Doing the Work: How Macy's Is Investing in Women and Minority-Owned Brands

If you’ve been watching the OWN Network’s highly addictive Mind Your Business with Mahisha, you’re no doubt familiar with The Foot Nanny, the latest business to benefit from beauty guru Mahisha Dellinger’s guidance. The Aug. 25 episode introduced us to Gloria Williams, who’d built her business upon a rare and huge endorsement from none other than Oprah—but was still struggling to leverage her visibility into sustainable success.


That is, until Dellinger introduced the entrepreneur to new resources and potential partners, like the executives at Macy’s. Nata Dvir, general business manager for beauty, and Shawn Outler, executive vice president of licensed businesses, food services and multicultural initiatives, sat down with Williams to hear her pitch, test her products and explore the possibility of getting her product onto the famed department store’s shelves.

It’s a dream come true for any growing beauty brand, but cultivating businesses like Foot Nanny is the goal of The Workshop at Macy’s Business Development Program for Women and Minority Owned Businesses. Speaking with The Glow Up, Outler discussed the inspiration behind the annual weeklong program, which was launched in 2011 and “designed to give select high potential minority and women owned businesses the tools to succeed and sustain growth in the industry.”

We really believe that we’re our best when [Macy’s] reflects the rich diversity of our colleagues, our customers, and our communities. So it is part of our overall corporate values and how we approach our business. ...

As we looked at the vendors we were doing business with and our internal partners, we just thought there was tremendous opportunity for us to take a lead in the space and to help companies who we thought had great products really figure out how to take make the leap into doing great business and sustaining that business, so out of that was born the workshop.

Illustration for article titled Doing the Work: How Macy's Is Investing in Women and Minority-Owned Brands
Photo: Courtesy of Macy’s

The Workshop at Macy’s works in partnership with Babson College, Facebook and a panel of financial experts, leveraging their tools to educate participants on the foundations of financial management, how to achieve and maintain financial fitness, build a brand presence, craft a pitch and gain access to much-needed capital. Carol’s Daughter founder Lisa Price has also been a longtime adviser, helping to craft the program and teaching an opening day master class based on her own experiences growing a small business into a multimillion dollar empire.


To date, the program has trained 110 companies. But as Outler explained, not all end up on the shelves of Macy’s or sister store Bloomingdale’s:

There are plenty of other participants who we aren’t doing business with who have gone on to do tremendous business with others in the industry and have grown their business—some have gone from $40,000 to $40 million. ... Everything isn’t suited for us, and we’re okay with that. ... It really is about fostering a pipeline of viable resources for the entire industry.


To get real-time feedback on how its participants’ products resonate, Macy’s hosts a mid-workshop showcase, and launched a Workshop at Macy’s “sitelet” in June to enable customers to purchase merchandise from past participants. And for brands who want to test their products on the Macy’s selling floor independent of the workshop, the Market at Macy’s allows brands to pay an upfront fee for a pop-up marketplace with all the resources and support a seller needs within a store location.

As Dvir explained, “This really helps the brands elevate and be prepared to do more business; whether that’s with Macy’s or any retailer.”

The Workshop at Macy’s inaugural program in 2011.

Outler told us it’s all part of a nearly decadelong initiative to make Macy’s a more inclusive space for all, focusing on increasing the minority and women-owned presence on both the retail floor and throughout their supply chain.


But despite Macy’s efforts towards inclusion behind the scenes, they—like many other retailers—have faced accusations of racism from customers of color. A 2013 “stop and frisk”-style incident in their flagship store in New York City, resulted in a settlement with Treme actor Rob Brown; and in May of this year, a California woman accused the store of racial profiling after a salesperson mistakenly accused her of stealing.

When asked about their response to the two incidents, Radina Russell, Group VP of Corporate Communications and External Relations for Macy’s, told The Glow Up:

At Macy’s, we want all of our customers to feel welcome and enjoy a great experience in our stores. We haven’t always gotten this right, but are continuously working to get better every day. The situation in 2013 led us to implement the policies we now have in place, including our Customer Bill of Rights, enhanced colleague training and quick remediation process led by our public affairs monitor. And when we are wrong, as we were in the recent situation, we take ownership of our mistakes, apologize to our customers, and quickly take the necessary steps to make it right.


In addition to better policies and training, one also hopes more inclusion and representation throughout Macy’s ranks and vendors will help mitigate incidents like these as the retailer moves forward.

And how is Macy’s moving forward with Gloria Williams and her brand? As Dvir excitedly explained, she and Outler were impressed enough to include Williams in the 2019 Workshop at Macy’s—and to launch Foot Nanny online and in 10 select locations earlier in August.


Said Dvir:

When we heard her pitch we were really excited about the opportunity, and we love the product—for us, the product always comes first. And so we really worked on how we [could] launch the brand within Macy’s. ... we really thought about “How do we really take the brand to the next level and give her all the benefits of what the workshop offers?”


Maiysha Kai is managing editor of The Glow Up, host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast and Big Beauty Tuesdays, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow some sugar?



Sounds like maybe I should set foot into a Macy’s again? I wonder if I can get the Monif C. stuff locally, it’s gorgeous.