I have no problem telling people I’m outraged by Donald Trump. He's a dangerous psychopath whose views on the environment, the role of media, immigration, foreign policy and women’s issues (just to start with) represent a threat that I believe peace-loving people have an obligation to actively resist.
I also don’t have a problem if that statement means you don’t want to hire me or read my content. If that’s the case, see ya! ✌️
I mention my political feelings because since Trump was elected I have definitely felt an urge to close up shop and start working full-time on activism. It feels frivolous to pursue my own passions and build a business given all that's at stake. I don't think I'm the only person who feels this wa, either. As my friend and fashion blogger Brad Bennett from Well Spent put it, “Who gives a fuck about clothing anymore?”
But the reality is we do give a fuck. Many of us went into business because we are independent thinkers capable of imagining a world that is different from the one we inherited. Quitting my company would be “letting the turkeys win,” as my mom would put it. Building a strong business in the face of everything that is happening ensures that your ideas have a strong platform, which is becoming more and more important.
Still, it’s difficult for small business owners to decide where and how often our personal views should inform our brand messaging. There are daily opportunities to speak out in opposition, so how do you balance activism with messaging that otherwise feels pretty superficial in the face of things?
There is no right or wrong answer here. We’re entering uncharted territory. There has never been such a vocal resistance to a political leader in this country while we have also had a business marketing requirement to update social media platforms daily. You have to decide what the right mix of activism and going about your daily business is. Just remember that you are in good company. There are hundreds of brands and business owners facing the same questions right now.
I thought it might be helpful to look at ways 10 different small companies are incorporating activism into their brand messaging in the current political climate. Some are simply blogging and publishing social media updates about their activities while others are fulfilling initiatives that started even before the last election cycle.
The period-proof underwear company runs a weekly blog column titled This Week in Feminism, which gives them room to blog and tweet about all kinds of resistance happenings.
The NYC-based clothing company did a holiday coat drive, offering 20% off for anyone who donated a coat to the Bowery Mission. People could participate by mailing in coats as well as donating in person.
Debbie, founder of women's clothing line The Willary, wrote a not-so-subtle blog post about how to dress up and stay strong during the Women's March that incorporated some of her own designs.
United by Blue
Responsible durable goods brand United By Blue Side-stepped the Black Friday mayhem by encouraging customers to participate in a nationwide DIY cleanup effort entitled Blue Friday.
Nikki Kule, founder of the NYC-based fashion brand Kule, took a break from regularly-scheduled Instagram programming to post her pictures from the Women's March in NYC.
Threads For Thought
Jonathan Wiesner, CEO of the ethical clothing brand Threads For Thought, wrote a blog post reflecting on the importance of refugee rights as we approached inauguration day and the incoming administration. The company manufactures a #RefugeesWelcome t-shirt and donates profits to the International Rescue Committee.
Sustainable fabric manufacturer Thread International started work on a commitment to address instances of child labor, hazardous working conditions, and quality of life improvements for the population of plastic collectors that work in a Haitian landfill — plastic collectors that feed into the company's recycled plastic supply chain. The company updates their blog with information about this initiative regularly.
Slow Fashion clothing designer Celine Semaan Vernon wrote about her own experience as a refugee in a guest post for Refinery 29.
Marteau founder Ariana Boussard-Reifel announced on the company blog that from mid-November until Trump’s inauguration the company would donate 20% of its sales to causes that "have been directly compromised by the agenda of our president-elect," including the Center for Reproductive Rights, Southern Poverty Law Center, Peace over Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety and The Natural Resources Defense Council.
Stella & Bow
How will you incorporate activism into your brand?
These are just a few examples of how small companies have incorporate activism into their messaging. You may decide to engage in a long-term project that aligns with your company's mission or target audience, or you may simply choose to express your personal feelings through occasional blog posts, Instagram updates and tweets.
You may also decide to not incorporate activist messaging into your business voice at all.
I think the important thing is to make sure that any conflicts you have over the intersection between your personal political feelings and your business don't stop you from taking personal political action if that is what you want to do, and that a bad political climate doesn't stop you from pursuing your business goals if you are still able, within that climate, to pursue them.
I'd love to know how you've been incorporating your political feelings into your brand messaging in the last few months. Tell us in the comments — and feel free to post links to anything you've written or posted!