Israella Kobla’s new look came from Anomaly’s BIPOC business program

Equal Advantage aims to "level the playing field" by giving brands free creative services.

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A passion project for a group of BIPOC employees at Anomaly Toronto has become a full-scale program that provides services pro bono to BIPOC-owned businesses to help level the playing field when it comes to accessing creative talent.

“BIPOC businesses face a series of challenges – systemic and social – that their counterparts don’t. On top of that, hiring a creative and strategic agency to help with their business development is not a cost that many businesses can afford,” says Graham Nhlmaba, a designer with Anomaly and one of the co-founders of the program, called Equal Advantage. “This is an opportunity for us to do our part to keep small businesses in Toronto inclusive and unique.”

The program launched with one initial client: Black-owned sustainable luxury women’s apparel brand Israella Kobla, which was founded in 2019 by Emefa Kuadey. The agency helped develop Israella Kobla’s brand strategy, including a new visual identity, and refine its social strategy to drive direct engagement with consumers – a tactic commonly used by small fashion brands to build large audiences of loyal clientele.

The brand relaunch rolled out across communications, social and retail channels in mid-February and “the response has been really positive,” says Nhlamba.

“The team brought me far enough out of my comfort zone to really elevate the brand, while still maintaining the core essence of what I’ve developed over the years,” adds Kuadey.

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Now, Anomaly has opened applications for Equal Advantage’s next client “and we’re already starting to see quite a few businesses apply,” Nhlamba says. And while only one will be selected to participate in the program, all businesses can still benefit from taking a shot.

“We can’t partner and fulfill the remit of every business who applies to the program, but we have learned that there are sometimes small ways that we can still help those who’ve applied,” Nhlamba explains. For example, one business was referred to the innovation department at Anomaly New York to lend its expertise on product development and business plan, while another worked with head of production, Marie-Pierre Touré, to connect with photographers and videographers. “We’ll continue to find those opportunities to help where we can.”

The program is also reflective of the agency’s broader diversity efforts, according to Kristi Henderson, the agency network’s global head of diversity.

“Equal Advantage places diversity, equity and inclusion at the core of the program. This is exactly how we approach DE&I agency-wide,” she says. “Our belief is that DE&I should be a part of all the work we do and how we do it. We know that it makes a company more powerful, both creatively and commercially. It makes us more innovative, indispensable to our clients, and a far more compelling place to work at and work with.”