Growing up in Hollywood, Florida, Jennifer Miller was used to diversity in her neighborhood. “Where I grew up in South Florida, it was completely diverse from the food that you eat and the culture that you experience. I think that is what has made me so successful with diversity and inclusion.”
Miller is the owner of JSM Diversity, a company that works with corporations on their equity and inclusion. In addition to her company’s work with corporations on their diversity and inclusion, JSM Diversity also helps businesses get registered and recognized as legitimate businesses, as well as occasionally helps create community coalitions to facilitate dialogue between law enforcement and the Black community. But Miller wasn’t always running this business. It was the death of Freddie Gray when she was doing her former job, as a manager at Starbucks, that got her pushed toward her new passion of being an agent of change.
“I used to manage a number of Starbucks stores throughout the nation. I originally started in South Florida and then relocated to Tennessee, and I had a store out in the Brentwood area. At the time, I was an assistant there and this was around the time Freddie Gray had been killed. It made national headlines at the time and as a ‘partner’ at Starbucks (everyone that works at Starbucks is a partner), they really strived to have equity and inclusion and supporting all communities. At this time when this was going on, I worked in a predominately white area at a Starbucks and a lot of our customers wanted to have a one-way dialogue about what Black community members need to do and how we need to behave when interacting with law enforcement. It was just very frustrating for me to have to absorb that. In any line of business, you have this expectation to represent the company’s values, but I felt like the company failed at not providing Black partners with an avenue to express their frustrations. This national exposure of things that hurt us and we were still expected to wear our apron and go to work as usual?”
Miller took the time out to write a letter to express herself to Howard Schultz, who was the CEO of Starbucks at the time, never expecting him to actually read it. Well, he did read it and reached out to Miller. From there, they started a dialogue about what the company could do to make Black partners feel more connected and supported. The company began to do more things in that arena and Miller was always involved and then a position became available where she could do more of what she loved and less of managing the store. She didn’t get the position, but then after talking with her director, she got hit with two choices: go out and get the experience and apply again or wait around for something else. Miller chose to leave and JSM Diversity was born.
From April 2017 to now, she has been stepping into businesses and trying her best to get them to understand the importance of equity and inclusion. And while she does say there are some that are just doing this to check a box and some that are not ready for those deep conversations that need to be had, she realizes that what she is doing is making a difference while being in those situations.
Her goal is not only to help diversity and inclusion but to change the communities and that will require expansion outside of just diversity and inclusion.
From going back to work in conjunction with Starbucks with her business to working with the State of Tennessee, the mission has always been to bring people more together and while doing so, she also hopes to help more communities become better.
From the sound of it, it sounds like Miller is on the right track to be an agent of change.