Mercedes Benson is the founder and CEO of SocialFixt, an organization she set up in 2017 to give Black creative talents exposure to employment opportunities.
In an interview with Soho House, Benson revealed that growing up in an immigrant family, she was told many times that ‘to be Black’ meant one had to work 10x harder, and also, that a traditional career path was a safer and more secure option. The creative industry was termed risky and discouraged.
She explained that it wasn’t until she got into the University to study biomedical science that she finally discovered that she didn’t want to be a doctor for the rest of her life.
She quit her studies at St. George’s University of London and occupied herself with the internet and online communities like Tumblr, which gave her the freedom to discover arts, fashion, and music.
She added that attending a Beyoncé concert in 2012 further ignited her interest to understand how the entertainment industry worked. This led her to call different creative agencies and companies to ask for internships. Eventually, she received a call back from Adidas.
She mentioned that the email was sent from a Ghanaian lady, which affected her view about how important representation mattered in professional settings. On the first day of her two-week internship at Adidas, she saw that the whole department was made up of Black women. This motivated her to believe she could excel as well.
Benson added that she worked also at Puma, and once again, found herself among a team of Black women. After which, she went back to Adidas for a short time. Sooner or later, she was employed by a big tech company where according to her; she witnessed “institutional racism.” For the first time, she was the only Black girl in the department.
She said it was exciting at first because she saw an opportunity to teach people about Black culture through fashion, music, and cultural events. However, she admits it got tiring after a short while. She had to travel several floors if she wanted to commune with other Black colleagues. Ultimately, she began to feel alone.
Benson began her company out of her frustration with being the only one in her department. She said, “Whenever I saw internal vacancies open up, I would share it anonymously on Twitter, just so I’d receive more CVs from people that looked like me.”
Today, SocialFixt has formed its own community and built a Facebook group with more than 6,000 members, with only the aim of sharing opportunities. Benson added that she started her business with a goal to focus on BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority ethnic groups) who make up only 11 percent of the creative industry in the U.K.
Benson told Graduate Fashion Foundation that she believed accessibility needed to change in order to promote representation in companies. She said “A lot of people are coming from different backgrounds into an industry that traditionally only caters to people coming from middle-class backgrounds.
It’s about creating more opportunities where people from different backgrounds can access the industry while making sure that senior leaders are making their teams as diverse as possible.”
Benson expounded that the community runs programs that give their members the opportunity to nail the perfect CV while helping them to appreciate themselves and their skills, according to Atlas of the Future.
She added that the company organizes events that also focus on gender equality or inequality, and one that focuses on money management and what it takes to become a freelancer.
The company is partnered with Red Bull, Unilever, Warner Music, and Boiler Room among others.
Apart from being a founder and CEO, Mercedes Benson is also a DJ, brand partnership manager, and influencer.
She shared with Spell Magazine that through her photos and stories as an influencer on social media, “I hope that I inspire other women to feel like they’re good enough to apply for the jobs that they see.”