But morale was so low in 2017 that nearly half of museum staff said in a survey that they did not believe the institute provided a work culture where they could thrive, citing disrespect and a sense that their opinions were ignored. The review by Crowell and Moring found those problems had not been addressed in a meaningful way.

Last year, just as issues of culture and diversity roiled museums across the country, current and former employees came forward publicly with complaints, particularly about the institute’s treatment of its Black employees.

In September, the institute hired a Chicago-based diversity and inclusion consultancy. The consultancy, Kaleidoscope, has carried out a survey of employees and is organizing staff focus groups on issues such as equity and diversity. “The Board is fully committed to addressing these concerns and shared that commitment with our staff in December,” Christine Kloostra, a spokeswoman, said of the review’s findings. “At all levels of our organization, we’re working hard together to make the D.I.A. a better place for all of our team members.”

Reviewing employment data, the investigators found that a greater number of women in managerial and professional positions than men had left the museum in recent years. In 2018, for example, it found that 27 percent of women employed by the museum in managerial and professional positions had departed that year, compared to 2 percent of men. In some cases, Ellen Moran Dwyer, one of the investigating lawyers told the board, women said they had left even though they had no other job “because they were unhappy with the environment.”

Whistleblower Aid said the outside review’s findings showed there is a need for more substantial change to address serious problems their own clients brought forward several months ago.

“It’s got to the point where people are so desperate for accountability and change that they are taking this kind of step” to leak the recording of the board meeting, said John N. Tye, the founder and chief executive of Whistleblower Aid.

Some staff said they would wait to see whether the steps the institute is taking would make a difference in addressing the challenges.

“There is a glimmer of hope that something is being done,” said Margaret Thomas, house manager of the Detroit Film Theater, which is part of the institute. “This whole situation should not be swept under the rug.”

She added, “I want to believe that something is going to be done about this.”

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When You’re a Small Business, E-Commerce Is Tougher Than It Looks

A chair sits in the middle of Holiday Market, a specialty grocer near Detroit, and if customers are lucky, they’ll find Tom Violante Sr. sitting in it. The 91-year-old founder still comes to work most days — and he knows where everything is in its 60,000 square feet.

“He asks everyone if they found what they wanted,” said his son, Tom Violante Jr., who operates the store with his sister and brother-in-law. “If they haven’t, he’ll tell them which aisle it is in, how many steps it takes to get there, and where it’s located, knee, head or belly high.”

That’s the type of customer service the store, in Royal Oak, Mich., is known for. So, when Tom Violante Jr. began considering offering online grocery shopping, he wanted to provide that same level of care. He didn’t expect the service to be a huge revenue generator, but he saw the future coming, as online brands such as Chewy and Winc wooed his customers away. In 2019, he assembled a team to build an online platform that could handle the store’s 60,000 items.

Big e-commerce businesses also absorbed nearly 60 percent of all warehouse space available last year, according to real estate analysts at CoStar Group.

“The big just got bigger,” said Andrew Lipsman, principal analyst with eMarketer.

For small businesses, he said, the benefit was wildly uneven. There were winner sectors, such as grocery, health and fitness, and direct-to-consumer brands, but apparel boutiques and other specialty retailers — especially those without existing e-commerce platforms — struggled.

“The pandemic accelerated the growth of online commerce,” said Loren Padelford, vice president of Shopify, the e-commerce platform that predominantly serves independent retailers. “It woke a lot of people up to the idea that if you have to close your physical door, you need to have a digital door.”

been using Instagram, TikTok and Clubhouse to connect directly with shoppers. She has developed a following on those platforms, she said, because she doesn’t post just about the products. She posts about what matters to her: the struggles of building a business, her upbringing, even confusion about what she is “supposed to look like” as the owner of a beauty brand.

“This is so different from the last version of the brand,” Ms. Roy said. “It’s less transactional, more authentic to who I am. It has really contributed to our growth.”

In 2020, the company recorded $1 million in sales, Ms. Roy said. This year, she anticipates $6 million.

the Peacock Room, Frida and Yama. “E-commerce websites are not a magical solution for saving small retail,” she said.

For one, Ms. Lutz couldn’t find a good way to manage inventory across two sales channels. She carries a number of unique and specialty items, and she worried than an online customer could buy an item just as someone picked it up off a store shelf. And stocking separate inventories for online and in-store was too expensive. She also didn’t want to use her retail spaces as shipping and logistics centers when the cost of renting them is so much higher than warehouse space.

In the end, she realized being a community-centered business was the most important thing. “I might be less efficient, but I have a more special and unique business and that’s what draws people to our store,” Ms. Lutz said.

Live Cycle Delight fitness studio in Detroit, is putting on her own show. She wishes she could just point a camera at one of her yoga or spinning instructors and start running Instagram Live, but she knows she needs high production values if she wants her customers to maintain their memberships. So Ms. Daniels built a mini production studio inside her spin room, investing thousands in microphones, lights and a film crew to produce on-demand video classes.

But no matter how much she invests in her digital platform, it’s hard to go up against Peloton, which is well capitalized and has entire teams producing its digital classes. Last fiscal year, that company saw its sales surge 100 percent even as Live Cycle Delight’s revenue fell 80 percent.

“Our competition changed,” Ms. Daniels said. “We’re not just competing with the gym down the street. Titans like Peloton and SoulCycle, they are true beneficiaries of this pandemic. We are working twice as hard to compete with those titans and with celebrity trainers.”

About 30 customers left Live Cycle Delight for Peloton, Ms. Daniels said, but she found support in other ways. With the movement to support Black-owned businesses, people donated to her, and there was healthy demand for the studio’s branded merchandise, such as Pilates balls, T-shirts and booty bands, the stretchy bands that add resistance to a workout. These goods have proved so popular that Ms. Daniels struggles to keep them in stock on her website.

Between the products, outdoor classes in the summer and memberships, she has been able to keep the three-year-old business open. The shift to e-commerce hasn’t been perfect, she said, but it’s been worth it. She reminds herself why she started the studio: to make fitness more accessible and inclusive.

“Peloton is just one kind of experience,” she said. “We’re still here providing clients with an option to join us on the quest of better.”

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