Aboriginal business collective Trading Blak is launching shops on Facebook and Instagram, furthering its mission to support First Nations businesses and educate consumers.
Founded last year by a group of 11 First Nations-owned businesses, Trading Blak aims to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander entrepreneurs, while also educating consumers striving to support them.
Founding member Jarin Baigent is a Wiradjuri woman and founder of Jarin Street, a small business that produces yoga mats and sportswear featuring designs by Aboriginal artists.
Her business has a strong focus on supporting artists in an ethical and sustainable way. But she says that’s not always the case for business trading in First Nations culture or arts.
In her own business journey, she was seeing a prevalence of “non-Aboriginal businesses that were really saturating the market”, she tells SmartCompany.
Many of these are ‘Aboriginal appearing’ businesses. But, not being Aboriginal-owned, they’re able to take advantage of greater access to the market than those actually run by First Nations people.
Buying from a Trading Blak business means all sales and revenue will go towards supporting First Nations businesses and communities. But the collective also encourages people to ask questions when they’re making other purchasing decisions too.
If a business appears to be Blak-owned, she urges buyers to ask if it is. And if a pattern uses Indigenous art symbols or iconography, try to make sure it has been designed by a First Nations artist — and that they have been fairly compensated.
If in doubt, buying from a Trading Blak business comes with that guarantee, she stresses.
Currently, Trading Blak has almost 50,000 Instagram followers, and Baigent says she feels the message is getting through to people.
“It’s really a connection point to community,” she says.
“I think that awareness piece has been really key — people want to know about this, they want to learn.”
The launch of the Trading Blak shops on Facebook and Instagram follows the opening of a physical store in Warringah Mall in Sydney’s Northern Beaches last month, which features products from more than 50 First Nations-owned businesses.
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That came after the success of a Jarin Street pop-up store, originally opened for two months in November last year being offered an extension, and then a permanent spot.
“It’s been incredible,” Baigent says.
The Sydney store allows people in that area to browse and discover products from First Nations businesses. It also brings a First Nations presence into mainstream retail, highlighting Trading Blak’s message and boosting its awareness campaign.
But Baigent wants people all over the country — and beyond — to be able to access the products, and to hear the message, too.
Ultimately, all of that expands the customer base for the business owners involved.
“The online platform is like the other piece of the puzzle,” she explains.
“We want to take this to the rest of Australia, but also the rest of the world, and really show that excellence around Blak-owned businesses throughout Australia,” she adds.
“Everybody should see this.
“They’re amazing businesses, they deserve to be highlighted and the products are exceptional.”
The new online presence will also see Instagram releasing a set of new promotional stickers designed by Warumungu and Wombaya woman Jessica Johnson.
One highlights Trading Blak’s ‘Wear it Blak Wednesday’ campaign, an Insta movement encouraging people to share selfies with their products from Blak-owned businesses.
“We would love to see more people on a Wednesday showcasing their Blaked-out wardrobe,” Baigent says.
“On Wednesdays, we wear Blak.”