It’s not just about marketing.
What comes to mind when you hear the term “inclusivity?” For the past five years, it’s been all abuzz in the fashion and beauty industries, encouraging everything from extended sizes and foundation shades to a more diverse roster of models and influencers across race, age, ability, and gender identity. It’s been powerful to see the shift, but when it comes to making meaningful change, it’s only just the beginning.
When I first started my superfood wellness company, Golde, inclusivity was top of mind. I was a young Black woman launching a brand in 2017 — what felt like the peak of “white wellness.” Golde was actually inspired by my own experiences as a consumer in the industry, feeling caught between the crunchy-granola stuff I’d grown up with in upstate New York and the new wave of prestige offerings that were completely out of reach. I wanted to build a company that made adding superfoods to your routine easy, accessible, and actually fun. I wanted to make something for everybody.
As a founder in the wellness space, I’ve considered how best to build a brand that’s not only inclusive, but also accessible. While inclusivity speaks to the power of marketing a product to a broader range of consumers, accessibility ensures that those folks can actually find those products within their reach. As we’ve grown, I’ve learned a lot about what it really means to build an inclusive company, and how the fundamentals of accessibility are a critical foundation in the work that still lies ahead for all of us. Here’s how we’re approaching it today.
Formulas, Packaging, & Price Points
The wellness industry is known for being pricey. Ever found a cool new protein powder, only to find that it’s well over $60 for a month’s supply? I’m not anti-luxury, but it felt ridiculous that no one was making quality wellness products at the prices the average consumer could actually afford. We don’t have hard and fast rules at Golde, but we always try to formulate around a price point of $35 or less.
That said, we also don’t skimp on sourcing high-quality ingredients. From matcha to mushrooms, using the good stuff means a more delicious end-product for the consumer and sustainable agriculture practices that are kinder to the planet. To keep our final retail prices down, we instead do everything we can to save on packaging costs. Instead of producing complex, heavy packaging, we often rely on stock options for lids and jars, and have fun with the labels instead.
If you’re just getting started with your business and are figuring out your supply chain, I recommend starting with the formula first. Be realistic about what your must-haves are for this product, and how scalable those ingredient sources are — wild-foraged superfoods might be perfect for producing a few hundred units, but what if down the road you need to make several thousand? Focus your energy into creating a great formula that’s easy to use and will be profitable for you in the long run.
Packaging can come second: As a small business, custom packaging is typically out of reach due to both unit economics and ultra-high minimum orders. Find stock packaging that you can purchase in smaller quantities, and let your label artwork do the talking. Today’s customer expects and values transparency, and communicating that they’re not over-paying for wasteful packaging can build trust and loyalty for the long haul.
How and where you can buy a product directly impacts who has access to it. As a Brooklyn-born business, we’re proud to be stocked in the cool, indie boutiques of our favorite neighborhoods, but we don’t just want to be available to folks who live in the hip spots. Our business has always been a mix of online DTC (direct-to-consumer) and wholesale, and a major goal of ours was extending that reach to a place where everybody shops. This year marked our first major wholesale distribution deal with Target, landing us in hundreds of locations across the country where there isn’t always a cool neighborhood boutique.
As a small business, launching with a major retailer can be pretty daunting, but the overwhelming support we’ve seen proves that we’re on the right track. I’m seeing new customers tagging us in Target who are so excited to have found out about us there, and messages are coming in from our non-coastal community expressing how grateful they are to have the chance to finally shop Golde in person.
When we first got started with Golde, we would go door-to-door with samples of our product to build out our presence in independently-owned retail stores. This is a great place to begin, as typically you can get fairly easy access to the owner, who is likely eager to bring in new, exciting offerings. One small retailer won’t make your business, but it also won’t break it. The value of building out a network of indies first is that you spread risk across hundreds of touch points, rather than one major retail partner.
When approaching the big guys, my biggest recommendation is to take your time. Launching with a national retailer is a major step that requires your supply chain, marketing, and sales operations to already be running as a well-oiled machine. As you start to have success with smaller retailers, it’s likely that some of the bigger folks will reach out on their own. Start to have those conversations, but wait to move forward until you, your team, and your product are truly ready.
Community, Team, & Representation
Inclusivity means making sure that everyone has a seat at the table. As a CEO, I think about this across our community partnerships, the influencers and ambassadors we work with, the team, and our investors. We recently raised a bit of money from a range of angel investors, and 90% of them were female-identifying, BIPOC, or both. While inclusive marketing is an important first step, it’s critical to consider who are the empowered folks in positions of leadership across your team and your cap table that are driving those big decisions for the brand.
As entrepreneurs and consumers, considering the intersection of inclusivity and accessibility can allow us to take a deeper look at how we build brands and products that feel truly representative of our communities. Nobody has it all figured out, and these standards will evolve as the world around us continues to as well. There’s a lot to say about the power of the progress we’ve all made, but the work is far from over.