Politics and Business Don’t Mix…or Do They?
Talking politics in business is usually considered a bad idea. After all, each of us grew up differently, with a specific set of morals and beliefs. Very few people can have a calm, non-judgmental conversation when it comes to opposing politics. So it’s best just to not say anything…
That is, until Donald Trump entered the campaign trail.
The Trump campaign (and now, presidency) has been littered with veiled and not-so-veiled racism, sexism, and elitism; whether you’re a Democrat, Republican or hippy Liberal like me, none of those things belong in our country. Period.
As this whole presidential mess has unfolded, I have witnessed my friends cope in two starkly different ways. Some of them have turned off their televisions since November 8 and refuse to go on Facebook, to avoid reading any political posts that will totally ruin their day. And the other camp watches and reads every little comment, every infuriating Tweet and sickening press conference, allowing themselves to resort to full-blown anger. Those are the types that believe if they stop being angry, they’ll become complacent, which is a slippery slope.
One friend in particular, who historically will not watch anything related to Trump, recently told me that he’s starting to turn on the news. The reason is that we are living through history and he’s decided not to “turn off” as a human being. He voiced the heart of the issue for me: we certainly can’t turn off as human beings, but we can’t walk around angry all the time either. Arianna Huffington spoke about exactly this in her recent piece, How to Get Out of the Cycle of Outrage in a Trump World.
Despite how debilitating it might feel, none of us are powerless. Some businesses are starting to take their outrage and transform it into something positive. Facebook, Apple, Google and Microsoft are just some of the huge names speaking out about Trump’s travel ban on Muslims, but you don’t need to be an international player or household name to make your voice heard. More and more small businesses are joining in the fight as well.
One such company is Studio 15, a fashion-forward clothing label for millennial women. The company’s Founder and CEO, Jia Wertz, is the daughter of Muslim parents, who immigrated to Canada from Libya when she was young. While in Toronto, she met her American husband and moved to New York City to start her fashion business. She not only employs women in this country, but also supports the creation of female-owned startups in Africa, through a profit-sharing program.
Feeling that it was time to speak out on the recent actions of the Trump administration, as a woman and as an immigrant, Wertz decided to launch
The Future is Female Collection on “(Not My) President’s Day”, a creative way of displaying her opposition to the blatant sexism and xenophobia perpetuated by the current administration.
But, do politics and business mix? Wertz used to believe in keeping politics away from her company, but given the hatred being unearthed, she believes that the time for polite talk is over.
“I think this is a moment in our history where at some point we will each have to account for where we stood and what we did as the founding principles of this country where challenged,” she says. “I want to be on the right side of history both professionally and personally and that will be reflected in our company.”
Studio 15’s mission is female empowerment through fashion, whether that be through the funding they provide for female entrepreneurs in Africa, or by offering high-quality, affordable garments to women from all walks of life. Knowing that her company is joining the collective voices trying to make a difference helps Wertz to stay positive.
“This is an issue we felt we need to speak up about,” says Wertz. “We hope to give women a way to make their voices heard while at the same time, supporting women in need.”
Will the launch of her latest controversial clothing line and clear political stance turn some customers away? Probably. But to many others it will bring hope. Transparency in companies is one of the qualities millennials value most, along with social responsibility. Studio 15’s latest launch not only makes a personal statement, but also gives like-minded Gen-Y females the chance to rally around a cause. What may have been seen as a risky move pre-Trump might just prove to be an effective marketing strategy as well.
Whoever said that politics and business don’t mix may want to start opening their eyes — and voice — to a new generation of customers.