We spoke with four incredibly talented Black women running their own businesses in the UK wedding and events industry, to listen to their experiences and find out how the industry can make long-term change to become the diverse and representative space we need it to be.
1. Chloe Ainsley, Chloe Ainsley Creative
Chloe Ainsley is the Owner and Chief Designer at Chloe Creative, where she creates modern eco-friendly stationery and art prints. Her designs are chic and style-focused, attracting creative souls and interior lovers to her beautifully unique designs. We’re proud to have Chloe Creative as a listed supplier on our directory, you can view her listing here.
Here’s what Chloe had to say about her experience in the industry as a black woman business owner.
Personally, for me there’s not much difference in experience between the “general” wedding industry and the sustainable segment of the wedding industry. There’s still under representation in most publications, blogs, websites, at wedding showcases/events and styled shoots. That being said so far, I haven’t experienced any direct discrimination or nastiness. I’m used to being the only black face when participating in wedding industry activities but have attended a couple of shoots which have had black male models. I don’t yet know of any UK-based black wedding professionals who specialise in sustainability but I’m still relatively new to the eco-space so hopefully over time I’ll make some discoveries!
Businesses need to commit time to research and be aware that making changes will be ongoing. Suppliers need to spend time thinking about why they’re not reaching a black audience or why they cater to a predominantly white audience. Explore what barriers may have been put up unintentionally to make the black community think that they can’t have access to their product or service.
Put yourself in a black person’s shoes and ask yourself how you would feel if you didn’t see yourselves represented in any way. Images is the easiest place to start making changes by including a mixture of skin tones in your marketing if you use images of people while being mindful of tokenism. Be willing to experiment and make mistakes, you’ll receive top marks for being receptive to innovation. You don’t really have anything to lose – in fact you could end up growing your customer base!
2. Kate Kashiri, Kate Wren Flowers
Kate Kashiri owns and runs floristry business, Kate Wren Flowers. Kate’s floral designs are elegant & fabulous, using eco-friendly methods to create beautiful designs for style savvy couples. Kate is one of our incredible suppliers listed on Little Green Book, and you can find her listing here.
Kate spoke to us about her experiences in the industry as a black woman business owner, outlined below.
Being a black woman in UK sustainable wedding industry in a predominantly white audience has been a mixture of positives and negatives. I have met couples who have trusted me with their weddings and have looked beyond my skin colour to what I was capable of achieving. I really appreciate them so much. I have also met white suppliers who have opened up their arms and gave me a seat on their tables.
I have also come across couples who when they knew that I was the wedding florist were not interested in my services.
If you are a white supplier and you want your work to be inclusive your work should reflect it. Some black couples do not reach out to white suppliers as they cannot see any pictures of black couples on your websites or social media feeds.
3. Colline, Colline’s Kitchen
Colline is the powerhouse behind Colline’s Kitchen, a serene space and catering company that aims to be one of the top cafés in Newbury and the go to place for healthy and sustainable food. Colline is a listed Little Green Book supplier, and you can read more about her eco-friendly catering business here.
Here’s what Colline had to say about her experience opening her business.
I have personally been very very blessed to not have been discriminated. I have had so much support from my local community, thank you guys so much. And it’s been so overwhelming because I feel like people have accepted me. But, I almost didn’t start my businesses, because I had to second guess myself, I had to think so much if it was the right thing to do to open up a business as a Black Woman in a very White community. I had to think, are people going to accept me, are people going to support me, are people going to want to buy from me. And the fact that, if you are a business owner and that doesn’t even cross your mind, you are very privileged.
4. Chenai Bukutu, ByChenai Events
Chenai is a UK Wedding Planner who creates perfectly stylish weddings and events, planned to perfection. A natural extrovert who enjoys working with people, with a corporate background in Supply Chain management, Chenai uses the logistical skills she has developed alongside her love for the creative to help busy, stylish couples based in the UK and further afield, have the weddings and parties they dream of.
Chenai shared her experiences and advice on how the industry can do better below.
I have had an overall positive experience in the UK wedding industry as a black business owner, I’ve formed great friendships and business relationships within this industry that I care for deeply but I know that experience is not shared by a lot of my peers who feel invisible and at times overlooked by those of influence in this industry.
The key message in all conversations I’ve had during this time and as a result of this movement is that we all know that representation of black , brown and non white brides is poor in bridal media. That’s an easy place to start, encouraging submissions from black brides/grooms as well as suppliers. Using non white contributors for wedding related content so no bride feels excluded- examples being hair and makeup for example where more often than not, those advice pieces are aimed purely at their white counterparts. This will also bust the myth that having black models/brides will make any publication less aspirational.
The key takeaways here for the industry as a whole is long-term action over short-term reaction. Implement long term strategies that will diversify your business. Look through your list of booked styled shoots and think about ways you can incorporate black wedding businesses and models. Show representation. Never stop learning about how to be actively anti-racist. Read the books, watch the documentaries, and pay for services and products from black businesses.
Tomorrow, June 27th is Black Pound Day. So get your bank cards ready and purchase products and services from black-owned businesses both locally and online.
With thanks to Chenai, Colline, Chloe and Kate for being part of this blog post. Take a look at their Instagram accounts below: