MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — There's a story behind every brand. Behind every product, there is a person who made it possible.
During Black History Month in February, Twin Cities Co-op Partners (TCCP) will be highlighting products from Black-owned businesses featured at their co-ops.
It's part of their mission to build community by developing a strong, local food system.
"I think it's become apparent to us over the last couple of years -- and especially since this past summer with all the events surrounding George Floyd -- that while we kind of talk about building a strong, local food system, that it's not a truly equitable food system for everybody. And so one thing we really want to do is highlight a lot of the amazing local vendors that we have and highlight a lot of the Black-owned businesses, products that we sell in the store," TCCP CEO Josh Resnik said.
TCCP includes the Wedge Co-op, Linden Hills Co-op and Co-op Partners Warehouse. While both co-ops have been around for more than 45 years, they merged about 3.5 years ago.
"Anybody can shop at the co-op but about 80% of our sales are to people who are owners. Essentially you can buy a share for $80 and you get a lifelong membership to the co-op. With that membership you've got, it's truly an ownership in the business," Resnik explained.
TCCP has about 23,000 owners in the community.
After the killing of George Floyd, TCCP examined ways in which it could become a more proactively anti-racist organization. You can see a list of actions they've already taken and more plans, here.
During Black History Month, TCCP will be heavily promoting products from Black-owned businesses. It'll include displays at the front of the store and signage next to products with details on their stories.
Safésha, a local personal care products company, will be one of the businesses featured.
Sylvia Andrews started the business seven years ago. As an avid user of hand sanitizers, she was tired of how dry the products left her hands. Andrews came up with a formula that not only kills bacteria but is moisturizing.
"Once I started to do demos, people loved it and they started to buy the product. Then the pandemic happened, which made a pretty significant difference in my business," Andrews said. "Of course, who would've been prepared for a worldwide pandemic? After it happened, the product sold out everywhere."
Since then, Andrews has been able to keep up with the demand. According to Andrews, Safésha hand sanitizers are FDA registered and kill bacteria associated with COVID-19. She's now planning to expand her product line.
"The thing about having a partnership is you get exposure that you may not ordinarily get... I think Black History Month should be every month but you know the thing is during Black History Month, you get exposure that's a little different than what you might ordinarily get during the year," Andrews said. "I would encourage other companies that may not use Black-owned businesses, to think about it and support it because I think what you do for others, it certainly will help other Black businesses to do things for their communities as well."
TCCP has other ongoing efforts to create a greater sense of equity in the Twin Cities. Since July 2020, they have focused on providing thousands of meals per week to those in need across the Twin Cities.
"One of the biggest things on my mind is the inequities in the food system and the fact of the matter is that Black Minnesotans suffer from food insecurity at double the rate of white Minnesotans. So we've gotten behind and partnered with Minnesota Central Kitchen since this past summer and our kitchens have made over 60,000 meals to those in need to help with hunger relief efforts in the Twin Cities," Resnik said.
TCCP's Change Matters program — where customers round up at the register — helps raise money for local nonprofits. For the rest of the year, they're partnering with organizations that empower BIPOC communities. You can see the full list, here.
TCCP is partnering with several other co-ops to feature a virtual panel discussion on the TPT documentary "Jim Crow of the North" on Feb. 17 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The documentary delves into the history of racial covenants in the Twin Cities and its lasting impact on housing inequities today. You can find more information on the upcoming panel, here.
Know a local business we should feature for our Behind the Business segment? Email Heidi Wigdahl at firstname.lastname@example.org.