When Nana Agyemang got her start as a journalist covering the fashion industry in 2016, she often found herself the sole Black woman in a sea of white faces. Five years later, fashion media’s diversity issue remains unchanged. That’s why Agyemang launched EveryStylishGirl, an inclusive media company with a focus on advancing opportunities for women of color in fashion, business and beauty.
Now with her latest venture, EveryStylishGirl Biz, which includes a comprehensive database of talented Black and Brown creatives that she personally vetted, Agyemang is on a mission to literally change the face of fashion and media.
Amy Shoenthal: How did you come up with the idea for EveryStylishGirl?
Nana Agyemang: I got my masters degree in Journalism from Columbia University because I’ve always been passionate about covering stories about the lives of Black women. I wanted to ensure that the news we read reflects the diverse world we live in. When I started my career in media (which has included writing for The New York Times, ELLE and currently New York Magazine,) I always noticed the lack of Black and Brown women in media and fashion positions. That’s why I wanted to create a robust career advancement program. Our mission is to continue helping women of color get access to these industries.
When I was hired as the first Black person on the social team at The Cut, I increased their Instagram following through an 80% growth rate and doubled the audience from 500,000 to 1 Million followers over the course of a year. And you better believe I hired other Black people to work with me once I was there. I recruited someone who now runs the account, and she’s awesome.
This past June I launched EveryStylishGirlBiz, a resource for women who want to change the world of business and how it looks. We post job listings on there. Recently, we posted a Buzzfeed job listing. They were looking for someone on their social team. A Black Muslim woman messaged me the other day to say that after taking a one-year gap from work, she was just hired at Buzzfeed because of that listing.
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That touched my heart because I didn’t have those opportunities when I started out in the media industry. It’s so moving to me that I’m doing that for other women. It’s powerful because it’s proof that the talent is there. She just applied, just like everyone else just applies. But she had this access that didn’t exist before.
Shoenthal: What obstacles did you face when you started out?
Agyemang: There is a huge disconnect between my experiences in media as a Black woman and the experience of my white counterparts in the media. Oftentimes, when I tried to pitch ESG to mainstream fashion media companies, I was told no or ignored because the editors I was pitching to didn’t face the same bias obstacles I was trying to debunk. I remember sending 50 emails a week for media coverage and not getting one response.
Even now it feels like a pull to get major media and fashion corporations to incorporate diversity into their company hires. However, after five years of pushing for inclusion, I am finally seeing some movement.
Shoenthal: Why do you think you’re finally starting to see movement now?
Agyemang: Our most noticeable breakthrough came during the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement last Spring. We had luxury fashion companies knocking on our doors and media establishments emailing us to sign up for our women of color talent directory. It was the first time we had multiple financial commitments at one time. It was truly a remarkable moment because we went from sending 50 emails a week and being overlooked to being overbooked.
There’s still a lot of work to do though. While there’s definitely more awareness that you ‘should’ be more diverse, and there’s a lot of talk, there isn’t always action. That’s where the frustration is coming from. We’re not seeing companies or people taking anti-racism courses. When we talk about being performative, this is what we mean.
That’s why we expanded efforts by launching EveryStylishGirlBiz. I wanted to create a platform for women of color looking to reshape the world of business. We provide career counseling, grants and visibility for local Black owned businesses and our proudest tool: a global HR directory filled with talented Black and Brown professional women who specialize in media and fashion. It’s built for companies to recruit diverse hires.
I stress to companies all the time to not just sponsor my Sip N’ Slay events, but sign up for the directory. We’ve vetted the talent, the resources are there. So far Cosmo and Amazon have signed up, so it’s great to see that some brands are following through.
Shoenthal: How does the directory work?
Agyemang: There’s about 25 different categories between media and fashion, from copy editor to stylist to designer. When you go into the directory, it shares candidates’ LinkedIn profiles, it tells you how many years they’ve worked, where they’re located and it has photos of them. We had 700 applicants but only accepted 250. We’re going to accept more and more people on a rolling basis.
It’s only me and one other person vetting talent for the directory, so it takes time. I’ve hired so many people myself over the years so I know what most brands are looking for.
We have a range of options depending on your company’s size. We start at $1,000 for a company under 50 employees and the pricing scales from there. When a company signs up, they get access to unlimited job postings and newsletter postings. We do individual job postings too, if your company just wants a one-time job post.
Shoenthal: About a year ago, you spoke on a panel at my firm about paying influencers equitably. You said, ‘companies are quick to pay Black influencers less, but there are fewer of us, so they should actually pay us more.’ Can you tell me if anything has improved since then?
Agyemang: Yes. I think there’s been a huge improvement due to the resurgence of Black Lives Matter. We’ve seen a huge growth in awareness of pay equity, inclusion and diversity. More brands have reached out to me, but I’m still seeing a lot of gifting opportunities and ‘in kind’ donations which is annoying because they missed the point – we don’t want gifts or opportunities. We want to be paid.
Black consumers’ buying power is 1.3 trillion according to Neilsen. That’s a lot of money for brands to ignore.
Shoenthal: What are you most excited about right now?
Agyemang: We want to transform ESG from a fashion and media platform into a career advancement network. We’re looking for event sponsors but also investors. We’re excited about building diverse and important companies and continuing to add to our robust directory.
We also have a mentorship program which is a 10-week program for women who want to break into the media industry. It’s so challenging to get an internship in media, so we offer a free course where we set women up for success. We’ve had women graduate from the program who now work at Harper’s Bazaar, Buzzfeed, Refinery29 and more.
What’s so amazing about this training program is that even though a lot of ‘graduates’ go to work at corporations, a lot of them will eventually launch their own companies. A majority of them are freelancing too and some are even working with me. They became their own CEOs.
Following our last Sip N’ Slay event we received a testimony from Chrissy Rutherford, where she reflected on her time at our event by saying, ‘Sometimes it feels hard to celebrate the wins and the good stuff that’s happened this year because the world’s in constant turmoil, but I do feel immense gratitude. I’m just one of so many Black women who are trying to carve out new paths for themselves-and no matter the industry, I think we all share a common goal in trying to create more spaces for those that look like us.’
This quote meant a lot to me because that is exactly why I started ESG. To use my platform to create more equitable opportunities and spaces for women of color to not only get the visibility they deserve, but to thrive within their light and power.
Shoenthal: What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Agyemang: Gabrielle Union famously said, ‘Don’t wait for someone to invite you to their table. Make your own table.’
Shoenthal: What advice would you give to others starting their own business?
Agyemang: Stick to your goal. A lot of people will share their ideologies and try to shape yours but stick with your plan. Stay resilient and stay innovative. Change will come and you’ll succeed.