| By Matthew Miskelly |
When I volunteered to write a blog for Women’s History Month, I thought about something that happened last November. I came across a list from PR Newswire: “50 Fastest-Growing Women-Owned/-Led Companies” for 2020. It was good timing. At a recent team meeting, we discussed the importance of boosting the number of women- and minority-owned companies and organizations in our products. So I checked the PR Newswire list against our International Directory of Company Histories (IDCH) database. I wanted to verify that our coverage of women-owned companies in IDCH was as superb as I thought it was.
It wasn’t. We had 8 out of 50.
I must say a few words in defense of the International Directory of Company Histories. One, a company must have at least $25 million in annual sales to appear in the book. After some research, I found that many of the firms on the PR Newswire list are just a few years old and haven’t reached $10 million in sales yet. Also, IDCH has a 2,000-word minimum for an essay, and some of these companies didn’t have much information out there—either on their website or in business media sources. So it’s possible some of them appeared on an earlier IDCH compilation list but were passed over because not enough material was there to create an entry. However, that wasn’t true of all the companies on this PR Newswire list. At least a dozen of them should’ve already been in our database.
Most product-related blogs sing the praises of a product and give the reader a few highlights. I’ve written a few of those myself. This time, I’m going to do something different, something that might raise the blood pressure of a few people in marketing. I’m going to “highlight” where my product is lacking—and write about some innovative and up-and-coming women-owned businesses that you can’t read about in any existing issue of the International Directory of Company Histories.
Today you can’t read about TKT & Associates in IDCH. In 2019 TKT was named among the most successful and fastest-growing U.S. companies founded and managed by a woman. TKT places extensive focus on providing opportunities for minorities looking to join the workforce or secure the skills and experience crucial to advancing their careers. The company also held the top spot on the PR Newswire list.
Today you also can’t read about Fenty Beauty or FLOWER Beauty in IDCH, which is a shame if you like reading about celebrities and what they’re up to off-screen. The two beauty companies were launched by Rihanna (whose real last name is Fenty) and Drew Barrymore. In 2018 Fenty Beauty posted sales of $570 million, which is a lot more than $25 million. So I can’t use that excuse.
Today you can’t read about marketing and advertising firm Brogan & Partners in IDCH. (You could, however, pay them a visit if you wanted to—it’s a short drive to Ferndale.) Some of B&P’s clients include the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Delta Dental, and Consumers Energy. One of the firm’s most important clients is Enough SAID (Enough Sexual Assault in Detroit). Enough SAID needed funding and publicity to prosecute over 11,000 unopened, untested rape kits in Detroit. In 2014 B&P created the digital platform that helped Enough SAID collect donations and raise awareness about the issue. “The campaign’s owned assets and messages are strong, and the team is successfully driving [extensive] awareness and donations,” PRWeek said of the campaign in April 2015.
Today you also can’t read about DefinedCrowd Corporation in IDCH. DefinedCrowd is a Seattle-based technology company that helps to create better artificial intelligence. The $50.5 million they received in a Series B round of funding in 2020 marked the largest amount received from any AI company founded by a woman in the United States.
And you can’t read about XpresSpa Group in IDCH. XpresSpa, a health and wellness company, offers spa services and COVID-19 testing to travelers in 25 airports around the world. The company provided only spa services and was going gangbusters until March 2020, when COVID-19 staggered the travel industry. All 46 XpresSpa locations in 23 airports in the United States were closed, leaving the company without income and forcing it to adapt. XpresSpa leadership reached out to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and offered to convert its locations from spas to COVID-19 testing centers. In October 2020, the company expanded its services and began offering the 2020-21 flu vaccine.
If you pick up any of the International Directory of Company Histories’ 232 volumes today, you can’t read about any of these companies.
But as Sun Tzu wrote a long time ago, “Victory comes from finding opportunities in problems.” Perhaps, thought the project leader of the International Directory of Company Histories last November, we could see the dismal score on the PR Newswire list as an opportunity to boost the coverage of women-owned companies in the database. So that’s what we’ve done. It turns out you can read about the six companies mentioned earlier in this blog in IDCH—in the next volume, which comes out the first week of May. In fact, many of the sentences in the paragraphs above were taken verbatim from the file that was composed and sent to me a few hours ago by the incomparable Amy Darga.
However, this won’t be a one-time thing. Upcoming volumes of the International Directory of Company Histories will focus on women- and minority-owned companies. The covers will reflect this: the picture at the top of this blog will be the cover image for the next IDCH, volume 233. The other photograph will be the cover of another volume later this year.
It’s crucial to boost the number of women- and minority-owned organizations in all our products. To that end, we’re going to relax the inclusion criteria a bit to get more of these companies into the International Directory of Company Histories. But we’re not doing this simply to meet some quota or to throw a nice sentence or two into the front matter. We’re doing it mainly because I believe it’ll make for a more interesting book. Don’t get me wrong, there are already over 18,000 in-depth company profiles in IDCH. But let’s be real: as they create and build a company, women and minorities face obstacles that their white male counterparts don’t. Reading about how they overcame those obstacles, in my mind, makes for a more interesting book. Besides, it’s the kind of information our customers will not only want but expect.