June 21, 2022
We’re tired of seeing women’s amazing, system-shaking, life-changing ideas get left behind or overlooked.
We’ve worked with women who have brilliant solutions, but they are overlooked by bigger (and let’s be real, often male-owned and operated) businesses. Or businesses that use shady-ass tactics to sell their products.
And we’d rather not have any part of that.
At the Design Lab, we want to help women overcome these obstacles by forging their own paths to success. We also want to make it clear that some of those very obstacles we face are systemic.
What does that mean? Let’s talk about it.
We love to see women succeed because it means they’re able to support themselves, their families, their communities, and other women.
We also know that so many women out there want to lead a values-based, human-first business. But the thing about leading a values-based, human-first business — especially as a woman? It’s freakin’ hard.
Why? In short: Capitalism.
Capitalism is what runs the world most of us live in. Everything we do, own, and have is run by a private company designed for profit. And while profit isn’t inherently bad, we can all agree there are some icky things people do in the name of “turning a profit.”
Capitalism has also become much more than an economic model. It’s become ingrained in our lives and affects everything we do inside of our businesses.
It’s hard to feel good about participating in business when it feels like every part of our lives is being monetized. Our ideas, our values, our identities. We feel like we’re being taken advantage of because small businesses are constantly battling larger corporations and trying like hell not to have their ideas stolen.
We’re forced to be on platforms we don’t want to stand behind so we can make any kind of money at all. While we want to run a values-based business, these platforms have created a total monopoly in advertising and a “my way or the highway” mentality. If you don’t like their rules, you can leave. But then what?
As a result, many of us find ourselves bending our own values to continue to connect with and serve the people we want to serve.
On Amazon, product-based businesses sacrifice fees and warehouse charges to be available for Prime shoppers — because Amazon has “primed” shoppers to expect overnight delivery and free shipping that small businesses can’t afford. On top of that, Amazon is gaining data that helps them track every purchase to analyze market interest (and to make their own version of those products if they see fit).
And then there’s Facebook and Instagram — platforms that started as lovable extensions of our social life and have now dictated how we run our businesses. Their business model and algorithms force businesses into becoming content machines and pushing thousands of dollars into ads in order to be seen.
All of that? ^^ That’s why we’re tired. That’s what we mean when we say we have capitalism fatigue. Now that we have a name for all this…
Knowing that capitalism is at the root of what many of us are feeling might help. Naming the problem can help us address the problem. But what about when the problem is systemic? Societal? Global??
It’s easy to feel discouraged. It’s easy to feel like everything we do feeds into a hyper-capitalist system, one that many of us want relief from. It’s enough to make even the most balanced individual (what’s that like??) spiral just a bit.
But… we see glimmers of hope.
I think (I hope anyway) that most business owners are trying to do good and make the world a better place. I see it in the women we work with, and in the other businesses, I’ve seen in this space and had the pleasure of getting to know.
That’s why we, at the Design Lab, are on a mission to serve more of these amazing businesses that have these big visions and are taking a unique approach to building them.
But we can’t be the only ones with a mission — or a vision.
If you feel like you’re feeding into cycles that you’d rather not feed, you might wonder where to even start. How can you try to change something that’s so ingrained in our culture, in our own values, in our decisions?
We think it all starts by reflecting on and defining our core values. When we know exactly what we stand for, and why we do what we do, it makes it much easier to make conscientious decisions in the face of a capitalist society.
Trying to change the system can be daunting, but we like to think about doing business “your way” as a way to revolutionize the system. We can use this economy for good. It starts with knowing our values and building our own visions for what the world (and our businesses) can look like.
Our vision is a capitalist society that actually feels like it’s serving people — where it’s fun to be a part of, easy to see how your dollars vote for certain values, and it’s clear where your money goes. We want to create a space where new ideas can form and thrive, supporting the people and businesses that are making a positive difference in the world.
We’re still learning and refining what we do at the Design Lab, and that includes the way we do business to try and leverage this economy for the better.
We work with women and women of color. We know women see the world differently and that so many of their needs haven’t been met by male-centric, male-designed, male-marketed products. But when they have the chance to show their ideas off, they catch on.
These women are making money and we love to see it. They’re actively hiring their family members (husbands, moms, sisters, best friends) — some who may have had trouble finding flexible work — and training people in their community with skills that are needed to keep the lights on and more.
We work with women who hunger for more than just making money. Their pride comes from helping their communities and their minds are focused on improving the way they do business so they can increase their impact as they grow.
These women want to deliver on their promises and move far, far away from manipulative marketing. They want to interact with their clients, their customers, and their audience in a way that’s genuine and motivating — never just to “make a sale.”
One of our core values is to “do better,” and we couldn’t do that if we weren’t supporting causes that help communities in an impactful way.
We currently donate a minimum of 10% of our profits to 4 different organizations:
Donating to causes and people who need support is more than just a “corporate policy” — it’s our way of bridging gaps for the women we support.
As a minority woman-owned business, it’s important to us that we use our money and business success to help others access opportunities too. That’s why we donate to programs that support women and girls, and to those who are fighting for civil liberties and representation.
It all goes back to our belief that education, power, money, and ideas belong equally to women, and that giving them more access to all of that will lead to a more compassionate society.
Giving women a chance to amplify their ideas with design is part of our role in the marketplace. That’s how we make money, to put it bluntly. But by giving back, and supporting women in business, we’re “cheating the system,” in a sense. We’re letting capitalism work for us as much as it can.
Because let’s be honest: The system wasn’t built for us. Women, people of color, disabled folks, queer folks, and pretty much anyone who isn’t a white hetero (and mostly American) man.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t succeed — and even thrive — when we support one another and recognize the systems that try to hold us back. When we give things a name, when we call them like we see them, we level the playing field a bit more.
The real magic comes, though, when we lean into our own power. When we vote with our dollars, with our values, and we craft a vision that shows us what’s possible.
The coolest part of all of this? Our ideas and our passions are what will drive us as we change the system from the inside. That’s pretty revolutionary, isn’t it?
Copyright 2022 Nicole A. Yang, LLC
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