Meet Jamii: the company changing the way we shop Black-owned businesses

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Hanna Ibraheem
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The second Black Pound Day is this weekend. Here’s an easy way to shop some incredible Black-owned brands.

Over the last few months, many of us have been making a conscious effort to purchase products from Black-owned brands. However, as the headlines shift and global news moves on, it’s vital that this continues.

This weekend marks the second Black Pound Day (1 August), an initiative that encourages consumers to spend their money towards Black-owned businesses. Spurred on by the Black Lives Matter movement and its resurgence at the end of May, Black Pound Day is an excellent way to support the Black community economically and ignite change against systemic racism outside of politics.

It makes a massive difference, too. On the first ever Black Pound Day (27 June), which was spearheaded by So Solid Crew member Swiss, Black-owned businesses in the UK saw record levels of sales. In fact, businesses made between 58%-124% of their previous month’s revenues on Black Pound Day alone, according to a report by Jamii, a marketplace and platform championing Black-owned businesses, and Translate Culture, a data and marketing agency.

“We found that there was a huge surge in sales for the Black community, as people were buying products even in areas like Exeter and Cardiff, where we hadn’t really sold anything before,” says Khalia Ismain, founder of Jamii.

This surge carried on into July. In fact, people are still buying now. It’s really exciting. These brands create such great products – they just need that one chance.”

To help make this become part of our day-to-day shopping habits, Ismain created Jamii, an online marketplace that allows the public to consciously and conveniently shop over 180 British Black-owned brands. This includes beauty, fashion lifestyle and much more.

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“It started back in August 2016 and it initially started as a passion project but now it’s full-time,” Ismain tells Stylist.

“The first wave of the Black Lives Matters movement [in 2013] was just as powerful [as the resurgence in 2020] and it had a massive impression on me and lots of other people. So I thought: ‘what can I do as an individual?’.

“Back then [in 2013], everyone was talking about supporting Black businesses but it’s a lot easier said than done.

“I had to travel for 20 minutes out of my area, shop and then 20 minutes back again. It wasn’t sustainable.”

“Also, even now, a lot of people are doing it as protest action and we don’t want it to stop when the headlines die down. If it’s not built into daily life, it’s hard to keep up that momentum.”

Ismain realised a lot of Black-owned business directories were outdated and the links weren’t working, so she decided to create her own.

Jamii – which means “community” in Swahili – works on a discount card model, so customers pay £14.95 a year to access discounts across the brands it sells. The card can be used on Jamii’s website, the brand’s own website and the brand’s own physical stores. It saves you up to 40% off your purchases and can also be used as many times as you like – in fact, the more the better.

“As well as encouraging people to come back, discount offers a positive way to encourage certain behaviours,” explains Ismain. “Rather than have people think about shopping with Black businesses because of traumatic headlines, it’ll be more sustainable and a part of everyday life with repeatable purchases, not surges.”

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One category that is particularly popular on Jamii is the beauty section. Haircare brands performed particularly well on the first Black Pound Day. One company that saw an impact on business was online Afro haircare marketplace Hair Popp.

“Black Pound Day gives Black business owners an opportunity to really connect with their target customers and share more about their business,” Dominique Lescott, founder of Hair Popp, said in the report.

“It’s two sided, it’s not just an opportunity for Black people and other communities to shop with Black-owned businesses, but also for our businesses to show up and demonstrate the value of our products or services.

“Black Pound Day alone made up nearly 30% of our sales in June. The Black community really showed up.”

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Alongside haircare, Jamii also sells make-up and skincare under its beauty section. “All of the skincare brands work with natural ingredients. A lot of them are sustainable and vegan, too. These small businesses really care about their products and they care about the world as well,” says Ismain.

“Some of my personal favourites include Narloa’s Balancing Face Oils, £20 – I used to be really bad with my skincare and I swear by them now, even to the point where my mum started taking my oil – and Kiya Cosmetics.

“What I love about Kiya is that Kay [Amoah, the brand’s founder] takes shea butter and whips it until it’s soft with a mousse-like texture. She also adds different scents to it, like lavender and peppermint. The smells are so refreshing.”

Jamii will be hosting a pop-up shop featuring 22 Black-owned businesses across beauty, fashion, lifestyle and more. The pop-up shop will be located at Boxpark, Shoreditch and open Wednesday 5 August – Saturday 8 August at 11am-7pm and Sunday 9th August at 12pm-6pm.

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