“Inclusive, limitless”: How communities managed by WOC thrive digitally

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Produced in partnership with Squarespace

Owning a POC business can be both challenging and rewarding. When the system isn’t designed for you to thrive, it can create a never-ending stream of business and financial hurdles. In this context, starting a business is not just a question of effort and determination, but of resilience.

Despite these obstacles, people of color choose to take this leap of faith every day, driven by a deep sense of need. Many of these must-have businesses are filling market gaps, providing both opportunity and support to their communities. Three companies whose founders overcame obstacles to serve their communities are gal-dem, the online and print magazine for POC of marginalized genres, AZEEMA, a magazine, a creative agency and a studio explore women in the regions of West Asia, North Africa and South Asia (WANA and SA), and inclusive wellness mark yourself. These platforms are alike not only in their entrepreneurial spirit, but also in their decision to provide safe spaces with inclusiveness at heart.

gal-dem has always been built around the foundation of community. Its founders failed to be reflected in the media and therefore created the representation that was so crucial, bringing together a community of like-minded individuals who have seen and supported the brand over the years. A membership model ensured that their work was not just for the community, but fueled by it. Squarespace product, Member areas, was the next step in improving their membership program, providing an easy space to serve their community through exclusive content reserved for members that encouraged interaction, engagement and learning.

“A membership model ensured that gal-dem‘s work is not just for the community, but fueled by it ”

To describe gal-demCEO Mariel Richards’ mission mentions a passion for driving inclusion, explaining the double-edged need to “champion the voices of the most marginalized in society” while being “engaged with joy”. AT gal-dem, the ability to create member zones through Squarespace was a way to sustain the company’s finances. While advertising is a traditional way to monetize a business, Mariel points out that it also represents “a capitalist system that we are also committed to criticizing and deconstructing.” The introduction of a membership model allowed gal-dem continue to be “demanding on the types of brands [they] work with, ”choosing to work with them rather than rely on them, with the reassurance that memberships are only used for order budgets and staff salaries.

For AZEEMA and thy.self, the next step in securing the future of their business was to build a website: a professional digital home and an established base for information, networking and funding. To achieve this, Squarespace was the platform of choice for those POC business owners offering flexible design capabilities, a simple and transparent interface, and eliminating the need for external web designers, a costly addition for these core businesses.

“Squarespace was the platform of choice for these POC business owners offering flexible design capabilities, a simple and transparent interface, and eliminating the need for external web designers.”

For Jameela Elfaki, founder of AZEEMA, Squarespace created a Consolidated Space that gave women and non-binary people in the WANA and SA regions control over their own stories. “There were a lot less opportunities for us, but now we are creating our own opportunities,” says Jameela.

Created in 2017, AZEEMA started as a tabletop book project for the final year of Jameela’s fashion and promotion degree at Central Saint Martins. Since then, it has snowballed in print magazines, events, social pages and a creative agency that pays homage to the faces she grew up around. Jameela, who is a mixture of Sudanese and English, describes his heritage as “between two worlds”, continuing, “this is the performance I needed all those years ago, but never had “.

When is the time to translate AZEEMA in a digital format, Jameela knew it had to be done in-house. “The thing aboutt AZEEMA it’s that it’s really rooted in DIY, ”says Jameela. “This is where we come from. Being resourceful is part of our education. Squarespace’s ease of use and cost-effective solutions have been a critical factor in ensuring the company can continue to share their community’s stories while maintaining financial security. Instead of paying for a website designer, Jameela was able to easily design her website herself, resulting in a sleek and very aesthetic finished product. “We have not received any funding and we have no investors. We don’t have salaries. We do everything because we want to and because we believe in what we are doing, ”explains Jameela.

“We do everything because we want to and because we believe in what we are doing”

Jameela Elfaki, AZEEMA

The same notion of not only serving, but being supported by the community resonates with the thy.self inclusive wellness brand. Born out of frustration with a wellness industry that lacked not only representation and diversity, but also factual information, Chloé Pierre created thy.self in 2018, using her community as a “sounding board”. “We have people who have been with us from the start or who have just really gotten our message out – these are the people I reach out to for feedback,” Chloe describes.

The values ​​of thy.self are simple: “to actualize the care and the love of oneself, rather than making it a product in a bottle”, explains Chloe. Drawing on her background in branding and marketing, Chloe curated a soft color palette and selected lowercase typography on Squarespace to communicate those values ​​alongside themes of relaxation and openness. Created as a brand that did not exclude on the basis of shape, size, religion, disability or race, the success of thy.self represents a much needed change within the good industry. -to be.

“Not only were we broadcasting content to help our community, but we were starting to generate more interest from brands,” explains Chloe, explaining the dual function of her website. During the heartbreaking events of last summer, a time when tensions were mounting and sanity was crumbling, Chloe created toolkits for allies and for blacks and browns that could be shared in their stories. Instagram, without needing to speak directly to others. “Giving people the space they needed was giving them language,” explains Chloé.

“There was an influx of people who wanted to support our brand, whether it was to invest in us or to donate money,” Chloe says of the period since, “It was crazy. I did not expect that “. Noticing that their social pages served their community, Chloe felt the need to have a separate platform to “diversify” [their] message so that people can understand it outside [their] community. “Here, a website has become a means of stabilizing the financial future of yourself, while providing benefits to unsuspecting people:” Learn something new, especially for corporate clients who don’t care. the idea of ​​well-being. They can also do a little introspection, “smiles Chloe.

“A website is not just a professional branded exterior for strangers, but a home that friends can come back to.”

The common thread between AZEEMA, yourself and gal-dem is that they are rooted in the community. Building a website not only provides stability for businesses, but space for voices to be shared and received. A website is not just a professional branded exterior for strangers, but a home that friends can return to. As Chloe says, “It’s up to us. We can do whatever we want with it. We are not filtered. We are not censored. I think it’s important for a small business.

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