NYC woman convincing major retailers to dedicate 15% of shelf space to black-owned businesses

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- A small business owner in Brooklyn has come up with a plan to help the disproportionate number of black-owned businesses failing during the pandemic - and it's catching on.

Sephora is a giant international cosmetics retailer, the kind of business that usually can only change slowly, but they made a transformative change this week thanks to Aurora James.


James owns a boutique retail store called Brother Vellies that sells shoes, bags and clothes from all over the world.

Recently she heard a startling statistic about the impact of the coronavirus lockdown: 40% of black-owned businesses are expected to close during the pandemic.

This all came to light while people were taking to the streets to protest the killing of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.

"I'm getting all these emails that say we stand with you and we support you, but I wasn't necessarily feeling that support as a black person or a business owner," James said.

James thought that if big retailers like Sephora and Target and Whole Foods committed to filling 15% of their store shelves with products from black-owned businesses, that would be a huge commitment.

"If they take the pledge, almost $15 billion is going to black-owned businesses and that's truly the dream," James said.

And Sephora did it. On Thursday the company released a statement saying, "We were inspired to make the 15% pledge because we believe it's the right thing to do, for our clients, our industry, and for our community... We can do better and this pledge builds on our ongoing work to use our resources to drive meaningful and long term change for Sephora and our industry."


Another billion-dollar company, Rent the Runway, took the pledge as well.

Now James hopes that Target and others see the wisdom of taking the pledge too.

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