Last month, Vegancuts—an online marketplace best known for its vegan snack and beauty subscription service—launched its Spotlight Program. Created by the Vegancuts team in collaboration with Black entrepreneurs and community leaders, the program features five Black-owned and -led vegan businesses based in the United States. The inaugural cohort includes vegan food companies Worthy of Well Done, an oat and nut butter brand founded by Jakera Willis; Southern Roots Vegan Bakery, a Texas-based bakery founded by Cara and Marcus Pitts; Major’s Project Pop, a made-to-order kettle corn company owned by Chauniqua Major-Louis; and beauty companies such as 103 Collection, a vegan skin- and hair-care brand by Melinda Herron; and Habit Cosmetics, a non-toxic beauty line from owner Aja Frierson. After completing an application and interview process, the brands were selected for their ambition, drive, complementary skill sets, and for being mission-aligned.
Vegancuts CEO Ashish Gupta told VegNews that the new initiative came to fruition after an internal meeting was held to discuss how the company could best “utilize [its] team’s skill sets, network, and platform to make a meaningful impact to the Black Lives Matter movement.”
As part of the free program, the featured brands will “receive guidance and coaching based on their individual business challenges,” peer-to-peer support, and free advertisement on Vegancuts’ website, social media platforms, and email networks over the next four months. Although it is customary for online marketplaces to take commission for every sale made through their websites, 100 percent of revenues will be given to the Spotlight brands. “When speaking with Black entrepreneurs and leaders, we realized that they face real inequities that make it so much more challenging to build and develop a business—from a lack of mentorship opportunities for help with facing everyday business decisions, to few role models who have walked the path previously,” Gupta said.
After the program’s first four-month round, Vegancuts intends to select a new cohort of companies to work with its team of industry experts. “In addition to highlighting Black-owned brands, in future cohorts we also plan to work with brands from other disenfranchised communities, evolving and improving the program to best fit the needs of each individual cohort,” Gupta said.
The program comes two months after Vegancuts made initial donations of approximately $500 to social-justice organizations Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, Reclaim the Block, and the Minnesota Freedom Fund after facing backlash for an “All Lives Matter” post that went viral on its social media platforms during the height of worldwide protests in response to the police-killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man in Minneapolis.
Prior to the post, Vegancuts says it did not have an approval process for social media content, which primarily consisted of animals and vegan food. “As our company is taking a firm public stance on Black Lives Matter, we’ve implemented an approval process to ensure that we never misrepresent how we feel about the issues facing disenfranchised communities,” Gupta said.
When asked about the team member responsible for the problematic post, Gupta said, “the member of our team who made the post immediately took time to research and understand the deep dismissal, denial, and even hostility that ‘All Lives Matter’ represents … They felt ashamed, embarrassed, and immediately began taking their own steps to learn everything they could about how to move forward, make improvements, and I’ve personally seen them follow through on every single commitment they’ve made to being a better advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement. The entire Vegancuts organization is made up of individuals who support its mission and we are each supporting the Black community in our own ways, including the person who made the mistake in the first place.”
Since June, the Vegancuts team has also made “discussions surrounding race and equality part of [its] regular routine” and has “started to bring racial proactiveness into each … area of work such as hiring, customer services, and procurement.”