Nikki Porcher: Founder of Buy From a Black Woman
Sometimes I end up in a conversation or working on a project and I can’t believe how lucky I am to be living that moment. That was my feeling as I spoke on the phone with Nikki Porcher, founder of Buy From a Black Woman. I’ve always found it hard to interview on the phone but talking to Nikki was like chatting with an old friend. It was impossible to be nervous with her energy pouring though the line and putting me at ease. Her laugh was infectious and her sense of humor had me smiling for most of the call. It was easy to see why she chose to devote her time to lifting up other women—she was so darn good at it.
I started our interview (which we both agreed later was more of a conversation) by asking Nikki for the Buy From a Black Woman (BFABW) origin story. Like many women, Nikki believes in the power of the universe. Everyone has a purpose but you have to be willing to ask what your purpose is—and then be willing to listen for an answer. That answer came for Nikki after missing a flight a couple years ago. She took it as a sign that she was meant to be still. Soon after, she was at a bazar in Atlanta, where she lives, and found herself one of the only Black Women in the place—including the women selling their wares. She noticed that these items were wickedly over-priced… and selling out. She thought, “this is crazy, know Black Women aren’t doing this. I’m going to start a blog.” Her blog started by just shopping at stores owned by Black Women and sharing her experience. People started sending her recommendations and her following grew. In 2016 she started Buy From a Black Woman as a non-profit and posted a registry of businesses owned by Black Women.
My only experience with BFABW was using their business registry so I was delighted to listen as Nikki told me about the other ways BFABW supports women. She told me that it costed her about $500 to get her non-profit up and running—buy the website domains, business cards, paperwork, etc. $500 isn’t nothing to a lot of people and she wondered how many women were held back from getting their business off the ground because they didn’t have access to the start-up money needed. BFABW started giving out scholarships of $500 to Black Women looking to start their own business. At the time of our conversation Nikki and her network had helped 6 women in two years to get their start.
The other major contribution BFABW makes is what Nikki calls “Empowerment Pop-ups.” I got choked up on the phone listening to her talk about this and I’ve teared up every time I’ve talked about it since. Empowerment Pop-ups is when she picks a business and reaches out to her network with a date and time to be at that business. It’s a surprise to the owner. People flood the store taking pictures, buying things, writing love notes about the business. Nikki put all this into a book for the business owner. Owning a business can be exhausting and has a lot of ups and downs. When these women were feeling like it was too hard, Nikki wanted them to remember how appreciated they are, “you have a village behind you, you have a tribe standing behind you.” This is what feminism is.
Speaking of feminism, I asked Nikki what feminism meant to her. “It’s just knowing that women have the same rights as everybody else. It shouldn’t’ be something that we have to question. I don’t understand why that is still a debate or still an issue. We’re showing that we’re not only doing the same thing, we’re exceeding expectations and going above and beyond. People should be trying to catch up with us.” Then I asked her if she would call herself a feminist and I got what I expected—hesitation. “I’m a supporter of women and of Black Women but I don’t know… I’m here for women, I think women are amazing. I wouldn’t want to be a man. Am I a feminist? I don’t know. I guess I am.” Most of the women of color who I’ve asked this question of responded in a similar way—agree with the principles of feminism but don’t know if they are ready to use the same label as white women who have been complicit at best and active at worst in the oppression of women of color. We talked about white women who say they are interested in supporting women and then act in discriminatory ways towards women of color. “They are not in the same battlefield that I am, they’re not even concerned about my battle.”
At one point Nikki said, “It’s not about me. I know I’m being used as a tool. I don’t ever want to lose sight of that.” While I appreciate her humility and deference to the greater good, a bigger picture, I think it is about her. She is an example for all of us. She saw a need, something that was missing and would make the world better for women, to lift other women up, so she met that need. She is a mother, an art teach in a middle school (bless her), and a veteran of the Air Force. She could have easily said “I’ve done enough,” and no one would have blamed her. But what Nikki did was ask the universe what her purpose was and then listened for an answer.
Article by Claire Ryder
VERVE Operative USA & Humanitarian Activist