How a Black female entrepreneur advocates for inclusion at work

Being a Black entrepreneur at this time in history carries an enormous amount of responsibility to give back, because no one succeeds alone. I couldn’t imagine starting a business that didn’t more fully address the enormous gaps in diversity and inclusivity that so many companies suffer from, so that’s exactly what I did.

By now, most everyone is familiar with reports on employees’ dissatisfaction when it comes to spotlighting and advocating for diverse voices in the workplace. My culture concierge company focused on events and artisan gifts called Culture With Us Corporation (that encompasses Virtual With Us, Culture With Us, and Altrosero) began when I pivoted my career path. I was working as a wine communications executive who experienced frustration and eventually burnout.

Thanks to my commitment to lasting change along with a leap of faith, I’m in the unique position of being able to spotlight a range of Black and BIPOC professionals in the food, wine, and hospitality industries—work I truly enjoy. The company is infusing positivity into these industries and making sure every voice is represented.

As a Black business owner, it’s very important that the work I do involves those services to my community. Inclusive values are the foundation my business was built, and these are the rules I live by as we continue to grow and influence the hybrid workplace.

Take every opportunity for inclusive initiatives

As a certified minority business owner, it’s especially important to me to lift up professionals from the BIPOC and LBGTQ communities, and that’s why we offer a diverse range of virtual, hybrid and in-person events and conferences to celebrate each and every employee, client, and prospect and their backgrounds—and I mean everyone—on the calendar, from Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month to Juneteenth to Hanukkah. Our Women’s History Month and Black History Month programming are especially popular. These interactive events entertain and educate employees, boosting morale while fulfilling other needs like team-building, executing new DEI initiatives, supporting mental health, and building a strong company culture. Taking these opportunities to celebrate is a straightforward and effective way of communicating to employees that everyone is seen, heard, and appreciated.

Make inclusion your top priority across the entire business

Your company’s bottom line is of course paramount, but management controls the narrative when it comes to employee-facing priorities and goals. What will really hurt your bottom line is the sky-high cost of turnover, to say nothing of its effect on morale. Leaders who don’t lead with DEI in mind won’t be thought of as leaders in DEI efforts—one of the most essential and urgent issues facing talent retention.

Educate those in leadership roles on how to engage with employees from diverse backgrounds, and hold accountable those who fail to demonstrate inclusive values. Details regarding inequality tend to come out on Glassdoor, Indeed, and other job review sites, and by not keeping up, companies can develop a reputation that’s difficult to remedy.

Assert your knowledge all day, every day

Nobody opens a business for something they know nothing about—business owners are experts by nature, and it’s by really owning that term that you’ll find the confidence to innovate, make your mark, and ensure that clients remember you. This is especially important for Black entrepreneurs, because we so frequently begin our endeavors at a disadvantage. Knowledge is at a premium right now, and it can’t be accurately valued if it’s not contributed with the confidence it deserves.

Maintain a flexible workplace

Hybrid and remote environments benefit everyone—there has been no evidence that working from home leads to a decrease in productivity. In fact, we’ve seen the direct opposite: Employees are working harder and with balance should their organizations and leadership practice this. A flexible workplace is inherently inclusive and can substantially increase the diversity of your talent pool. Seek out the ideal talent, not the ideal arrangement because everyone has a different lifestyle and goal, and everyone should truly have a seat at the table.

The pandemic forced new ways of working and in doing so also opened new opportunities to transform diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Unpredictable variants, employee preferences for how to work, and the full spectrum of leadership preferences on where work gets done will continue to test workplaces in the near term.

What we can do amidst all the shifting variables is to stay nimble and make the most of those opportunities to maximize our chances of being in a better place—where all employees can feel accepted and perform at their best—wherever they may be, whatever background they may have and at any life stage they may be in.

Alex Schrecengost was named a 40 under 40 Tastemaker by Wine Enthusiast and the founder and CEO of Virtual With Us and Culture With Us.

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