Redefining the Naturals Category Through Cultural Transformation with Kimberly Lee Minor, Bumbershoot
Gooder Podcast Featuring Kimberly Lee Minor
The resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement has caused businesses and people to again rethink their relationship with brands, businesses and retailers. As brands continue to grapple with the realization that systemic racism is a set of blinders and the uncertainty about how to make the operational, innovation and leadership changes that need to be made, consumers are pushing. If you are brand owner, particularly in the naturals and better-for-you space, this lack of visibility is hampering your growth.
Bumbershoot CEO Kimberly Minor, shares insights and guidance with us around organizational cultural transformation that will provide you with new visibility about the hurdles of black-owned brands as well as share renewed opportunities for growth in becoming better brand and consumer stewards. Black women and families have been naturals a long time, it’s time for our current better-for-you community to see and embrace new ways of being natural and start using our super-powers in
In this episode, we learn to:
- Amplify and empower diversity and inclusion initiatives in ways that dive profit, not simply “check a box”
- Create a business culture that is welcoming and supportive so that women and people of color can excel and accelerate their careers
- Translate your company values and mission in a way that allocate for wider or different definitions of natural
- Identify and support those brands and companies that reflect your vision, using mission and values as a filter
About Kimberly Lee Minor:
Kimberly Lee Minor is a business owner and creative executive who cares about people.
Kimberly is committed to bringing more joy and connection into people’s lives. To do this she relies on personal insights, losses and hard-won growth achieved in over 25 years of senior leadership in creative customer-centric brands, and even more experience just in my years of living.
Before starting her own business, Lee Minor rolled up her sleeves and got to work – from the executive training program with Macy’s to Express where she received the Key Contributor Award to Footlocker Global, where, again Kimberly was awarded the Key Contributor Award for business innovation and team transformation. From Brand President for London Fog, Joe Boxer & Bongo to SVP of Strategy, Merch Operations & Merchandising at BBW she strived to grow businesses and to help her teams find their passion.
Lee Minor believes that we are at our best when supported by authentic connections of diverse and positively passionate people to influence and empower us.
Using her transformational leadership skills, customer-centric point of view and focus on creating connections she helps business leaders strategically reposition their cultures for collaboration and inclusivity to provide a welcoming and empowering community for career acceleration of women and people of color. I start by listening to the VOC and VOE, evaluating core values and processes to prepare these organizations for a 21st-century workforce, increase the pipeline of diverse talent, improve the desirability of the organization to the candidates, and the retention of the hires.
Kimberly holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, and has completed coursework towards her MBA at Drexel University. She holds an executive certificate in Leadership and Management from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. She and her husband have 2 sons and live in New Albany, OH.
IG – Kimberly.l.minor
Bumbershoot – Bumbershoot, LLC is a different kind of media company. We create digital niche communities to influence lifestyles through authentic connection, creative content, informative events, unique experiences, and meaningful philanthropy.
Our team draws on the diverse executive experience of creative and critical-thinking merchants, marketers, innovators, and data scientists in multi-media, fashion and personal care industries who have grown competitive brands and developed engaging product and content introduction strategies that make people smile.
Spiceteria – I’ve been Blessed with a full life – a sweet, salty, sour, hot, and tangy life. All of these flavors, experiences, people, and loves brought me here – to the creation of Spiceteria. A flavor-centric hub for women. Spiceteria’s mission is to bring together women of taste – in a warm, respectful, and welcoming community – bridging tech and humanity through the sharing of stories, themed products, experiences and technology that enhance your life and ensure that you will never be alone.
Authentically Us – A community for Millennial-aged professional women. They are new to the community and relatively new to their careers. The Authentically Us community provides a soft landing for authentic connections, professional development and mentoring, mental and physical well-being, personal development and fun.
Redefining the Naturals Category Through Cultural Transformation with Kimberly Lee Minor, Bumbershoot
Diana Fryc: Welcome to the Gooder Podcast. I’m Diana Fryc, your host as partner and CMO of retail, Voodoo and award winning branding agency I have met and worked with some of the most amazing women in naturals industry. As such, I decided to create the Gooder Podcast to interview these great people and subject matter experts and have them share their insights and expertise to help businesses all around the world become gooder. So today I am very excited to introduce my guest, Kimberly Lee Minor. She’s CEO of Bumbershoot and founder and curator of the Woman Centric Communities such as Spiceteria. Did I get that right?
Kimberly Lee: Yes, you did. Congratulations.
Diana Fryc: And authentically us. Kimberly is a business owner and creative executive who cares about people using her transformational leadership skills, customer centric point of view and focus on creating connections. She helps business leaders strategically reposition their cultures for collaboration and inclusivity to provide a welcoming and empowering community for career acceleration for women and people of color. Before starting her own business, Kimberly worked with some iconic brands that you might know retailers like Macy’s Express Footlocker at a global level, London Fog, Joe Boxer and Bath and Body works. Kimberly, thank you so much for joining me today. How are you?
Kimberly Lee: I’m doing great.
Diana Fryc: Now you’ll notice that Kimberly does not come from the food and beverage industry, not to worry. I’ve invited her especially today to share some insights and guidance for you around organizational cultural transformation. Now, it’s no surprise to anybody if I say 2020 has been a remarkable year of situations. COVID and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement have caused businesses and people to rethink their relationship with brands, businesses and retailers. While I personally have been an advocate for inclusion for a long time, I’ve only recently been able to participate in the work that still needs to be done in order to create visibility for these movements and the women who are part of them. So super excited for gooder or to be a platform for these and these efforts, and thanks for listening, we’re going to be able to talk to Kimberly here a little bit more. Now my favorite part of the interview is of course, learning a little bit more about your journey and how you got here. Before we get into the nitty things, tell us about your journey.
Kimberly Lee: My journey has been really interesting. Well I think it’s interesting. Hopefully everyone else does. I didn’t start out, planning to be in the industry that I was in. I thought that I was going to be in broadcast. My degree is in radio, television and film. I went to Temple University and I interned at TV stations and radio stations. I had my own show. My father was a jazz lover like he loved jazz and one day he came home and I came by the house. I was in school and he was like, “Do you have a jazz radio show? And is your name Kim Jones?” And I was like, “Yeah.”’ And he says, “Why didn’t you tell me. I’m most into the radio. I know that voice, but that’s not her name.” I was in that space like so deeply and I was sending out my tapes and I was getting callbacks to like South Dakota, and like Wyoming and places where I just didn’t feel like I just can’t, I can’t connect there. And then the flipside of that is when it was in a larger market, and I struggled with this, there was me too before me too. I just had to make a decision at that point; what am I willing to do for my career and living with the bison or the casting couch just neither of those seem to fit for me. And I’m sure it was in other people, maybe other people can deal with it and as we know, quite a few did. But that just wasn’t my choice. And so I had to decide; well what do I want to do because but at that point, I was a little lost and I had befriended the Macy’s executive training program recruiter. I knew I was going to grad school, but I thought I was going to be in grad school while I was on TV. Okay. And so the Macy’s executive training recruiter literally talked me into it because I was just like retail.
That sounds crazy. Why would I go to college to stand on my feet because I knew nothing about it other than my little part time job in high school? I took the test had a very high aptitude for it, because Macy’s, they were very selective, is very competitive because they would go to people who had merchandising backgrounds, which I didn’t have. And so I took the test and then I still wasn’t convinced. So he introduced me to some of the executives at Macy’s who were doing different things. They were doing product, they were doing marketing, so I could see what this world was about.
And long story longer I was accepted into the program and I was really blessed to have the best boss once I was placed because even though you’re in the program, you’re not an employee until you’re placed. And so when I was placed, yeah, so you go through the program, and you have to interview at each stage to maintain your place in the program. And so when I was placed, I was placed with someone who had a very similar background to mine. She didn’t come from traditional retail. She didn’t know what she wants to do and had a baking company and had done different things. And so she loved the fact that I just asked questions and would try things right. Like, what do you have to lose? I don’t know. There was no reason for me not to try different things. So I turned business around and then I was recruited to express.
My path started to move from department store into specialty, which was what was happening then, while I was at Express, I had a promotions and five years and then my family, both my mom and my dad got ill, and I’m an only child, and they were in Philadelphia. I was in Ohio. My mother passed very quickly and then my dad was ill. And then I was responsible for my grandparents because my mother had been responsible for my grandparents and I became a legal guardian and I had to make some decisions and so I moved back to the east coast. Once I got married, I started having kids and then I went to Footlocker where I created their global private label, apparel and accessories business. They had private label, but it was a T shirt. So if anybody remembers the early 2000s that was the style; this big white t shirt. Yeah. They expanded their business by putting it in colors and that was that was the extent of their private label. And so I went and developed all of their brands.
From there, I’ve had career in marketing, my career went from design and product development, merchandising into driving brands and marketing at Iconics, where I was brand president of four brands; you listed those brands. So then that was total P&L and that was complete ownership of driving the brands, businesses, and then back to retail, and then to Bath & Body Works and so my path has been kind of interesting. At one point, I was the chief fashion strategist. I don’t even know what that means. But that was my title and my responsibilities were broad. So I guess they didn’t know what title would be. But my responsibilities were merchandising, product design, creative marketing, PR. So I’ve led a lot of different areas of corporate fashion and retail, and branding. So that has brought me here and to bring it full circle.
The reason I started or I founded the communities as well as Bumbershoot is because all along my career, I was either the first or the only in every situation. At Footlocker I was the first then the only, there were black men who had worked in the stores for 15, 20 years and they got promoted to an entry level job in the home office. So here I am as a leader, so I was always the only woman in the room and definitely the only black woman. As I continued my career and had more promotions and larger responsibilities; when I was at Footlocker, I took the business from $250 million to $875 million.
I’m this black woman who’s managing this business and it wasn’t that I didn’t see other black women, but they were predominantly in HR roles or other support roles, but I was actually running the business and it started to catch up to me. Just how lonely that was and the burden of how do you make change? How do you open the door? What’s the expectation for that? And I did it when I could. But that made showing up every day even harder, because the expectation as a black woman was that I had to prove myself over and over and over and so that’s exhausting. When I left all the brands I said, “I don’t want to do this anymore. I want to change the way I’m living, because this is not. I want to use my experience and influence to change how someone else is living and I want to make a difference in the film in a philanthropic way.”
That’s why I started Bumbershoot. Because I said, if I could work as hard as I worked and feel the way I do, then that means the cultures need to change and I know enough about these cultures, because I’ve led businesses that I could go in and change a culture profitably so that companies can understand that you don’t have to lose your profitability to be inclusive and collaborative, and that there are ways to make a culture welcoming and supportive so that women and people of color can excel and accelerate their careers. And that’s why I started Bumbershoot and then Spiceteria started as a blog. And the craziest thing, I’ve blogged inconsistently since 2009. One day I was in New York about a year ago with a friend and we were going up the escalator and I heard somebody say, “Spiceteria.”. And so I looked at my friend, that I was looking up the escalator and she was looking down, I said, “Am I losing my mind? Did somebody just say Spiceteria?” She said, “You’re not losing your mind and the lady is running to you right now.” And it was a woman who had followed the blog, and she was like, “What are you doing next? We’re writing a book. What are you doing? We need you, you make things seem so easy, but they’re not. But it’s funny and the stuff that you write about. It’s not funny, but you make me feel like I’m not a failure, I have somebody who’s there with me.” That’s why I took it from a blog to a community, and we’ve grown since February from close to 100 members to now 1200.
Diana Fryc: Oh, my goodness, that’s so great. I just had like a moment there and I just want to ask you really quick before we get in the heart of the question, but you that you wanted to help organizations understand that changing culturally could be profitable. Is that a mindset that, that companies have that you can’t be profitable if you are culturally inclusive?
Kimberly Lee: So here’s what I have heard. I’ve heard, “Well, that’s going to cost us more money, because we’re going to need to have coaches for these people, or that’s going to cost us more money, because now we’re going to have to have a D&I person, or that’s going to cost us more money so we have to make accommodations and it’ll cost more money.” The problem with that thinking is that basically what its saying is, you’re going to keep this old culture and you’re going to, it’s like if your roof needs to be removed and replaced, but you say, I’m going to keep this old roof and I’m just going to plug the holes and then you have a bad storm, and those holes start to leak again. Only they get bigger. So its old thinking and what I’m showing people and when I’m talking to people and what my clients understand is;
The future of your workforce is not coming from behind. Its future; you should always be thinking about the future. So your workforce is coming from the future. So if you look at Millennials and Gen Z, it’s almost 50/50 people who identify as non-white and LGB. There’s so many different ways that they identify. So if you are thinking back here, and you’re saying, “Oh, I have to have this affinity group here and I have to separate this, I have to do that. And what do we do about the bathroom? So it’s going to cost us?” Then it’s old thinking like, that’s what that’s kind of silliness that I’ve heard, right? So it’s old thinking whereas if you just say, “Okay, this is the business we’re in, this is the product that we make and let’s just open the door and make it available for everyone. And, yes, we do need to change this culture, but we have to change it in this way.” Then as people work together, your profitability grows because it’s innovative. I know we’ll get into this more as we talk but there are people who think like that, like they think what’s the fix, as opposed to what’s the future?
Diana Fryc: I love that. The roof analogy is really, really good and easy for even the most dump of us to understand. So thanks for that. I have to write that down. Okay. Well, great. So now this is kind of a nice segue way into this topic that I wanted to cover with you. When you and I first met actually, it was a round a project fit, our studio was working on and we had, as a team, we understood that there was some information that we didn’t understand about black women, black families, black culture and you and I had had some conversations about whether or not you would be a good fit for the project that we’re working on. It didn’t end up working out, but it kind of lingered in my mind. And so a few weeks ago, when I reached out to you, we talked a little bit more and really was about that business in general has a void of diversity and leadership and it’s not just even people of color, but it’s also women. I talked about this topic with another woman a couple of weeks ago.
Literally once you get past the director level, all of a sudden, women and people of color start to be spotty for the lack of a better description. In the natural space, which is where my studio spends most of its time talking; food, beverage health, wellness, fitness really feel like that culture has been defined by white culture. When I go to natural Expo with products, when I go to the natural product show, when I go to a specialty food show, I go to any of the trade shows that are related to food and beverage, predominantly male, predominantly white. I feel like the culture has created this, the culture of the people working in the community has kind of defined health and wellness better for you inadvertently on accident, maybe even as a white culture, and these people with privilege have access to education and contact and finances and developing products that fit their needs and their desires.
I even wrote an article about that recently, and I feel like somehow our industry and the people working in it, we need to just wake up and realize that we’ve created this culture and start to grow and look outside ourselves, and that this cultural change needs to start inside our organizations, with the people that are in the organizations, not just a marketing exercise, and look at the community, in order to authentically make changes for these consumers who have needs. Especially in the naturals category, we’re absolutely doing a terrible job of talking to people outside of our bubble and I think that’s where you come in. Before I start the questions around this topic, how does what I said sit with you? What does it sound like?
Kimberly Lee: Well, it sounds like most things. So it sounds like this separate this approach to the world. When I think of my first client, after leaving Bath & Body Works was a black woman, natural’s brand.
Here were her challenges. She had not come from consumer goods at all but she just had this formula and it’s a very good formula. And she had gone to different people who had told her, “Oh, you need to have a PR person.” So she had spent money on the PR person. You don’t really have a line yet you don’t. I was able to help her re-adjust what her priorities need to be in the steps and find someone to produce it and all of those things. To your point about the education and having the support and knowledge; we’ve grown up with our grandmothers making things in the kitchen our whole lives. The whole idea of naturals but natural for people of color; it’s just how do you find the education or the resources to support those businesses? There are only so many Carol’s Daughter, her name is Lisa, Carol’s daughters, that have moved on from their kitchen in Brooklyn to now their big brands or Shea moistures; these companies that have been able to grow.
What I see is part of the problem with that, though, is the problem that has been with people of color and women for as long as I’ve been around. They let in maybe two or three and then they can say we’ve checked the box. Though they can say, oh, what are you talking about? We have naturals. We have Shea Moisture. And they’ve done extremely well. They take that much of the market space, “Oh, what do you mean? We have Carol’s daughters, and they’re in Macy’s end and target what we’ve taped.” And that’s the problem. It’s not that it’s not there. It’s, where’s the funding to grow it? Because we know there’s this wide gap. So, if you’re feeding your kids and you have this great formula, you don’t have extra money to make it into a product line. And then you have to pay to go to those shows, it becomes economical. How do you do that? So I think you’ve got that. But I don’t think it’s for lack of interest in that industry. I feel black people have been natural for a very long time. I think it’s growing now because other ways of being natural is becoming accepted; natural hair.
But the products that it takes to take care of natural hair, we had to pass a law to wear our hair natural. That’s crazy in itself. But when you think about that, and then you think about the products that we would need, and then you go back to the gap between resources and getting on a shelf, or wherever we sell it, it’s layer upon layer upon layer of systemic door closing and hurdles that are not created by us. It’s not a hurdle to be a black woman and have a natural’s brand. It’s a hurdle that whoever is buying that brand is only going to give space to so many. I hope that answers your question.
Diana Fryc: It does. I just learned about the hatchery in Chicago. Have you heard of the hatchery?
Kimberly Lee: No, what’s that?
Diana Fryc: It’s a food and beverage incubator for actually low income, low to middle income people who are looking to start brands and they teach you everything from how to formulate, to how to market, to how to run your business; really great organization. I can send you that information.
Kimberly Lee: Yeah, I just wrote that down. That’s interesting, that’s awesome.
Diana Fryc: I think we’re starting to see some efforts there and PepsiCo just launched something around the Stacy’s brand.
Where they’re funding and educating women, I think 12 or 15. So there’s little efforts. But what I hear you saying is like it’s still kind of box checking. It’s still like, okay, here’s our effort. Here’s what we’re doing. You’re our woman of color, you’re our woman, and you’re our check the box and it needs to be less about that and just looking at everything agnostically and saying, we need this representation because our consumers look like this. Let’s do a better job of doing that.
Kimberly Lee: Exactly.
Diana Fryc: Okay, perfect. Well, a lot has happened here in the last few months and as we’re watching how the US kind of bends and bows and shifts in, especially in the wake of this resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. In general, are you seeing any real efforts from what I’ll call traditional business leader’s desire to make change? Or do you feel like it’s more of the same and it’s more of a marketing opportunity?
Kimberly Lee: That’s a great question. I will tell you, it’s kind of on a case by case. But in general, if I were to speak in general, I see people making donations to organizations that they’ve already made donations to, they just give a little more money, which I find it’s just so empty and appalling. And if I look at LinkedIn,- which you can only take LinkedIn on certain days, but if you look at LinkedIn, there are a lot of D&I executives being appointed. To me, that is just saving face because now you’re taking a black woman and you’re putting her with this title of Chief D&I Officer. Now I think it’s great to have women and especially black women with the title ‘Chief’ that means she’s getting paid accordingly. So God bless her. My challenge is because I know people who are in that position once they get that title and they’re in the role if they’ve just been put there to fill a need to say, hey, look, look at us, we’re doing something, we put somebody in this role, then it serves no purpose because they can’t achieve their agenda. And quite frankly, the company hasn’t had an agenda. And this is not the first time we did this.
If you remember that this cycle just continues like I think back to last year, the year before when everyone was up in arms against H&M and they use blackface model and Gucci and Starbucks and the list went on and on and on. And I did a panel about it and I said, so what are we changing? So with Gucci, they brought in Dapper Dan. So they had been appropriating his products and so now they did a partnership with Dapper Dan. And I think that’s great and he’s a fantastic man, and he helps young people. I think that’s fantastic. But in general, nothing happened. It was like, okay, so we need to make sure we have D&I people in place. We have to have D&I officers, and we’re going to make sure and here we are 18 months later and this statistics haven’t shifted at all. They’re no more black CEOs in executive roles to your point above director. In some cases, they’re even less. People need to start walking the walk, and companies need to walk the walk. And I asked the question and I don’t get a clear answer. But here’s my question that I want them to ask themselves like, ask yourself, does your favorite brand reflect you? Are you reflected in anything about your favorite brand? Are you reflected in the corporate offices? Are you reflected in the marketing? Are you reflected in the strategy for expansion? Are you reflected in the cost strategy? Are you? Because if you aren’t, if you can’t answer yes to those questions, ask yourself, why is that your favorite brand? That’s the only way things are going to change. That’s it and so that’s question, ask yourself.
And if it means something to you, as a black person, then stop using that brand, if it means something to you as a white person as an ally, and this means something to you, then stops using that brand and then let’s see what happens. But until they’re hit in their pockets, I don’t think anything’s going to happen.
Diana Fryc: I agree with that and I can see that. These things with the D&I I think it’s like, putting somebody in a D&I, diversity inclusion, for those that probably don’t know what that’s shorthand for. But when we’re putting somebody in that role, that role actually really needs to have a lot of empowerment. And I see if it’s somebody who’s just checking a box, and then still towing the existing company culture or company directives, they’re not going to have the impact that the rule is really supposed to have. I think it’s frustrating because I think it’s deflating to the organization. It’s deflating to the culture; it’s just deflating to everybody to give somebody a roll that really should have a lot of power and a lot of sway and then not give them the autonomy and to be able to do the work that needs to be done.
Kimberly Lee: I get tired of the title, the whole, we are calling a DEI; diversity, equity and inclusion. Because what happens is it becomes focused on something else, there’s always something else to focus on and instead of doing that, let’s just call a spade a spade, and what’s the problem? The problem is that you have an all way team and that’s not what the world looks like. But in so many cases, then they say, oh, but we’re focusing on pride. Okay but there pride is not just the rainbow. The reason that it’s the rainbow is because pride represents everyone. So are you really focusing on that? And why is that more important than something else? If you really gave people to your point, the autonomy to have an organization that was big enough to really make sure that your culture was inclusive; it would need to be larger because you would really make sure that you covered all of your ground.
Diana Fryc: Well, you shared something recently on LinkedIn post that shows that ethnically diverse teams actually performed better and then inclusive companies or at least I think inclusive companies are at least 2x more innovative than none. At least that’s the information that I have there, or that you provided. Talk a little bit about why that is. So what does that really mean? Why should companies be paying attention to that?
Kimberly Lee: Well, so teams that have leaders that are diverse, are 35% more productive, right? Because you’re really representing what your customer base is and so you can get the perspective; you make less those mistakes, and you can get a very different perspective that could really help you broaden your product and the way you market it, so that you are appealing to a larger market share. That’s where the productivity and the profitability comes in because everybody wants a larger piece of the profit. From an innovative perspective, it’s very similar. If you have five people and they all come from the same neighborhood, the same type High School, they’ve all had the same experience. They all look alike. So, you know, they had the same experience. They went to the same type of colleges, they were in the same fraternity, and they come up with these bright new ideas. They’re all going to come from those points of experience. If you have five people, and maybe two of them know each other, and one came from something totally different and a different school and bring those different points of view.
Kimberly Lee: There’s got to be new ideas, because you’re seeing the same thing, but in five different types of ways. So that you can come up with; you double your ability to be innovative because you’re looking at something from a very different perspective and so that was what I met, and it was based on research that I had read with diversity. I think its diversity.org and several others; there’s the Pew Research, and I forget the other article that I read, but there were several articles that I had read. And I so this is just basically saying, what I’ve been saying, the more diverse, the more innovative because you’re seeing it from totally different eyes.
Diana Fryc: This leads back to what I asked early on where somebody said, “Well, this is going to be more expensive because I’ve got to do this and that,” and really what you’re identifying here is actually, well, okay, fine. Maybe some people need an extra D&I or an extra this or an extra mentoring or extra coaching; but if at the end of the day, the different perspectives, even if you have to make those investments end up being a net gain.
Kimberly Lee: Correct. It’s a net gain and I’m glad you brought up the coaching and the mentoring because that’s something that’s really close to my heart. Like that’s something that’s really important. I call it the SAM. Do you have SAM? SAM comes in different ways and I learned this because I didn’t have it and I’ve seen other people who have and what their trajectory looks like and I don’t want anybody to feel bad about me because I’ve had a fantastic career but a sponsor. Everyone should have a sponsor, because if you are sponsoring an event, you want that event to be very successful, because you’re investing in it. Same thing with an employee at a company, if you have a sponsor, you want that employee to be very successful because you’re investing in it. An ally, and an ally is internal and ally and ally is the person who’s going to speak up for you when you’re not in the room. It’s the same thing. It’s about standing in the gap for you, when you’re not there.
And then a mentor, but I don’t personally think that your mentor needs to be at your job. Because I believe that a mentor is someone who has broad experience and someone who is a trusted advisor. So we need mentors in our lives, and that could be someone who is definitely outside of your workforce. That is one of the other projects that Bumbershoot is working on super excited about it. The working title is understand, navigate, accelerate, and it’s a program that we’re just at the beginning stages, but I’m working with three amazing women.
One is the just past CFO of a major, major, major company, they’re just amazing women and we are creating a program specifically for the fashion and retail and adjacent industries. So people at different stages; you could be a year out and you have one track, you could be five years out and you have another track, you can be pre executive and you have another track, but to prepare you for the next step. Companies don’t have to do that. We’re creating the program for them and we’ll be looking for sponsorships and all that other stuff not to take up time, but I just wanted to get it out there that you can do it without spending a lot of money. Like we’re not saying you as a company has to do all of that each step of the way. These programs exist for finance. They’ve existed for a long time in the finance industry and other industries. But there have been traditional industries that have not cared so much about it and when you look at like naturals, you look at fashion, they haven’t existed. They’ve had incubators, but everybody who isn’t able to scale.
Kimberly Lee: Or be successful is not necessarily because they are low income or don’t have, it’s because they don’t have the support or they’re things you don’t know. I worked for a company where I was like, why is this guy keep getting promoted? Well turns out that he played poker with the COO. Or another place where on Fridays they went and they played golf. I don’t play golf. I was never invited to play golf. So those are things that people don’t even know. If you don’t know that’s happening, then how do you know to do it.
Diana Fryc: Yes, agree.
Kimberly Lee: And that affects women and people of color.
Diana Fryc: Yes, absolutely. It’s really easy for it to just kind of become a good old, gullible network because if that’s what happens, if they’re not thinking inclusively, then it just kind of continues the cycle and doesn’t help anybody in the long run, other than the people that are in the board. Well, let’s talk about this privilege then how does a company or brand leadership use its privilege to create changing opportunities for not just people of color but specifically women of color, of course, because that’s what gooder is all about both from an operational and from a cultural standpoint, and I might be separating two things out that are really in that.
Kimberly Lee: I think from a leadership, they have to be committed to it being in meshed because what has to happen is when you do give them the opportunity, because here’s something that has happened, that I have seen many times in my career, they bring in a black person or person of color or a woman into a role that has traditionally been a white man. They don’t give them the support from operations or anything. So that person comes to the table and they don’t know the secret source. Let’s say the operational and the little extra things that have been going on that secret source, they don’t know that, right? And so they’re at the table. But when they speak, there’s no power in what they’re saying because there are other people over here know the secret source and no, they don’t know the secret sauce. So they’re never really engaged and they think they are because they’re at the table and they’re speaking but they’re not. And so if leadership is really committed to making a difference, then they will pull those people aside and have a cup of coffee with them. Give them a little introduction to the secret source. They’ll ask them how they’re doing; they’ll actually come in their office and talk to them about their business. What’s going on in your business? What are you thinking, or what did you think about this? And really have those conversations before they get in the room so that when they come in the room, they are prepared to be at that table and know that they have this support. That’s what I see quite a bit. There’s a lot of secret I don’t want to call it secret handshakes. But there’s a lot of oh, we had this experience and then you have no idea what that means. So that’s where I think that leaders really need to hold other leaders accountable, to make sure that when you hire these people in They have a cushion to land and they have the support to really be a part of that team.
Diana Fryc: Well, tell me what you think about this; I wonder, as two thoughts here, one is, as organizations grow, and we see women and people of color and LGBTQ and people with disabilities coming into the kind of taking more and more roles within the organization, this idea of mentorship and care, and by executive sponsors that happen to be male men. White male men have to be able to be aware that that needs to happen because otherwise then the role kind of sits on the existing diverse group and that’s a heavy weight to carry. So how do we help this organization go, you don’t have to spend 40 hours a week checking in.
It’s a 15 minute conversation, oftentimes just kind of doing a check in or a monthly check in. Do you understand what I’m asking?
Kimberly Lee: I do. It’s interesting because it doesn’t happen unless they get it. Yeah, it doesn’t happen unless they get it and so I don’t know the answer, honestly. I think I’m at the point where I really believe that if watching someone be murdered on TV is not enough for you to get it, then you might not get it. And then it goes to the board and then it goes back to me, it has to go back to the consumer and the customer. Because if you don’t get it by seeing what we all see, it’s very clear, there’s a different type of movement going on because people saw that. I think if George Floyd had not been murdered on TV which is likened to a modern day lynching, if that had not happened on TV, we might not be having this conversation and a lot of stuff might not be happening or it wouldn’t be happening. I might as well say might, it would not happen.
But if that is not enough for you to start to educate yourself and say, “Wait, what else is wrong? How can I fix this? What can I do to be on the other side of history as a leader?” If you don’t care enough to do that, then there’s a special place for you. And so I don’t think other people can change that unless it’s affecting you. If it doesn’t affect you personally it’s not going to affect you intellectually, right? So that’s when you have to say, “Okay, well, this is a brand we can support and then the board gets involved to say, hey, all right, because most of the problem is this most people, like most of these companies have referral programs and they have all these other things going on where, you refer your friends and everybody’s circles or circles are pretty small. So everything has to be an effort. It has been effort to open your circle, has been effort to find people who don’t look like you. It has to be an effort and people get tired, give or take and we have short attention spans.
Again it goes back to your internal; who are you? What does your soul say? Who are you? What are you made of?
Diana Fryc: What you’re saying is true. It’s like, if you don’t have the capacity to be aware, and you don’t have the past capacity to care, it doesn’t matter if you have the knowledge that you need to change, right. The demand then has to come from customers or the consumers or the employees; if you’re REI, or PCC, you can have people right off the island.
Kimberly Lee: There needs to be more companies like that.
Diana Fryc: Yeah. It’s like Patagonians of the world. We kind of go in a little bit deeper here. I want to talk about women and in this capacity of leadership and things that are changing, we’ve got not only COVID, I’m going to talk about COVID and Black Lives Matter kind of in together because we’re right now, because of COVID. We’ve got a certain set of circumstances going on, but then also when we think about just women of color, women with disabilities, oftentimes, I wonder if that director level tends to be a cap not only because of accessibility, but also because of needing to, they’re stuck. They are responsible for the household, or they’re responsible for their parents, they’re responsible for more outside than outside of professionally, and they often get stuck making tough life and personal choices and decisions.
Kimberly Lee: It is much harder for a woman because we don’t have wives. But, of course, women have to make decisions all the time. But here’s the thing. That’s not new. We have to make decisions. Society has set it up so that we are the primary caregivers, even if we’re married, generally. We have to take care of family members, we have to do all those things. But if the system was what it should be, it would be setup no, they know that right? But it doesn’t prevent you from working. Like, I have two kids, I had to take care of three sick adults. I was 27 years old. I was single; I was taking care of three sick adults. Look, my dad had a brain tumor removed and the surgery went horribly wrong; but I did it. I figured out how to do it and because women get the job done. But I also dealt with sexism. When I was pregnant with my second child, and I was on a trip; I won’t mention the company. We haven’t talked about that company, but I had global responsibility. I was on a trip overseas. I was at a big business dinner, I was pregnant and the CEO said, “You’re going to have to figure out what type of mom you want to be. You’re sitting here at this executive dinner, and you’re pregnant when you have your child, you’re going to have to decide what kind of mom you want to be.” Do you decide what kind of mother you want to be like? That’s his problem. And it’s just like sexism, racism, it’s the same thing; its other people’s problems that we have to deal with. And so it goes back to the person who has the problem, because women figure out how to do it all. Men who have a wife at home, they’re doing all those things and it’s almost like they’re fearful that if they just gave was one hand up, we would take over the world, which we might if we were given the opportunity because we are pretty badass because we can do those things. I’m just saying.
Diana Fryc: Well, that’s funny. I don’t know why it keeps coming up as a topic, but as if you and I could solve it when really we need our male allies to be able to help fix it.
Kimberly Lee: That’s the thing. I can’t solve racism. I’m not racist, right? I’m not the one with the problem, somebody else has the problem, and they’re going to fix themselves. And it’s the same thing with women or people with disabilities. There’s always someone else who has a problem with it. I think that most of the times the problem stems from some sort of fear. Definitely when you think of the systemic racism that’s been put in place from slavery, that’s definitely from fear and greed. When you look at the south, they didn’t have an industry, their industry were slaves, right? So without the free labor, they didn’t have an industry. So your fear is, oh, we have to keep this person down. Because what happens if they apply what we know they have, because they were these experts in agriculture and came over and did this. We would have to pay them and so then we have sharecropping, and then we go from sharecropping to Jim Crow. It’s just level level level and they move north in different ways. But it’s all based on this greed and this fear and so you got to think about it. If you flip it, we’re pretty powerful as women and people of color.
We must be really powerful that these people would want to keep us down for fear that we could take their place. We don’t need to take their place. We just need equity. Why is that a problem?
Diana Fryc: Just bring me up to the side of the table.
Kimberly Lee: Yeah.
Diana Fryc: That’s right. So we talked about fear. What other common outages or hurdles do you see? Well, what other common outages and hurdles to companies and corporations make these changes difficult.
Kimberly Lee: It’s almost like so many are blatant with it, but there’s so many who aren’t and it’s really just like micro aggressions that keep people down because micro aggressions can. They are little ice, I call them little tongue cuts that become big wounds and depending on who you are; everybody is not the same. People could throw micro aggressions in me all day and I could be like I don’t know, Captain America or Wakanda- Black Panther and I’m just blocking them and I’m like, “You’re the idiot on.” It keeps me going. Or I could be one of those people who the cuts, cut, cut, cut, and I start to believe them. And I think that’s what happens sometimes, that the micro aggressions because they’re so constant and they’re such like, paper cuts are so thin. You don’t even realize that they’re happening until they’ve gotten so big and you’re sitting with this wound that you just can’t overcome and it’s all based on these stereotypes that people have. When you look at corporations and companies, people like to do unconscious bias training and the type of programming, but I don’t know how effective that is if you’re not honestly changing your thinking and your culture.
Diana Fryc: I think you have to be open to the fact that you don’t know what you don’t know, in order to be open to change. How do you know what your blinders are when by design blinders don’t let you see? It has to be presented over and over.
Kimberly Lee: It does. And that’s the thing and I tell people that all the time, there’s a way of communicating so that people can hear you and sometimes yelling is not that. Sometimes you have to just be quiet and you have to let people know that’s unacceptable. Because first time you assume, “Okay, they just don’t know.” They can’t know because if they knew they wouldn’t have done it. So let me be helpful. Let me help you. Don’t do that again and here’s why. Second time, it’s on you, it’s on yourself, and I know who I’m dealing with, and you make your decision on what you’re going to, “Okay, am I going to try to go walk or go around this person? How am I going to deal with this obstacle in my way? Because now I know they really are an obstacle and I have to come up with a plan. How do I approach that?” Each situation is really different and it goes back to sponsors and allies because if you know there’s something in your way, but you have a sponsor and ally, you can go to them because they’re your confidence, they’re your confidants, you can go to them and say, “Hey, look at my resume, look at what I’ve added to this company and this is what it looks like, I should be here. Why am I not? What can I do to get there?” And if you have true sponsors and allies, then they’re going to help you overcome those obstacles. That’s why I think it’s so important to have that in turn.
Diana Fryc: We’ve already kind of talked a little bit about what brands and companies and organizations can do to support and now we let’s talk about some things that can happen some tangible things outside of just culture, the idea of culture like okay, now what do we do to impact culture? We talked about sponsors, ally ship and mentoring. When we’re thinking about for some organizations, particularly because of either the age of the organization or
simply the size of the organization when we’re looking at something like PepsiCo or General Mills, I’m not calling anybody out specifically but when you are of that size, and you need to make changes to a behemoth brand, what are those first few steps? What are those things that people, whether it’s a small business unit within a large organization or organization at the top, or even a small company, that’s been a family owned company for generations? What are those basic first steps that we should be checking ourselves with, or changes that we can apply immediately?
Kimberly Lee: First step is to look at your values. What are the values of your company and, and pull them out and look at them and make sure the whole company knows like, these are our values. So that’s the first thing that’s the heart of your brand and if your values A are empty words and needs to be changed, then that’s where you do it because words matter. And everyone should know what those values are. Once you’ve established what your values are, then that’s your filter. So, if you are not, whether you’re large or small, if your employees, your leaders, your consumer facing materials, if they are not reflective of your values, then you know you have to change, that should be your filter. And that way it applies to everyone because values are values and then once you have the smaller subsidiaries and divisions, their values should reflect the larger values but it really comes to the heart and that’s your values. And some companies haven’t looked at their values in a long time and recently working with some of my clients, they’ve looked at their values and they’re like, whoop, that sounds good. But that’s not how we’ve been conducting ourselves. But once they went back to them and said, “Oh, but we want to, how do we do that?” That’s your step off.
Diana Fryc: Let’s talk about this kind of, I feel like we answered this a little bit, but I’m just going to ask this question in this very specific way. So I know it’s all tentative and it’s like the 47th time we’ve seen this movement or efforts towards this movement to continue to make change and it’s a three months in, so who knows what kind of impact and we’re all hopeful that it’s going to have a more significant change. But what are you seeing that has you most excited now that maybe you haven’t seen before, in regards to helping people of color and women. What are you seeing now happening that maybe you haven’t seen before? Or maybe it’s happening more than you have seen before?
Kimberly Lee: So I don’t know if I’ll say excited. But I will say encouraged. And I will say what is encouraging me is that the crowds, and the people having these conversations look different. For so long, people; black people, women, we’ve had to have conversations with each other. So black people have talked to black people about the changes that need to happen for us to move forward, women have organizations that are just for women and women talk about let’s support each other, let’s move forward and we only get so far. But now I’m seeing, when we look at the peaceful protest in some cases, there are more young white people than there are black people. You look at Portland and other places. So I think people are hearing and they’re seeing and they understand that we talk about the races like race permeates everything. But the color of my skin is not my race. Really, because when you look at scientifically we are all the same race. It’s the most genetically diverse species in the world is the fruit fly. It’s not the human being.
Diana Fryc: In fact, I heard something crazy. I heard that humans are actually more homogenized than anything other.
Kimberly Lee: Yes, they are.
Diana Fryc: On the planet like, like borderline extinction Level. I don’t know if that’s true, but is that what you heard?
Kimberly Lee: Yeah, I did research because I did a program on that and I started it. I started by asking questions, I had done the research and I wanted to understand this whole idea of race. The human race is the most marginalized, we just have different characteristics like we have different skin colors, different textures of hair; we look different, but it’s really only skin deep. So yeah I think that’s my answer.
Diana Fryc: So you’re encouraged okay. On the flip side, what are your reservations or what have you may be a little concerned, what are the watch out that we should be like? Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.
Kimberly Lee: Okay. So here’s my number one concern. People are going to get tired. I’m going to tell you a really short story because I know we’re running tight. In Spiceteria every Wednesday night we do woman to woman and we have every different type of woman. It’s just the most amazing conversation we have and then we come together and we talk about privilege, we talk about what you and I have been talking about today.
I did an experiment where I brought everyone in and I had a co-host, they didn’t know I was going to have a co-host and that person was a white female. And I said, “Okay, we’re going to split out. So all the black women are going to come into a room breakout room with me and all the white women are going to go into a breakout room with Carrie.” And we talked for about 45 minutes. And in the room with me, our number one concern was that we were all encouraged that we had allies. The crowds look different people are committed to it. They want to have conversation. Yes, yes, yes; biggest concern? They’re going to get tired. We can’t. We’ve been carrying this bag of bricks our whole lives. But people who don’t have the muscle are going to get tired. So we came back together. So what did you talk about? So I said, “I’ll go first. We talked about this, this and this, but our number one conversation was that we are concerned that our allies are going to get tired.” What did you talk about? We talked about we’re tired. So the white women in the room after six minutes of being in this fight already have acknowledged that they’re tired.
That’s where wellness and fitness and all that comes into play. If we want to bring this all together that’s really where it comes into play. Because I tell everyone, it’s okay to pause. You have to pause for self-rejuvenation, but you can’t stop, you absolutely cannot stop. You have to educate yourself. You have to be open to conversation and you have to be ready to pause whenever it’s necessary, so that you can continue the fight. Because if you don’t, then it ends and we’re right back where we were.
Diana Fryc: Keep your eye on the prize.
Kimberly Lee: That’s right.
Diana Fryc: I’m going to ask you a couple of quick questions that I always like to have here because we have covered so many things. So I tried to poke at this topic from a couple of different ways and thank you for answering those questions. I know we’re just scratching the surface, and there’s more to be done, and I have more guests that will be talking about inclusion and just taking care of everybody as I continue my podcast. So I just like to kind of step back a little bit and kind of go okay, so we’ve learned a little about you in the front. We’re learning about what’s going on, what you’re passionate about now and what your insights are for our businesses, for ourselves as people working within businesses. If you could reach back in time, this is one of my favorite ones, we could reach back in time and go, okay, if I could have known this or if I could have had this bit of advice, what would it be?
Kimberly Lee: My advice would have been you’re going to get there anyway.
So slow down, right? Because there’s nothing that happened at a certain pace that I needed to — when I would go on business trips, I never took the extra day before after, I was always working, working, because I really felt like that’s what I had to do as a black woman to get ahead. When I go back, I know what I know now, right? So I know what I need to do so that I could go back and actually enjoy more of it.
Diana Fryc: Yes, that’s a learning I still have. So I still need to learn. We just scratched the surface of your retail experience and you’ve worked with brands and retailers that we all have known we all know. Do you have some sort of interesting facts or tidbit that maybe people who don’t work in fashion or work directly in retail that you would like to share this just kind of fun or interesting little tidbit?
Kimberly Lee: About the industry?
Diana Fryc: About the industry or about shoes or about Gucci? Just something that I’m going to go have drinks tonight with my girlfriends and I’m going to go, “Did you know?”
Kimberly Lee: Well, let’s see. Okay, I don’t know if that’s all interesting. But here’s the interesting thing. So when I was brand president of Bangor, Bangor was a really tough business because they have been like the denim brand and rain. They moved middle and then nobody wants to buy those. It was a wholesale and people like Bangor are always hard. I got Kim Kardashian as Kim, Kylie and Kendall as the spokes people. So Kim was the spokesperson for the Jr. Line and Kylie and Kendall were the spokespersons for the kid’s line. We signed the contract. Oh, it was like, a couple of days I was in LA and the sex tape came out. We were already in negotiations and we just made sure we kind of increased the moral clause and we were working on a directory retail deal with one of the retailers and when they found out that I had signed Kim, everybody was like, “We’re not coming. We’re not going to buy anything.” And I just took the chance because she was really cool person. She really was a cool person. I haven’t talked to her in many years, but we took a chance we signed and then two days later, they got the deal on E and they started to tape while she worked for me and it went from people saying, “We have no desire to lines around the building to meet her.” And it turned Bangor around and made it a direct to retail brand and we turned around.
Diana Fryc: That’s crazy time synergy.
Kimberly Lee: Yeah. That was her before. That’s when she looked different and they didn’t have much money. She would wear the Bangor clothes. I can’t imagine them putting on Bangor now. But she did. She looked good and people loved her. She’s a natural. So what you see is natural.
Diana Fryc: She’s approachable and that’s what I’ve heard. I’ve not worked with her but I know that she’s super approachable in real life.
Kimberly Lee: She is. We have pictures from my son’s kindergarten, Flat Stanley project. He took flat scans; Stanley took pictures with him in different places.
Diana Fryc: That’s hilarious. Oh my Gosh, the story of your life. There’s a book right there I think. Well really quickly before we go, how do you want people to reach out to you is LinkedIn the best way or is there a different way that you want people to connect with you if they want to learn about your services?
Or just to talk to you further.
Kimberly Lee: I think LinkedIn is probably the best. LinkedIn Kimberly Lee minor, or IG, I’m on IG and that is Kimberly.L.Minor.
Diana Fryc: Okay, excellent.
Kimberly Lee: Yeah.
Diana Fryc: Great. Thank you so very much for joining me.
Kimberly Lee: You’re welcome.
Diana Fryc: I hope you had fun as it was super interesting.
Kimberly Lee: I did. I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed it and I appreciate the platform and I appreciate the conversation. I think we need to have as many conversations as possible so people can hear what they need to hear to make a difference.