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Nathaniel Wade is the co-founder of Wakuda, an online marketplace championing Black-owned businesses. Here, he tells Working Dads how to build an ethical company which thinks about the wider community.
As fathers, building socially conscious businesses is essential for us to build the foundations for a better future for the next generation. The murder of George Floyd was the catalyst for my co-founder Albert Larter and I to launch our business, Wakuda. The global shift in awareness of the disparities faced by the Black community was something we wanted to create a real positive impact for our community. We decided to build something where our skill sets aligned. We wanted to transform the way shoppers of all backgrounds discovered and accessed Black-owned brands.
So how can fathers build socially conscious businesses? Here’s some points to consider.
The pandemic has changed the way that we work forever. A flexible, agile approach is needed to create access to a wide and diverse talent pool. Is hybrid working an option? How are outputs being measured? What is the company policy if you have a sick child? Or if you simply want to watch your child in a performance? Some parents just want to be present and there should be some flexibility on how that can be achieved.
This can be hard to measure for some businesses, but looking at the simple things is a great place to start:
The reality is that employees across industries, demographics and tenure have always been taking mental health days. They sometimes have been hidden under the guise of “feeling sick,” “family emergencies,” and other reasons. They may not feel physically ill, but they simply need to have a time out. As businesses, we need to be empathetic towards our teams. Because the truth is, sometimes, you can’t explain how you feel, you just need to exhale. Building a socially conscious business is about recognising this and giving your team the time to breathe without feeling guilty or fear of being punished. Mental health days are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s crucial we create a culture that supports mental health at work consistently.
There is nothing wrong with creating a profitable business and enjoying the financial benefits of this. One of the great things that this does is give the opportunity to give back. There are community projects that could benefit from support and government funding and grants are becoming limited. Community centres have pretty much vanished from our landscape, but socially conscious businesses can give back to causes that are close to their hearts. This certainly doesn’t have to be monetary. This can be giving back time through mentorship or advisory roles. Review the impact you are making at a local level and regularly assess this to make sure you’re continuing to create a positive impact.
To me, being socially conscious is about awareness. It is acknowledging that individuals in your team are unique and deserve the same respect you require of them. It entails compassion and empathy, understanding that, for your interests to be realisable, you need other people in your team and even beyond. Take development courses, encourage your team to develop not simply one area they work in, but so they can be up to date with issues that affect us all. Ignorance is not an excuse. I think as leaders, we all have the obligation to try to leave the world in a better place than we found it for future generations. This starts with being socially conscious.