DEI Stories: Kroger & Black Girl Ventures Collaboration

Guest Blog Series with RILA's Retail Innovation Center

A bi-monthly segment highlighting unique DEI perspectives from around the industry impacting innovation within an organization.

RILA’s Retail Innovation Center (RIC) recently had the opportunity to learn more about the collaboration between Kroger and Black Girl Ventures, who together advance racial equality through The Kroger Co. Foundation’s Racial Equity Fund Build It Together Grant.

Read our exclusive Q&A with Kroger’s Sunny Reelhorn Parr and Black Girl Venture’s Shaunda Lambert, on the importance of supporting diverse founders and inspiring change within the retail industry.

What is your current role?

Kroger: My name is Sunny Reelhorn Parr, and I’m the executive director of The Kroger Co. Foundation. In my role at The Kroger Co., I oversee the philanthropic strategy and corporate grantmaking across the Kroger family of companies, which includes the Racial Equity Fund.

Black Girl Ventures: My name is Shaunda Lambert, and I serve as the C.O.O. (Chief Operating Officer) of Black Girl Ventures.

How has your personal story impacted your career path?

Kroger: My personal story is truly a story of luck and grit. Every morning I wake, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to do such purposeful work for an amazing company. Yes, I’m an Asian American female immigrant. The idea of dreaming of a career was afforded to me by my parents, and I am doing what I love today because others – my mentors – saw something in me and gave me a chance. I fundamentally believe the most important thing we can do throughout our human experience is to be and bring our whole selves and be authentic.  

BGV: I come from a fashion & retail background but have spent most of my career focused on digital marketing ranging from strategic corporate partnerships to content creation. I helped one of the nation's most significant creative and digital staffing agencies with their consumer experience. By disrupting the digital marketing space within sales focused on optimizing the customer journey, it brought to light many diversity and inclusion shortcomings across almost all industry verticals working with staffing. After my experiences personally navigating what DEI meant in a corporate environment, it opened space for me to explore how to deepen my impact in my career. When I met Shelly Bell, the CEO of BGV, at an event, it solidified my want to join an organization that focused on a more profound impact for communities that are given access to resources. My journey started with first volunteering with Black Girl Ventures and moving into a Marketing and Branding capacity to move to BGV as Chief Operations Officer at Black Girl Ventures Foundation. Leading the charge on activating partnerships for BGV with brands such as Kroger has made viewing my work at Black Girl Ventures a lifestyle and not just a career path. I show up honored every day to do the work to impact Black and Brown women entrepreneurs.

What inspired the Racial Equity Fund Build It Together grant challenge:

Kroger: Keith Dailey, president of The Kroger Co. Foundation, inspired and created the Racial Equity Fund. He led with his heart and was intentional about building a path to strengthen our purpose as a corporate foundation. The Build It Together grant challenge was developed because we wanted to source the most creative ideas and innovative solutions from leading organizations on a mission to advance racial equality. We are thrilled to have initiated a meaningful collaboration with four organizations, including Black Girl Ventures, who are changing the world.

What does a grant like Build It Together mean for BGV?

BGV: It means creating access to social and financial capital for Black and Brown women entrepreneurs on a local level to deepen the impact. This grant will move the needle on taking Black and Brown women founders from business owners to feeling amplified business leaders in their local ecosystems so that they can create long-term entrepreneurial knowledge and sustainability of underrepresented founders. Kroger and BGV want to build mutual racial equity and provide training through entrepreneurship workshops and access to BGV's network of investors and partners.

How do your DEI programs support innovation and innovative thinking within the organization?

Kroger: Our entire focus for the Build It Together challenge was to unlock innovation to help advance racial equality. We specifically asked the organizations what was on their wish list and a part of their dream goal for their program. This type of challenge helps ignite creative thinking which allows everyone involved to do more together.

BGV: BGV programming focuses on pushing the bounds of innovation and creativity to create access to capital for our founders. Our innovative programming from our BGV style pitch competition, JetPack Curriculum Experience to corporate mentorship, and BGV’s supplier diversity program were conceived to create long-term sustainable solutions for gaining economic security through entrepreneurship for black/brown woman-identifying founders.

What excites you most about the changing retail industry?​

BGV: Working with partners like Kroger and activating Black and Brown women founders in this industry vertical and facing the problem head-on to diversify this industry vertical and providing solutions to the challenges being faced is critical and exciting. We want to advance further ideas that foster competition, economic growth, and sustainability for Black/Brown women-identifying founders through collaboration and thought leadership.

Read more about Kroger’s Racial Equity Fund’s Build It Together Partners: Black Girl Ventures, Everytable, LISC, and Thurgood Marshall College Fund. You can also learn more about RILA’s Diversity & Inclusion program here or reach out to Erin Hiatt at

This is the second in a series of blogs about diversity, equity, and inclusion in the retail industry - explore the latest via the button below. 


For more blogs, webinars, and innovative content be sure to visit the Retail Innovation Center’s Insights on-Demand webpage or reach out to Katie Nicholos at

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