“Our kindness really is our strength”
Image via Flickr
A week after Donald Trump won enough electoral votes to clinch the presidency, CEO Bill Penzey of Penzeys Spices released a company newsletter that took many by surprise. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Penzey admonished the president-elect for his racist vitriol and rejected the Republican Party’s “open embrace of racism,” saying it has unleashed a “wave of ugliness unseen in this country for decades.” He ended his letter with a positive note and a call to action, writing, “Let's commit to giving the people a better choice. Our kindness really is our strength.”
In a follow-up Facebook post meant to address those offended by his letter, Penzey clarified that he was not condemning all Republicans, but would not let up on his criticism of Trump’s divisive tactics and die-hard supporters. In the two weeks since Penzey made that clarification and stood by his admonishment of Trump’s bigotry, his spice business has soared. According to Facebook, the company saw just 3 percent of customers leave as a result of the post, while overall online sales have grown by nearly 60 percent. If this boost in business proves anything about the prevailing views of this country, it’s that kindness wins over rabid justification of hate.
Despite losing a few customers in the process, Penzey clearly has no regrets about defending equal rights and general decency. As he explained in an update posted to Facebook Thursday,
“Our customers come from all walks of life. The kindness of cooks knows no borders or divides. In the aftermath of the election, seeing the intentional damage inflicted on so many outside the white heterosexual male world, we raised our voice. We felt we had to. We did this because we are Penzeys. The spice business is so intertwined with history that it's not really possible to have one without the other. It became clear to us that we are now in a moment history will long have its eyes upon. For the sake of our customers, and for the sake of future generations, we felt the time had come to stand on the right side of history.
In this moment there is finally the real chance to unite our nation in our shared rejection of sexism, homophobia, and racism. This is your chance to stand up for America's values and make January a tent pole in your company's history. Opportunities to do the right thing at the time when doing the right thing makes all the difference come once in a lifetime. Make your history proud.”
While every American can make a stand against bigotry—no matter their political leanings—it will become increasingly important for business owners to take a definitive stand as well. Without the basic tenets of free speech and inclusion that the American ideal is built on, small businesses would have few opportunities to exist. In the coming years, consumers and CEOs alike will repeatedly face decisions that either disenfranchise or uplift fellow Americans. It’s up to all of us to stay engaged and informed so that we can choose the latter.