An Open-Letter to Black-Owned Small Businesses from the UPS Marketing Chief, Kevin Warren


To our community,

I am Kevin Warren, a proud son of the vibrant Black community of Washington, D.C. I am also the Chief Marketing Officer of the world’s largest and best transportation company – UPS.

The holidays are a special time for us all as we prepare to spend time with loved ones. It is also a time to reflect on the year, what we’ve learned, where we have been, and where we are going. Companies have the unique opportunity to reframe profit and purpose in our ever-changing world. You don’t have to give up one for the other.

At UPS, we call this “Doing Good, While Moving Goods.” I want to take a moment to share the journey I am proud to have led in our organization to empower Black founders.

You deserve to know where we stand and what we are doing to be a trusted partner to Black founders.

In January, we began the year with the launch of our unprecedented UPS Ignite Program. Through this program, anchored by four world-class partners, we are empowering Black founders with access to on-demand business education with the support of The Lonely Entrepreneur, executive education led by the #3 MBA program – Kellogg School of Management, CEO to CEO business coaching thanks to Beyond CEO, and perhaps the most important – access to capital thanks to Accion Opportunity Fund. We are so proud that outstanding founders such as Adrian Coulter of XL Feet and Charis Jones of Sassy Jones are among the UPS customers that have received access to these resources to help build their businesses.

In May, even UPS ventured into the metaverse with ComplexLand 3.0.  As part of this virtual culture event, we built a small-business village in the metaverse featuring diverse-owned small businesses and provided $40,000 in grants, $10K each to Compton Cowboys, Brownstone, Colle, and Circulate. We’re helping small businesses find new customers by showing up in the unexpected places they never thought they’d be: the metaverse.

June was a busy month. We started by awarding $10,000 grants to several Black-owned companies in our UPS Ignite programs.

Later that month and in observance of Juneteenth, we brought together leaders, including the President and CEO of the National Urban League, Marc Morial, who committed to a more equitable America at The UPS Foundation “Impact Summit” hosted at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

We wrapped up June by partnering with Pharrell Williams to empower Black founders at the ‘Something in the Water’ festival. We brought four amazing Black businesses to feature their products and awarded $50,000 in grants. 

In September, we launched the second cohort of our UPS Ignite Program to empower even more diverse founders.

Fast forward to October, when we announced our partnership with the Russell Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE) – a Black ecosystem of entrepreneurship to uplift Black founders in UPS’hometown of Atlanta. We launched the UPS Logistics Launchpad, where we will support RICE entrepreneurs with Ware2Go and The UPS Store warehousing, fulfillment, and shipping services.  With the support of The UPS Foundation, we will educate a new generation of RICE business owners on the ins and outs of supply chain and logistics through their accelerator program.

In November, we partnered again with Pharrell for Ignite the Mighty, awarding an additional $50,000 in grants to Black founders during the business pitch competition.

This commitment is also marked by internal transformation.  We announced a new DEI officer reporting directly to the CEO.  31% of our Board of Directors are ethnically diverse, and 46% of women are women. I recently had the honor of leading a discussion with our African American Business Resource Group and three of our distinguished African American board members.  This leadership comes top down.  We are proud that our company is led by one of the few woman CEOs in the Fortune 500 ranks, Carol B. Tomé.

We are also proud to call ourselves customers of Diverse businesses. In 2021 we achieved $1.1B in spend with ~900 diverse suppliers.  This includes a commitment to invest in Black-owned media companies, such as BLACK ENTEPRISE.

Our work to support Black business owners is a journey, not a destination. We will continue to learn with every project, every initiative, and every conversation. I want you to know that we are committed to this mission – there is more to come in 2023.

I speak for myself and the many African American leaders and allies throughout our company when I say that this mission is personal to us. We were raised in these communities and know that Black founders are the heartbeats of our hometowns.

We want Black founders to win and win big, with UPS playing a small part in that story.

If you are interested in any of the programs mentioned above, please take a few moments to fill out this short survey, and we’ll let you know when 2023 opportunities go live.

In the meantime, we will continue to do our best to partner with Black founders. We will continue moving our world forward by delivering what matters – for you.

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