Posted on 2/5/2019 3:22:37 PM
Designer Brands recognizes the importance of reaching and supporting specific communities and audiences both inside our organization and in our hometown of Columbus, Ohio. One way we accomplish this is through our business resource groups, or BRGs. These groups of associates often have common interests or backgrounds, from being working parents and caregivers, to being members of the LGBTQ community, to being new professionals. These BRGs not only bring value to associates, they often contribute key business insights to the larger enterprise.
MySOLE is Designer Brands' business resource group, focusing on the African and African American communities. MySOLE celebrated several such successes in last year, both in their contributions to the communities, the associates they serve and to the DSW business. The group is poised for even greater growth and engagement in 2019.
Senior Payroll Administrator Alethea Coman and Senior Transportation Administrator Sydney Bailey, co-chairs of MySOLE, have been involved with the group since each joined the company four years ago. When they stepped in as co-chairs in 2018, they wanted to increase MySOLE’s outreach in Central Ohio and in the recruitment and retention of DSW’s African and African American associates.
There are four elements to MySOLE’s mission: to build awareness of the African and African American cultures, increase career opportunities and leadership roles through recruitment, development and mentorship, promote an environment of inclusion and acceptance of diverse opinions, and support the African and African American community in Central Ohio.
Here is a look at a few of their victories in 2018.
African American Male Wellness Walk
In 2018, MySOLE participated in Columbus’ African American Male Wellness Walk, an annual event to raise awareness about preventable diseases and provide free screenings for diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure and more.
Volunteers helped with parking, directed men to the health screenings, and staffed a booth. “This was an opportunity to promote the company, give away some branded ‘swag,’ and provide job opportunity cards directing men and women to the careers page on our website,” Bailey said.
They gave away $10 promotional coupons and had a 10% redemption rate. Although the walk was rained out, the event had a positive impact on sales.
“Our goal for 2019 is to find ways to have a greater impact on profitability and drive sales. We are working on an exclusive shoe available at DSW stores to support the Wellness Walk,” Coman said. “We’re working through the possibility of making Wellness Walk packets available in our Columbus DSW stores, giving participants another reason to come in and shop when they pick up their packets.”
Dress for Success and My Brother’s Closet
Giving back to the community is an essential piece of MySOLE’s work, as it is for every business resource group at DSW. MySOLE partners with Dress for Success and My Brother’s Closet, non-profits providing professional attire to members of the Columbus community looking for employment.
“Dress for Success helps women who are entering or re-entering the work force look their best for job interviews,” Bailey said. “They come to the shop for business attire, and they can take advantage of the career center for help with their resume or to learn interview skills.”
MySOLE volunteers sorted clothing donated by the community, making sure everything was in good condition, then cleaned and organized the shop.
They did a similar “Suit & Sort” program with My Brother’s Closet that provides men with professional clothing for interviews. 2018 was the first time MySOLE volunteered for these programs and it was a great experience for all involved.
Flat Out of Heels Promotion
Another goal for 2019 is to partner with Flat Out of Heels for a “gift with purchase” promotion. This minority-owned company, founded by Columbus native Dawn Dickson, sells rollable, ballet-style flats that are fashionable, comfortable and compact – they fit in small clutch purse.
Coman said, “The current plan is to do an online promotion in the spring. If it goes well, it could extend to stores. We’re excited to work with this company and share these products with our customers.”
Summer 614/22nd Foundation
Also in 2018, MySOLE volunteers provided operational support at Columbus’ Summer 614 concert series to celebrate Black Music Month at the Columbus Commons. They staffed the information booth and worked backstage during the show. It was a great opportunity to show Columbus that DSW supports the African American community.
Proceeds benefited the 22nd Foundation, which provides tennis, baseball, golf, lacrosse and field hockey camps to low-opportunity youth in the community.
Recruiting and Retaining Talent
In addition to staffing recruiting fairs at Wilberforce and Indiana Universities, MySOLE partnered with another of DSW’s business resource groups on a three-part mentoring program that focused on:
Identifying Social Media Influencers
DSW’s marketing team had a goal to boost social media engagement with micro influencers, and MySOLE influenced right back… providing a list of minority/Black women bloggers in social media that the marketing team should consider working with.
Four Black women influencers were selected as social media partners, creating posts with DSW, extending DSW’s reach into the African American community, and more accurately representing its diverse customer base in its marketing.
Contributing to DSW and to Columbus
At Designer Brands, we’re committed to leveraging our differences and driving an inclusive culture. Our BRGs have been key contributors to our company’s success because they hold us accountable to and keep us focused on our diversity and inclusion objectives.
Designer Brands is so proud of what MySOLE accomplished in 2018. They’re moving their mission forward in the African and African American communities while generating awareness for DSW and impacting business metrics. We’re looking forward to seeing the change they bring in 2019!