From Books to Bowties: Entrepreneurs Showcase Products at Target’s Black-Owned Business Vendor Fair

February 17, 2017 - Article reads in
Vendors show their products and connect with team members at the vendor fair

Cookies and crossword puzzles. Children’s books and hair products. Fitness apps and power bowties. Those were just a few of the products visitors saw as they ventured through our Black-Owned Business Vendor Fair this month. More than 400 team members attended the event at Target Plaza Commons in Minneapolis to network, enjoy multicultural food and music, and see and sample products and services from local entrepreneurs.

Hundreds of team members milling around the event space

The fair was hosted by Target’s African American Business Council (AABC) as part of a series of Black History Month events. The council supports career development and advocacy to enrich our team’s inclusive culture. Members often share insights with our planning teams to help the business, and hosts community engagement activities throughout the year. Ahead of the celebrations, a cross-functional planning committee was formed, including members from our merchandising, marketing, product design & development, localization and supplier diversity teams.

“The idea for the fair was a light bulb moment,” says Katonya Strickland, events lead. “We were already planning a black economics forum for the team, and we wanted to expand the idea to support the community and give diverse suppliers some exposure.” Target’s commitment to working with diverse suppliers and vendors is one important way we bring our guests products and services that truly resonate.

Three vendors at their booths pitching products to passing team members

As preparations got underway, vendor recommendations came pouring in from across the team, and the lineup came together. “There’s plenty of appetite to support local businesses, but it can be so hard to find them,” says Melanie Gatewood, merchandise lead. “This event brought 16 vendors together in one place where our team members could come and learn about several black-owned businesses, many based in Minnesota.”

The Spark DJ booth and staff member

Some had already worked with Target, and others came to meet our teams for the first time. A few of the exhibitors were former Target team members who started their own businesses—among them, Renay Dossman of Fat Chance Sandwich Shop, who collaborated on the event menu, and James Jones of Spark DJ, who supplied the music.

The mix was electric. “There was so much great energy in the room that day, so much culture and local pride,” Melanie says. All throughout the space, vendors drew in curious viewers with elaborate displays, samples and interactive games to showcase their products.

The Mane Choice staff engages team members in a game to spin a wheel and win a prize

“It was inspiring to not only see the great employment culture Target has built, but to meet with category representatives and share our product attributes,” says Courtney Adeleye, founder and CEO of The Mane Choice, which offers a line of hair products at Target now. Guests to her booth could spin a wheel and win samples of several hair care products.

Read more about Target's partnership with The Mane Choice

Over the past 10 months, Target and vendor The Mane Choice have teamed up to bring guests more convenient options in the multicultural hair care aisle. The company, launched by a physician and registered nurse, offers a line of vitamin-and-mineral-infused hair products and styling tools for babies, kids and adults, designed for healthy hair growth and retention.

The brand made its debut in hard-to-find specialty stores, so when the news came out that Target would be carrying the products, word spread quickly. “Our customers were so excited that they engaged on social media with the hashtag #TheManeChoiceinTARGET,” says Founder and CEO Courtney Adeleye. “These loyal supporters have been calling, emailing and tagging Target stores to personally request the items be brought into specific locations.”

“What they did was so smart,” says Target Senior Buyer Nelly Gomez. “They challenged followers to tag themselves in pictures at Target when they found the product in store. This created a huge buzz because followers started helping each other find the product in store, encouraging each other to shop, and asking our teams to bring it in. The first week it hit stores, we basically sold out, and quickly had to expand it to more of our stores.”

Today, guests still can’t get enough of the brand’s products. “The Mane Choice is an example of what our guests today are looking for,” Nelly says. “They want brands that are innovative, nimble, and that truly understand their needs.”

“It was a great event, and we’re already thinking about how we might do more like this in the future, because it’s so important for our team to see what’s out there,” says Erika Telkamp, who led the Black Owned Business Vendor Fair event. “Having exposure to up-and-coming businesses is the only way we can land on the right mix of products and services for guests.”

Want to hear more about the work our business councils and team member networks do? Check out diversity & inclusion at Target.

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