, we can make decisions from a position of power and achieve effective outcomes. Economic unity means we can effect change politically. This is really important.
Swiss, founder of Black Pound Day
“Many of my peers in the industry and celebrities such as Jess Glynne got behind it. Jess shared her love for our community and despite a bit of backlash she stood firm in what she was doing.”
Swiss continues: “She understood that while it’s important to support all businesses as equally as you can, not just those from your own ethnic background, who you’re shopping with and how you’re distributing your money is important in the multicultural society. From celebrities to people on the ground we all feel the same.”
As much as Black Pound Day highlights issues of systemic inequality in the UK, it also holds up a mirror to the black community.
Data compiled by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) revealed that the spending power of Britain’s black community is worth an estimated £300 billion.
However according to experts such as Daniel Lister, founder of My Black Market, African Caribbeans spend as much as 95 per cent of their income outside the community.
Black businesses are becoming an increasingly important part of the economy.
According to government figures more than 55,000 businesses have been helped to launch businesses with the support of government backed Start Up loans since 2012 creating more than 66,000 jobs.
An impressive 1 in 5 of these enterprises are black owned.
And a Voice analysis of recently published figures from the Federation of Small Businesses show that African Caribbean owned businesses contribute as much as £4 billion to the UK economy.
But sadly many members of the black community do not know about them.
And even after being discovered black business owners often say they do not get the support they deserve.
It perhaps for this reason that hundreds of black-owned businesses have warmly welcomed the impact that Black Pound Day has had.
Among those who have spoken of its impact is London-based company The Jerk Kitchen.
Run by Natalie Dinning the company was started by her father Neil in 2006.
The family business ran a food stall situated near Arsenal’s Emirates stadium for over ten years.
The Jerk Kitchen won hundreds of dedicated repeat customers before moving into other areas of business including producing a range of sauces called Lesley’s, named after her mother.
“When I first heard about it I was intrigued” says Dinning. “I did a little bit of research, read what Swiss was saying and I was really excited about. But we didn’t really know what was going to happen as a result of the day.
“The night before I didn’t go to bed because I was creating some adverts to post on the actual day. But I also took the time to research other black businesses and I was amazed at about how many there are out there.”
Dinning continues: “Then, at quarter to five in the morning on Black Pound Day, we got our first order.
I was amazed and to be honest, that day was a whirlwind for me. I was either answering a message on social media or replying to someone reposting us which was amazing.
“We had so many reposts, so many people putting us on their pages, so many people putting us on their stories, so many people sharing our ad with their followers. And this was ranging from just regular people to celebrities with big follower numbers. It was overwhelming. That day we sold our biggest ever number of sauces.
“Even though we have a lot of dedicated customers it’s been hard to turn that into traffic to our website. Black Pound Day did that for us which was incredible.”
However, says Dinning, the impact must not stop there.
“Swiss setting that up was amazing, his heart is so genuine and his focus is right” she says. “But I encourage people to not just stick to one day, we need to make sure that this message gets across because it’s needed. One day is great but we need to make sure we are supporting each other 365 days of the year.
It’s not a diss on other cultures. Our family is mixed and we respect all cultures but there’s something special about supporting your own.
“Black Pound Day is not a diss on other communities, it’s about empowering ourselves. Everybody should really be fine with that.”
For Swiss, this economic empowerment is a key part of what he wants Black Pound Day to achieve in the future.
“The day can help our community shape an economic agenda. When we have control of our economic agenda we can move from a position of power, we can make decisions from a position of power and achieve effective outcomes.
“Economic unity means we can effect change politically. This is really important. If we’re a community that’s not in a position of power we can’t effect change in a way that can have a positive outcome for us.”