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Open To All: Your Story of Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity and inclusion – how far have we come along?
When Open To All launched in June 2020, the campaign was meant to celebrate our diverse workforce in time for Pride Month. It also served as an opportunity for us to reinforce the value of inclusion in the work culture that we thrive in and continue to cultivate.
Then we opened the conversation to the UPrinting community and it has since evolved into a compelling conversation filled with insight and inspiration. More importantly, we got to know the small businesses and organizations in our community who are at the fore of building diverse and inclusive communities.
Championing Diversity and Inclusion
What is diversity and inclusion? And how vital is the role of small businesses in fostering these values?
According to Global Diversity Practice, diversity is about empowering people by respecting and appreciating what makes them different. Inclusion, put simply, is a sense of belonging – making people feel respected and valued for who they are as an individual or group.
For years, small businesses and organizations have opened their doors to provide opportunities for everyone, to create products and services that are available to all, and to provide a space where everyone is welcome.
Open To All aims to shine the spotlight on these companies and nonprofits and the inclusive communities they have built and support. These are their stories.
Providing equal opportunity is a cornerstone of an inclusive community.
MSCL. T founder, Johnny De La Cruz, was born and raised in Brooklyn. In his part of town, there were many like him who never had the opportunity to do what others consider to be the “norm”, like going to college or visiting and experiencing other cities and cultures.
Despite missing out on these opportunities growing up, Johnny held on to something else, something that he thanks his parents for: ownership.
“I was born to Dominican parents who owned and operated a small grocery store, what we called a “bodega”, in Brooklyn. Watching my parents work from sunup to sundown taught me the importance of ownership. We never had a lot of money, but my parents had freedom.”
This freedom, according to Johnny, gave his parents control over their time. There was no asking permission from anyone, for anything, which allowed them to spend valuable time with family.
“I was always attracted to that,” he shares, and from there, came the fire that lit his entrepreneurial passion and more.
“Our company, MSCL. T (pronounced muscle tee) is the platform for your story, expressed through our content and products. Many of us have a 9-to-5 to keep the lights on, but what is your 9-to-5? What are you passionate about? What do you do it for?”
MSCL. T, which stands for Motivate, Strive, Create, Lead, is a clothing brand where everything revolves around their slogan “What’s Your Hustle?®”. Through clothing, which are ethically made in Los Angeles, Johnny’s team created What’s Your Hustle: The Series, a docu-style video series featuring hustlers from all sides of the spectrum – from athletes to artists to successful entrepreneurs.
According to Johnny, “the motivation behind this series is to inspire the next young person to see beyond their four walls. By seeing someone that the youth can relate to, it can ignite that spark to take the leap that can take someone to the next level. Because on the other side of struggle, is greatness.”“Highlighting both victories and struggles is important because it humanizes the journey in life and makes it much more relatable.” Click To Tweet
Looking back, Johnny recalls how his vision came to life in December 2019 where they brought together go-getters and entrepreneurs from all over Southern California for the “What’s Your Hustle: The Kickback” event. Everyone came to hang out, network, have a drink, and enjoy a few music and dance performances.
“It was a beautiful thing to see that this energy we have invested years into building brought all of these different faces together.”
The event minted tons of collaborations, business connections, and real friendships. It was an incredible success and one that they hope to accomplish on a grander scale soon.
“The road to success is a collaborative one and we want to help foster that community.”
They say that we live for human connection, that we seek for meaningful relationships because a sense of belonging is a source of confidence and empowerment.
Handmade Brigade nurtures connections and does so for a great cause.
Founded by Liz Howard, Handmade Brigade is a charitable non-profit that donates handmade hats and scarves to U.S. military personnel and veterans in appreciation for their service.
Liz started out on her own but soon found help from the organization’s volunteer network. A community of crafters from all around the country came together to offer their time and talents to knit thousands of handmade donations for different military and veteran communities.
Handmade Brigade runs several donation drives every year, and every time, Liz needs all the help she can get. Many are willing to help, but not all of them have the means to. Aware of this setback, Liz kicked off an initiative to supply the materials for volunteers who do not have the financial capacity to get their own.
“We supply yarn to volunteer knitters and crocheters, as well as reimburse them for their postage expenses when they send the completed items to me. This is our way of encouraging volunteers of all income brackets to participate.”
From a supportive community to the communities they do these all for, Handmade Brigade strengthens connections and breaks the barriers that might have prevented others to participate. In building a diverse and inclusive organization, Handmade Brigade goes all out in its efforts to include communities who are also financially struggling to get by.
A great example would be their Warm A Homeless Vet campaign. Liz shares,
“In 2018, the focus of our annual giving campaign was Warriors Warehouse in Fort Carson, CO. They hold a coat drive every year that provides cold-weather gear to homeless or at-risk Veterans and their families, as well as low-income military families.
We were honored to aid in their efforts by sending them 287 handmade hats and scarves in a range of child and adult sizes.”
Inclusivity is a major part of Keep it Vertical.
We will tell you more about them, but first, what does Keep it Vertical mean? Founder Jhoe Virago graciously shares its meaning.
“My uncle, Anthony, came up with the phrase “Keep it Vertical”. I loved the phrase so much that I made it my name on social media. About a year later, I kept repeating the phrase and after some time, I continued on and said, “keep it up, stay prayed up, and never give up.” I knew the phrase was universal and inclusive.”
The message of Keep it Vertical is oblivious to our differences, it is relatable for all and includes all.
Through her clothing line, Jhoe encourages, educates, and empowers her community to be kind and respectful. She thoughtfully designs her monthly themes and campaigns to underscore the importance of respecting and uplifting others regardless of their backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs.
Just this July, the Keep it Vertical team celebrated the Minority Mental Health month by promoting “Just Be Kind July”.
According to Jhoe, “Each week of the month, we focused on a different element of kindness. We covered what is kindness, how does kindness make others feel, the benefits of kindness, and lastly, random acts of kindness we can all do to be kind to others in our community.”
Their call to spread kindness was received superbly by their community. Jhoe shares that they had such a great response and their followers were completing kind acts, which they shared on Instagram.
At one point in her life, Jhoe shares that she, too, experienced feeling left out. This made creating an inclusive work culture for her even more important. The diverse and inclusive team that she was able to cultivate spills over to the community that her brand inspires.
There are many stories about how the message of Keep it Vertical has resonated with her customers, but here is one that she holds dear.
“I had an Asian customer once asked me if it would be okay if she purchased a shirt from me, even though my graphics include characters with curly hair and afros.
I explained to the woman that my characters represent “speak no evil, hear no evil, or see no evil” and that’s a positive that we can all use regardless of hair texture. I want everyone to feel included, comfortable, and lifted while rocking their Keep it Vertical merch.”
Do you want to share your story about diversity and inclusion?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured.