The JOY Collective Execs Talk Fighting Hair Discrimination And Putting Purpose Behind Their Work

These friendpreneurs are helping give voice to the Crown Act and drive a movement.


With coins that are often hard-earned and reputations highly treasured, it's refreshing to know about brands that value doing good. For friendpreneurs Kelli Joy Richardson Lawson and Orlena Nwokah Blanchard, this is a way of business and a way of life. The women serve as CEO and COO, respectively, of The JOY Collective, a Washington, DC-based multi-cultural media agency, and their firm's name is no accident.

"We operate as a company with intention for the greater good---to create joy for ourselves, our families, our communities, and the world we live in," Blanchard said during an xoNecole interview. "We look to do business with other companies who share that ethos."

Both marketing veterans have a long history of working with beauty brands, and as wives and mothers, they recently found themselves passionate about an issue that hit home: hair discrimination. It was one they couldn't ignore. "We started seeing story after story of our children being sent home from schools, whether it's Faith Kennedy in Louisiana, Clinton Stanley, Andrew Johnson, and many others, and as part of that we realized we needed to do something to make a change. That's how we got involved with the Crown Act," said Lawson.

Image via Twitter/TheCrownAct

The legislation, which has been passed into law by more than five states and has been filed or pre-filed in more than a dozen others, bars discrimination based on hair texture and hairstyles. The JOY Collective worked with Dove to build a campaign and help drive a movement that not only celebrates the beauty of natural hair but promotes advocacy.

"Esi Eggleston Bracey, from Dove, hired our company with the intention of connecting with black women. We worked with them, hand in hand, to create the Crown Coalition, [which was] co-founded by Dove, the National Urban League, Color of Change, and the Western Center on Law and Poverty," Lawson said.

"This law allows us to extend the definition of race to include racial characteristics [such as] hair," Blanchard added. "The reason it's so important is because we know there are racial inequities and there is racial discrimination and this is a form of racial discrimination. [That] discrimination is a means for people to be denied access to opportunities. It's really important for us to ensure that black people have the opportunity for socioeconomic advancement, and it's actually an economic imperative for us to ensure that hair discrimination is eradicated."

For both women, aligning with Dove and other partners for this cause was a no-brainer. "It's about purpose, and what we know for sure is that most people want to connect themselves with and purchase brands from companies that actually show up and stand for something," Lawson said.

Image via The JOY Collective

"We know, from research, what younger generations are responding to and what they have expectations about in terms of how the businesses that exist in the world contribute to the way we live and function everyday---how they are contributing to the greater good. You see more companies leaning into their intention to contribute to communities and better the world we live in," Blanchard reiterated.

Even in their personal lives, the motto of being intentional in the way in which they even instill goodness and joy via self-care is important. "I definitely try to find time to work out and be active. I also took a transcendental meditation class [a few] months ago. That has been tremendously helpful," Lawson said. "Quiet time alone is also helpful, and girlfriend time is important. Just spending time with the people I love and getting that recharge is essential."

For Blanchard, fitness and a focus on priorities means she can show up in the most joyful way and continue the practice of purpose in business. "I've had the same set of priorities since I was 19 years old: It's my faith first, me, my family, and then work. My self-care comes from honoring those priorities---or at least trying to commit to that. When I make decisions about trade-offs in order to take care of myself, I lean into those priorities. I'm Catholic, so I go to Mass---or at least I try to go---every week. It's all about making sure I'm intact to be able to give to my family and my work as much as I possibly can. When all those other things are intact, I find that I am best to deliver for JOY. I'm a good partner for Kelli and a good leader for the team. That, to me, is all taking care of myself."

For more information on the Crown Act and how to support its passing in your state, visit the official campaign Website.

Featured Image via The JOY Collective

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