My daughter and I decided to open a natural parenting store in February of 2017. After considering several possibilities, we decided on the name, Crunchy Boutique. Crunchy Boutique sounded right to us as we knew we would cater to the natural parenting community – members of which are often referred to as “crunchy.”
When we started this journey, we never considered our skin color. We never intended to market solely to the Black community nor market only to the White community. We wanted to reach the natural parenting community. We were obviously a bit naïve in our thinking that color would not be a factor.
After we had found a location for our boutique, we began to reach out to wholesalers so that we could stock our store. Each vendor had their own application process. We completed application after application. The vast majority of the vendors approved us. Some require that you be in business for a specific period of time before being eligible to carry their products. Others said that they weren’t taking any new retailers, but they would put us on their “wait list.” But then there was Baby Tula.
We applied to Baby Tula so that we could carry their baby carriers. What parenting store would be complete without baby carriers? We’d already been approved by several other baby carrier companies, so we figured Baby Tula’s application was simply a formality. That’s what we thought until we received their response, which was an email saying, “We decided that Crunchy Boutique was just not a good fit at this time.” Puzzled, we inquired further. After all, their application said that we simply needed:
- A valid business license (check)
- Cannot operate on a pre-order or co-op basis (check)
- Must have a hosted website (check)
- Must have a brick and mortar location (check)
- Must be located in a geographic area that does not currently have other Baby Tula retailers (check)
- Prepayment is required for all wholesale orders (of course)
In their response, they simply reiterated the same criteria as listed above and ended with, “We encourage you to reapply in the next few months as you have met most of our requirements!” No, Baby Tula, we met ALL of your requirements.
So, this leaves one to wonder, why aren’t we a good fit? We’ve looked at the list of Baby Tula’s retailers. Their carriers are in stores ranging from Target to natural parenting stores to women’s clothing stores. If our natural parenting store is not a good fit, but other natural parenting stores are – what makes us different? There’s only one obvious difference – skin color.
Now, I am not one to “play the race card.” I’m proud of who I am. I love being Black. I get angry, and I hurt when I hear about racial injustices. But because of my personality, I’m not out there marching. I’m saying that to say that for me to address this blatant racist decision and not simply ignore it is big. It means, “No, Baby Tula, I’m not going to let you ignore it either.”
Understand this – when you told us that we could not sell your carriers, what you really said was, “We are going to limit your ability to compete in the marketplace.” And that is the case because EVERYONE else sells Baby Tula. It’s not some exclusive brand that you can only find in a handful of stores. Baby Tula is everywhere – except at Crunchy Boutique.
To further confirm this point, last week a woman came in with her Baby Tula carrier and a newborn. She didn’t know how to fit her newborn in the carrier and someone told her to bring the carrier to us and we would help her. Obviously, neither of them knew that Baby Tula is nowhere to be found in Crunchy Boutique. Instead of telling the woman about you declining us, we plastered smiles on our faces and assisted the lady. We didn’t denigrate the Baby Tula brand and try to get her to buy another carrier; we helped her with YOUR carrier.
Please do not misunderstand our position. You have the absolute right to sell to whomever you choose. You have the right to decline stores like Crunchy Boutique. It’s your business; that makes the decision completely yours. While you have the right to say, “no,” we also have the right to expose you.
We’ve emailed. We’ve tweeted. We’ve not received an explanation. That’s what we want.