In a rare open letter, UPS' Kevin Warren reflected on empowering Black founders. (Courtesy of UPS)
In a rare open letter, UPS' Kevin Warren reflected on empowering Black founders. (Courtesy of UPS)

Kevin Warren describes himself as a “proud son of the vibrant Black community of Washington, D.C.”

The executive vice president and chief marketing officer at UPS said customers in the District and beyond deserve to know where the company stands and what the delivery service giant is doing “to be a trusted partner to Black founders.”

In a rare open letter addressed to “our community,” Warren emphasized UPS’ dedication to Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and Black entrepreneurs.

“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,” said Warren, who has been a leader in ensuring the company’s diversity efforts.

Warren has a unique responsibility. He heads U.S. and International Marketing, The UPS Store, Digital Access Program, Revenue Enablement, Business Planning, Forecasting & Pricing, Digital Marketing, Customer Experience, and Brand Relevancy.  Company officials said his highly developed perspective on data-centric business and non-traditional engagement channels drives change at UPS and sets new standards in digitally enabled customer experience.  

“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,” Warren said.

With the end of the year approaching, he also noted it is a season to “reflect on the year, what we’ve learned, where we have been, and where we are going.”

As UPS continues to evaluate their impact, Warren explained the company is working to “reframe profit,” by “Doing Good While Moving Goods.” 

A major initiative in their effort to reach beyond the business is the UPS Ignite Program, which is geared at empowering Black founders with access to on-demand business education, with the support of The Lonely Entrepreneur; executive education led by the Kellogg School of Management; CEO-to-CEO business coaching with Beyond CEO; and access to capital with participation of the 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.”

Warren said that UPS had earlier ventured into the metaverse with ComplexLand 3.0. As part of that virtual culture event, UPS 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,” Warren said.

In June, UPS awarded $10,000 in grants to several Black-owned companies through UPS Ignite, and in observance of Juneteenth, UPS brought together leaders, including National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial.  

UPS also partnered with multi-hyphenated artist Pharrell Williams Juneteenth weekend to offer opportunities for 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,” Warren said.

In October UPS announced a partnership with Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE), which he described as a “Black ecosystem of entrepreneurship to uplift Black founders,” and is based in UPS’ hometown of Atlanta. The company launched the UPS Logistics Launchpad, which supports RICE entrepreneurs through general shipping needs, Ware2Go — UPS’ on-demand warehousing and fulfillment services — and training.

“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,” Warren explained.

UPS teamed up with Williams again in November, for “Ignite the Mighty, awarding an additional $50,000 in grants to Black founders during the business competition.” 

In detailing the year’s DEI efforts in the community, Warren also noted the work being done to diversify the company “from the top down.”

Spearheaded by Carol B. Tomé, one of the six percent of women CEOs represented in S&P 500 companies, UPS also announced a new DEI officer, who will report to the company’s leader.

The UPS board is 31% ethnically diverse and 46% are women.

UPS has also been intentional about diversifying their spending, having spent $1.1 billion with 900 diverse suppliers and investing in Black-owned media companies such as Black Enterprise.

“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,” Warren said. “I want you to know that we are committed to this mission — there is more to come in 2023.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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