Would you and your spouse make good business partners? Dwyane Wade was nervous about working with Gabrielle Union-Wade

 

By KC Ifeanyi

 

Dwyane Wade did not want to start a company with his wife, Gabrielle Union-Wade.

The power couple has a number of businesses between them, ranging from wine and snack foods to haircare and lifestyle brands. But last year, the two launched their first joint venture, Proudly, a baby-care line of products designed for the needs of melanated skin. And, at Fast Company’s 9th annual Innovation Festival in September, Wade made it clear that there was some hesitation in being partners in this particular endeavor.

“I did not wanna work with my wife in this capacity,” Wade flatly quipped on stage. “She be on me! ‘Did you look at this email? Did you return this email?’ We got different processes.”

Union-Wade came to her own defense, admitting that while she’s indeed more of the task master and will absolutely send “strongly worded emails” she fully expects answers to, those different processes between her and her husband have created a balanced foundation for how they run Proudly. 

 

“It works out,” Union-Wade said. “It’s a very symbiotic relationship.” 

Union-Wade and Wade’s unique approaches to entrepreneurship aren’t necessarily because they’re just different people. Part of it, for Union-Wade specifically, stems from how the larger business world has treated them.

“As a Black woman having Black-led brands, [it’s] been a whole different kind of challenge,” Union-Wade said. “I bring notes from the trenches versus his experience, which has been different just as a man that other men revere.”

 

$25,000 grants for Black-led brands

According to research published in Harvard Business Review, Black women are the leading group of entrepreneurs in the U.S. at 17% compared with white women (10%) and white men (15%). And yet, only 3% of Black women are running mature businesses. HBR’s research points to a number of factors attributed to Black women struggling to sustain their enterprises, including starting companies with low margins in crowded markets and not having as much access to capital and other resources. 

Understanding those issues firsthand, Union-Wade created a grant through her haircare company, Flawless, that awarded three Black, female entrepreneurs $25,000 each earlier this year to help close those resource gaps that often lead to a business shutting down. 

“At a time that we needed that money, we were like, you know what? Rising tides lift all ships,” Union-Wade said. “The give back is what makes you grow. The good karma that you put out will circle back tenfold. If philanthropy is not a part of your brand foundation, you are set up for failure.”

 
Would you and your spouse make good business partners? Dwyane Wade was nervous about working with Gabrielle Union-Wade

And that’s certainly true of Proudly.

“This is a community brand”

What Union-Wade and Wade have created in Proudly goes beyond designing clean products for Black and brown babies—they’ve set out to foster a community around their company based on education and giving back.

“Part of the brand ethos for all our brands is community outreach,” Union-Wade said. “So we have to touch the people. We have to be in the community and of community.”

 

That’s meant donating more than 30,000 diapers to the Miami Diaper Bank, providing access to doctors and trusted medical information, fighting against the diaper tax, and more.

“This isn’t a celebrity brand—this is a community brand,” Union-Wade said.

And from Wade’s perspective, his focus is particularly on reaching the men in the community to help them understand that they too need to know how to care for their children’s hair and skin and not leave it to mothers. 

 

“I didn’t think there was a lot that I could bring to this brand in the beginning because there was not a lot that I knew about [babies],” Wade said. “I’ve been in this baby world for a long time, but I never got into it. What I’ve learned in this process is the need for me to educate myself to be able to speak and talk to other men, other families. I’m just really thankful to be able to be in this brand and get educated along this process.” 

And to think there was a time when Wade didn’t want to start Proudly with his wife.

Fast Company

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