Why Representation is Vital in the Small Business and Creative Community

April 16, 2018

So, this post is a personal one and has words that I’ve never said out loud let alone shared with others in such a public way. Being mixed race meant finding balance and identity in every situation that came my way growing up. Attending an almost entirely white school meant I wasn’t exposed to a lot of the music, trends, and media my family members on my dad’s side were. While trying to fit in, I gave up a bit of my identity and at the time, it felt fine.

I never gravitated towards things that felt disingenuous to what I truly liked, but I shunned anything that would make my friends feel like I didn’t belong. As an adult, I now see how many micro aggressions and sometimes blatant attacks on my race I dealt with by running away or laughing along. I know how much I’ve hidden, how much I’ve let my voice be silenced out of fear of losing love, support, and a sense of belonging.

I don’t have the privilege of pulling a race card when I’m being stereotyped because my skin is clearly not white. Shouting, “but half of my family are white!” will not change who people see in front of them. The older I become, the more I realize this. But the immense guilt I feel when speaking up paralyzes me andĀ feels heavy on my conscience. When a woman beside me is screaming, “enough!” and the most I can do is privately message her my support or like her post is not doing a thing. But I haven’t felt the full spectrum of struggle she may have been through. How dare I speak up for her, possibly overshadowing her trauma or lifelong struggle when I grew up in a good school district, a city with almost no crime?

I’ve found a new space to belong, as a creative business owner. The fact that I get to create for a living and connect with amazing women around the world is a true blessing. Recently though, I’m noticing more and more how little inclusivity there is in this industry in particular and to be honest, because of my atmosphere growing up, I hadn’t really noticed at first.

A lack of people of color

The conversation cannot be multi-faceted without different facets and viewpoints. When I looked at my Instagram feed a few months ago, after seeing an article pointing out how few women and men of color are featured as influencers, I couldn’t believe the lack of faces that looked like mine staring back at me. I feel connection and support towards anyone I follow. I truly believe every person, regardless of their skin color, has the right to a voice, a mission, and when uplifting others, a platform. But this is consistently shown to not be the case.

When you read the most influential wedding blogs in the industry, an entire group of women can scroll through months worth of posts without seeing another woman who looks like them. People of all races get married. People of all races hire wedding vendors who create absolutely stunning events that deserve to be seen. But the bride and groom seem to be just as important as the details. Do the brides fit the blog’s “brand”? Is race even tied to many brands? Unfortunately, this is the case. And this isn’t restricted to the wedding industry by any means.

More simple research

An excuse many brands will use when their one-track content is pointed out is that they can’t easily find people of color within that industry/their featured style of weddings/who design or create products…the list goes on and on. Simple Google searches can unveil an entire world of creators of color who are talented, interesting, and have an impactful story to tell. Staying in our comfort zones as humans is entirely natural, however in doing so, we’re limiting our own potential and the potential of others around us who are being overlooked unnecessarily.

Hire people of color

No matter what type of job or opportunity you’re looking to fill, hiring a larger variety of people will bring essential insight and better solutions to your product or service. In a similar way that hiring more women brings a new perspective to many larger companies, bringing in more people of color into positions they may never had been considered for can help grow a company or business in an entirely new and nuanced direction.

An extremely simple way to do this is to search outside of your normal community reaches and look for new voices. Choosing a style of designer, for instance, is extremely focused on their own personal style of work. Broadening your horizons can only give you more amazing and beautiful people to choose from rather than hire the expected or comfortable choice.

Allow all voices to be heard, share the platform

Speaking opportunities are especially critical to helping people of color be heard, especially women. There is such a small circle in the creative community, or rather it can feel that way. But everyone having a seat at the table and a place to feel safe to express themselves (isn’t that the heart of why we all are pursuing a creative career?) is sorely lacking most of the time. Creation can be done by anyone. Creativity is not limited to our upbringing, our limitations, or our exterior traits like many other aspects of society are. This is the most safe place for everyone to belong and this issue doesn’t need to be such a difficult one to discuss or blast through to get to the other side.

Representation matters so much

Support for others and speaking up is a hugely important first step. With more people supporting one another, especially fellow white creatives (who because of the way our world works, have a platform much higher than most) who are seeing the women beside them struggle in an industry that has more than enough clients, perspectives, styles, and creativity to go around. Hopefully soon, we’ll get to the point when children, of all races, see themselves in the small business owners around them. They’ll know they can pursue their dream and this industry they become a part of will welcome them with open arms and celebrate when they thrive.

Believe me, I know my take on this issue is less nuanced than many voices out there speaking up on this very subject right now. But I couldn’t sit idly by and feel proud of myself as a woman of color and as a fellow creative to the entire community. That’s what is important here. Do I feel I have been overlooked, for a project or as a potential designer that someone wants to hire? Honestly, probably not. But have women and men beside me who simply are darker complected? Yes, and that isn’t right.

Thank you for listening. I hope this is one small way that I can use whatever reach I have to make a difference and bring more inclusivity to a place in this world that I love so much.

  1. Sheena says:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful and thoughtful message. It fills my heart with joy seeing creatives willing to stand up for a world in which minorities are properly represented and appreciated for the work we do.

    • Stefani says:

      Thank you so much Sheena! I am glad to see more and more creatives uplift their fellow business owner and community is so important in this industry. I’m most glad to see that people are realizing you can’t have a community that makes some people feel like they don’t belong for one reason or another. I think opening the doors and opportunities can only bring more amazing work.

  2. I appreciate hearing your point of view, great article!

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