Aurora James is the founder of Brother Vellies, a fashion accessory startup located in Brooklyn, New York. 

The company, founded in 2013, sells handcrafted shoes, handbags and home goods made in Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco and South Africa.

James started the company after a trip to Africa, where she noticed the growing prevalence of American goods was eliminating the need for artisan jobs in some countries. 

After the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died while in custody of several Minneapolis police officers, retailers who carried products from Brother Vellies reached out to James, saying they supported her, James told Emily Canal, a reporter for

"I was reading it, but I wasn't feeling it," James told Canal. "As a Black woman and business owner, I wondered what it would take to feel like these retailers are standing with me." 

James is giving the retailers an opportunity to stand with her and owners of other Black companies. She began a nonprofit initiative called the Fifteen Percent Pledge, which guides companies through the process of making meaningful commitments to Black entrepreneurs, writes Canal.  

The pledge is asking major retailers and others to devote 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses, according to the website. Why 15%? Because Blacks make up nearly 15% of the U.S. population, according to the website. (In 2019, U.S. Census data showed that 13.4% of the country’s population is Black.) 

To date, 76,773 signatures are on the online pledge, the website shows. According to Canal, Sephora and Rent the Runway have signed the pledge as well as smaller companies like houseplant startup the Sill.