Lanny Smith was drafted to the NBA and inked a deal with the Sacramento Kings
Despite his success, Smith encountered hurdles in securing investments to expand his brand into retail stores, with investors sometimes backing out due to his ethnicity. However, the positive impact Active Faith had on its customers, receiving numerous heartwarming emails, inspired Smith to pivot. He saw the need for greater representation and decided to launch Actively Black, an apparel line focused on uplifting and representing the Black community, while maintaining ownership of Active Faith.
When the world shut down during the pandemic, Smith observed how many brands made grandiose pledges to support the Black community following the police killing of George Floyd. Yet, Smith perceived these gestures as performative and lacking authenticity. He questioned why these companies, which had profited from Black consumers for years, had remained silent on pressing issues. It was time to build a brand that truly represented the community, he felt.
“I like to call it deprogramming and reprogramming the people. Unfortunately, the effects of oppression and racism start to seep into the subconscious. There are Black people who don’t believe they’re as smart, gifted, or equal, and I wanted to tear down those misconceptions about who we are and give that type of confidence and belief in self. The community is galvanizing the tribe, as I like to call them, around this brand,” he told Forbes.
“That’s something that none of those other brands, no matter how big their budgets are, no matter how big they are, that’s the place that they can’t compete in, and that’s where I see our advantage. The timing of this right now is a perfect storm for us. I believe people are more awakened to the fact that some of these brands have profited off of the culture, but they have not included the culture in ownership. They haven’t included the culture in giving the talent the opportunity to truly express themselves without feeling like they have to diminish their Blackness, and so this is a place where in a brand where that’s not the case. The people feel that, and that’s how we’re building this,” he told Forbes.
Actively Black’s brand awareness grew through significant creative partnerships with entities like Teleport Watches, Marvel, The Bobsled and Skeleton Federation of Nigeria, Slam Magazine, and NIL deals with four HBCU athletes. These collaborations allowed the brand to stay true to its core values while fostering growth.
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Source: Black Enterprise