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In an exclusive interview with theGrio, Issa Rae opened up about her work with American Express’ ByBlack program, her own experience with launching Black business Sienna Naturals, and more.
From Sweet Life, executive producing and creating Rap Sh– which is currently in production, and gearing up for the final season of Insecure, Rae remains one of the busiest creators in Hollywood. Outside of her many projects, she continues to amplify and speak to the power of Black business through her social media and various partnerships.
One of her most exciting partnerships is with American Express and their ByBlack certification program, which is the first national certification program exclusively for Black-ownership designation. With her own Sienna Naturals business as a registered ByBlack business, Rae sat down with theGrio and chatted all about this exciting initiative.
“ByBlack is an incredible platform that allows Black businesses to get certified and recognition in a way that can attract new customers and new opportunities,” Rae tells theGrio. “We have not had a certification process like this, I don’t think ever, and it’s just an easy way to ensure that Black businesses get the recognition that all American businesses do.”
Shouting out Black businesses was something she did long before launching her own.
“It’s a pride thing, you know? I have a lot of love, obviously, for Black people and Black business owners. You know, historically so many opportunities have been taken from us. We have such a long way of catching up where generational wealth is concerned so, I think any opportunity that plays a small part in saying, ‘Hey, this business exists and they’re great! Support them,’ makes me happy. It just it’s natural for me.’”
Rae also shares what she thinks can really help Black businesses beyond the ByBlack platform.
“I think the ByBlack platform is one step…but Black businesses don’t just need Black customers, they need all customers.” She continues, “I think it’s one thing to be aware that you’re supporting a Black business, but I think spreading the word beyond black communities and making sure that all communities understand the importance of their support is important.”
Rae’s reality TV series, Sweet Life: Los Angeles, highlights a cast of small Black businesses and entrepreneurs as well. This was no coincidence, Rae says.
“We were looking for people who were entrepreneurs, who represented kind of the fabric of my own group of people and represented this generation of go-getters.”
As for Sienna Naturals, Rae explains embracing her own personal hair journey was one of her biggest obstacles in launching the business.
“For me just being public with my own hair struggles…I know that’s something all Black women go through, but that’s something I am still overcoming,” she explains. “‘Like, how much do I wanna share?’ I also have to expose what went wrong for me to begin with.” She adds, “It’s going to be an ongoing journey for me.”
The ByBlack program has officially soft-launched. For more information on ByBlack, click here.
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