Queer Eye’s Karamo Brown on the Importance of Supporting Black-Owned Small Businesses
Karamo Brown is bringing some of his famous vivacity and enthusiasm fans have come to love on Queer Eye to celebrate entrepreneurship in the Black community.
In honor of Black History Month, the star, 40, has teamed up with Amazon to help amplify the stories of Black small business owners and highlight some amazing brands consumers can shop not only this month, but all year long.
As a Black entrepreneur himself — Brown launched his skincare line Mantl in February 2020— the TV personality tells PEOPLE he "understands the opportunities" small and medium-sized businesses have to offer and wants to take the time to call out their inspiring stories.
"As you know, 2020 was a challenging year for so many small businesses. But what I love about what Amazon has done is that having the Amazon storefront has enabled hundreds of thousands of small companies to sustain and even grow despite the COVID-19 crisis," Brown says.
Especially given the current pandemic, he says it's so important to have a way to connect to brands when shoppers may not be going to brick and mortar locations as often. "You have to think of ways that we can still reach businesses. I just love the fact that Amazon is saying here's the storefront, you can be in your living room and you can shop and support these businesses."
Read on for more from Brown on how consumers can best support Black-owned businesses, what he's been doing during quarantine and more.
PEOPLE: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs in the Black community?
KB: This is advice that I always tell people: comparison is the thief of joy. That's something that I try to pass out there as much as possible because especially when you're growing a new business, you can look at other people and say, "Well, why are they getting this? Why are they doing that?" And when you're focusing on someone else's energy, you're not focusing on yourself and the gifts you do have, the things that you are able to do and the community you have that wants to support you. Don't down your business because of someone else's.
Also, just to continue to understand that it is a journey. There's going to be many up days, there's going to be many down days. But the thing is, if you're able to make a plan, do the plan, ask for help as much as you need, you'll get there. Because what I know to be true about small businesses is that people do want to support them, especially Black-owned small businesses, especially within the African-American community. So I think it's really important for [business owners] to just remind themselves of that.
PEOPLE: How do you recommend our readers best support Black-owned small businesses?
KB: I would definitely tell them to go to Amazon and check out the storefront, see all the businesses that are available, click on them and support them. I think something big is that sometimes people are like, "Well, a Black-owned business, maybe this is not for me if I'm not Black." But the thing is, you have to understand that art, coffee, all of these things [sold at Black-owned small businesses] are universal. We all drink them. We all use puzzles for our kids. So why not have a puzzle piece that represents not only white faces but also Black faces in your collection?
This is where we all have to do better of saying, "Well, what am I putting in my home? Because what I'm putting in my home, it's going to show the world." One of the coffees that I highlighted is called BLK & Bold. It's of course a play on words, but it's also [a way to think], "Why wouldn't I support them? I love coffee anyway. This is a great coffee. Let's try this." I think that's a way of re-training us as people, re-training our minds to realize that we can do a better job of incorporating and bringing in everyone.
PEOPLE: What does Black History Month mean to you and how do you traditionally like to honor this month?
KB: Black History Month a lot of times we focus just on the past, which I believe we should look at. Where we've been and the accomplishments that so many African Americans who have done so much. But I think one of the things that for me, especially in this time, especially where we're at as a country opening our eyes and seeing the injustices, is that I want to encourage more people, white people, frankly, to say, "Hey, Black History Month is a time for me to do more research on Black culture. This is a time for me to really understand."
For me this month is time to stop and really focus, so that I can continue to do that through the year. I call my white friends during the month and ask, "Hey, have you learned anything new about any African Americans?" And a lot of times they say no. And in those moments, I don't judge them. What I do is I try to encourage them and say, "Hey, it's an opportunity for you to learn more because the only way we can stop systemic issues that we have plaguing our country when it comes to racism and prejudice and sexism and all these things is to educate ourselves." So I just really want this Black History Month for so many people who are not in the African American community to say, "Let me really go through the research. Last year I put a black square up and that was beautiful, but now how can I continue my education?"
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