Businesses founded by people of color have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic: Asian, Latinx and Black business owners fell by 26%, 32% and 41%, respectively. But many have been able to figure out a formula for success during Covid-19.
For(bes) The Culture spoke with several business owners of color to learn how they were able to sustain successful businesses during the pandemic.
Key Stats: From trial-size bags to family-size bags of potato chips, Rap Snacks is now offered in more than 4,200 Walmart stores and 13 divisions of Kroger.
Founded by James Lindsay, the potato-chip company was first sold in 1994 at local mom and pop convenience stores across Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. The brand relaunched in 2016 with new packaging, and since then has become a multi-million dollar company, sold in Kroger, Walmart and Spencer’s.
The pandemic inspired new ideas that helped the brand thrive in a time of crisis: Lindsay’s business partner of 25 years, rapper, producer and entrepreneur Master P, convinced him to jump into an untapped market of ramen noodles, which has boosted the company’s sales this year. They currently offer three flavors: Creamy Chicken Gumbo, Beef Prime Rib and Louisiana Hot & Spicy Chicken.
“Oftentimes we are consumers of noodles in poor Black communities, but we aren’t producers of them,” says Lindsay. “I tapped into this market so I could break the mold in the food industry and offer something that would be crafted toward our taste buds.”
The company has also thrived by merging its branding with pop culture icons. Recent partnerships have included a line of potato chips and noodles with rapper and record executive Rick Ross, as well as a line of various potato chip flavors with rapper Cardi B.
Key Stats: DreamGirls Hair Care made more than $100,000 in four hours during their pre-Black Friday sales this year.
Cofounders Sharie Wilson and Tonya Thompson didn’t plan to launch DreamGirls Hair Care during the pandemic. But the sisters, who own two salons, also called DreamGirls, in Los Angeles and Sacramento, were concerned about their customers being able to properly care for their hair during the nationwide shutdown, so they created healthy hair starter kits for them to use at home.
Thompson says lack of seed money to launch the brand was a concern. “Initially we launched with a pre-sale,” she says. “Our clients waited eight weeks for our products to be shipped.” Those funds, along with their personal savings, helped them purchase more inventory.
On Thanksgiving eve, Thompson and Wilson made $100,000 in four hours and $500,000 in the month of November. The DreamGirls duo attributes much of their success to pivoting to a five-step hair care process that educates clients to take care of their hair from home.
Wilson says the company has plans to expand soon, and are releasing a styling cream and leave-in conditioner, along with other educational components, such as a certified styling program in the U.S. and abroad.
Key Stats: Crispy Chicken is one of the only social media agencies founded by two people of color.
Social media company Crispy Chicken, which offers social strategy, content creation and social management services, came up with a strategy surrounding best SEO practices, starting with the name of their company.
“We were at dinner together trying to come up with company names,” says Ricardo Marquez, cofounder of Crispy Chicken. “I ordered a crispy chicken sandwich, and made a joke about that becoming the name.” After a few terrible puns, his cofounder, Mina Park, searched the name Crispy Chicken and saw it wasn’t trademarked. “We thought about it overnight and decided to go with it.”
The company was founded in 2018, when Marquez left Kevin Hart’s LOL network as a digital consultant, and Park left Fox Sports as a digital content producer. They also previously worked together as content producers for the Major League Baseball network.
During the shutdown, Marquez and Park realized celebrities needed to reach audiences and brands in news ways. “We do this by the reuse of assets these companies already have,” says Marquez. They work with brands including Viacom, VH1, MTV, Cameo and LOL network by repurposing television spotlights into timely videos and relatable moments to match social trends.
In 2021, they’re hoping to add a development department through which they can sell shows to YouTube, pitch social media platforms and optimize the digital audience through partnerships with influencers.
Sweet Cookie Wash
Key Stats: Sweet Cookie Wash sold over $100,000 of its all-natural feminine hygiene products on Black Friday.
Social media influencer-turned-businesswoman Starr Dawkins launched Sweet Cookie Wash in 2017 to make women feel confident about feminine hygiene. “Most brands capitalize off women’s vaginal issues and insecurities,” says Dawkins. “We work to normalize the topic surrounding vaginal health.”
The company’s inventory consists of more than 30 feminine care products with eight categories, including pregnancy, after birth and PH balance. The company’s probiotics, slippery supplements, cookie wipes and bikini line spot remover are among her most popular products.
Dawkins started her brand with no money to invest. She used money from pre-orders to buy materials to produce and ship her products. “[In] 2020, I’ve made over $100,000 each month,” says Dawkins. “When I launched my Pink Friday sale and saw $100,000 in 30 minutes, it shocked me how successful my business had become.”