The Black community has always had an entrepreneurial spirit but hasn’t always had the access to take its businesses to the next level. The people at Meta understand these systemic challenges and are committed to being a part of the solution to break down barriers to entry for Black entrepreneurs.
A key part of advancing equity is supporting Black employees at Meta and amplifying their voices and ideas that push the culture forward. One of those emerging voices is Rachael Hawk, Small Business Marketing Manager and Founder of #BuyBlack Friday Movement.
Recently, AfroTech had an opportunity to sit and talk with Hawk to learn more about her and the work she’s doing at Meta to help change the game for Black businesses.
It’s the Support for Me
With the charge to provide global support to historically underrepresented small businesses, Hawk’s role with Meta is no small feat. However, the company recognizes the importance of this type of work and leverages its culture of inclusivity and equity to recognize critical effort and resources needed to move this work forward.
“Meta is a place where you can chart your path. It’s a culture that’s more bottom-up than top-down. One thing we always say is ‘Good ideas can come from anywhere,’ and it’s true. I have seen great ideas be supported with the necessary resources to make them come to life,” Hawk said.
Building a culture of inclusivity has to be intentional work, and the people at Meta are committed to walking it like they talk it. With programs and initiatives — like company-wide Q&A to senior leaders and hack-a-thons where people can come together to solve a real company problem that is outside of the general scope of their role — Meta is dedicated to the development of its people. This commitment is also seen in the cultivation of safe spaces, a place where people can connect with those of similar backgrounds and experiences for networking and growth.
“When I first joined the company, I went to one of our Black@Meta — the employee resource group — happy hours, and it was there that I met a lot of people who have been instrumental to my career. In addition to these larger groups, my specific team has a smaller Black at Business Marketing Group. This is the space where I can find people who have more tenure, who are Black and whom I can tap for advice or support,” Hawk explained.
Black Is the New Black
2020 put the world on alert with social unrest, and this immediately ignited a passion in her to use the space she held at Meta to impact change in her community. With her colleague Remi Ray, she began to think through small business ideas and how to support them. With no official way to navigate this idea and no resources to support it, Hawk and Ray leveraged one of Meta’s hack-a-thons to create a solution on how to support diverse businesses from around the globe.
It was at this hack-a-thon that the idea caught the attention of senior leaders. They translated it into programmatic support based on an aligned passion but also based on the reality that Black small businesses were shutting down at twice the rate of other businesses because of the pandemic.
“People mobilized behind this idea, and I think it is because our leaders gave it visibility. They were ready to support this initiative,” Hawk explained.
From this wide support, #BuyBlack Friday was born. Once the program officially launched, #BuyBlack Friday was U.S. focused and rolled out with a #BuyBlack Friday Gift Guide. The guide highlighted Black business and included a campaign that featured entertainers and musical artists. Approximately 15M people across the country tuned in to these events, providing much-needed access and exposure to businesses that may not have otherwise received it.
While the program was focused in the U.S. during its initial inception, the success of the campaign confirmed the appetite and need to have a global footprint. The expansion included Brazil and Australia.
“In Australia, the campaign was about supporting indigenous-owned businesses. As a person from the American South, I didn’t know much about indigenous culture. So it was a pleasure to work with our Australian team to learn and understand the differences between the Black communities here and there. We needed to understand what those businesses in Australia needed because their needs are nuanced. The same can be said for Brazil. It was such a pleasure to see the expanded support for Black businesses across the globe,” Hawk explained.
Charting Paths and Making Waves
Hawk has been able to capitalize on her skills, interests and professional community to help her advance in her work. One thing that may be shocking is her affinity for shopping. During a recent trip to Ghana, Hawk was able to explore how commerce worked in that community and its hyper-local activity. That experience opened her mind to different ways #BuyBlack could continue to expand globally. Using that same perspective, Hawk is continually tapped into her Oakland, California, community to understand the impact of local economic stimulation.
Although some people may not understand the intersectionality of shopping and the tech industry, Hawk uses this interest as an example that there are many pathways to enter tech.
“Even before I took this role, I did not fully understand that there were multiple marketing teams at tech companies and that they had roles that would support small businesses and creatives,” Hawk pointed out.
Hawk initially went to school for communications and spent the early part of her career in local news. She happened to discover the open role at Meta and joined the marketing team. She hopes that her path as a Black woman opens doors for others who may not have seen themselves in these spaces.
While she is proud of her path, she admits transitioning into this space was not the most comfortable.
“Coming into Meta, I dealt with a lot of imposter syndrome. Because of my nontraditional background, I didn’t always know where I fit in. I would have ideas but would ping someone else to say it for me because I did not feel like I could speak up for myself,” Hawk said.
This feeling did not last long. Hawk was able to lean on her managers and colleagues who coached her through these challenges. She enrolled in public speaking courses and tapped into the encouragement of her manager to be front and center and use the resources Meta offers for professional development. Even before her time at Meta, Hawk holds dear a piece of advice from Lorraine Simmons, her mentor who guided her and her work with #BuyBlack: “Don’t make decisions out of the place of fear, but make decisions out of the place of abundance.”
There is no doubt that Hawk is poised for continued greatness. With a passion for equity among diverse communities, her work with underrepresented businesses paired with her love for books and Beyonce — because girls run the world — provides the fuel she needs to keep going and champion the cause of Black businesses to thrive.
Want to hear more from Hawk about opportunities to make meaningful change at Meta? Tune in Monday, Feb. 28 at 11 a.m. PST, as she goes live with Ray on Meta Careers Facebook. Click here.