As more leaders are considering issues of justice and equity in their businesses the go-to, especially in the online and services business community, has been to offer lower priced spots and sliding scales.
While it’s great to create access and ensure that you’re not boxing out people who, for structural reasons, don’t have access to money or resources, accessible pricing isn’t the best place for many folks to start making changes.
Equity isn’t just about making things cheaper.
The folks at Crust Vegan Bakery took to Instagram recently to respond to a review complaining about the high prices at their bakery: vegans want cheap cupcakes too! In a (very kind) rebuttal they explained the cost of investing in local ingredients, and detailed how their values guide them to prioritize living wages and healthcare access for their team. Cheaper cupcakes equals a pay cut for their team, or some other squeeze to lower the price.
While you may not think about the environmental impact of ingredients, or the well being of a team, I’ve seen solo service business owners spend significant energy fretting over their pricing accessibility when they are not able to pay themselves yet.
Certain services and pricing models don’t lend themselves to sliding scales; think higher priced consulting services. Shaving a few hundred dollars off something that costs thousands may make a negligable difference to access.
If accessible pricing is the only lever for addressing iniquity, you might actually end up causing more harm.
Not every business is built to remedy every inequality.
There are a couple key places to start before defaulting to pricing:
1: Put your own oxygen mask on first. If you’re overextending ourselves (or your team) in the service of equity and justice, you’re not really solving much of anything.
2: Understand your position. Consider your own identity-based privileges or experiences of oppression. What repair are you accountable to make in the world?
3: Understand your business model. Somebody has to pay the higher end of a sliding scale. Consider how the whole will work.
4: Look at your model and your offers, does a sliding scale even make sense? If you’re in a high priced services business, or sell products that have high input costs, then pricing likely isn’t where you can introduce greater equity in your business.
Remember, you can’t solve systemic problems with your business alone.
What you can do is create tiny worlds and new models, and find the strategies that make sense for your context. That may look like a sliding scale, but that may look like profit distribution to employees, or sourcing from vendors with a similar values alignment.