Gaining financial clout

Blackstocks.com seeks to help minorities flex their financial muscle

Loretta and Alton Perkins are on a mission: to bring 100,000 minority investors into the stock market, to develop training materials and books on investing, and to become the premier Internet site for African Americans. Married for 31 years, the Perkins are the founders of Blackstocks.com, an online community where African Americans can use technology to learn how to save, invest, and create wealth.

Aside from stock quotes and info on upcoming IPOs, Blackstocks.com provides rudimentary to in-depth information on the stock market, investing, and overall financial well being. The site features online seminars, teleconferences and chats. Its 401(k) Center answers virtually any question about company-sponsored retirement plans, and the site’s “Honey Report” gives the lowdown on black publicly traded companies. For visitors needing more hands-on assistance and additional investment advice, a subscription service is available for $99.95 a year.

Blackstocks.com is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, with additional walk-in offices in Richmond, Virginia, Atlanta, and Houston. The site averages 450,000 visitors per month, ranging in age from 18 to 55. There are member communities of individual investors, financial advisors, students, churches, and small businesses, which can network, post events, and share information.

Moving toward the goal of being a full online trading site, Blackstocks.com offers “Sharebuilder,” in partnership with Netstock.com, which lets members purchase incremental shares of stock for as little as $25. Blackstocks.com also recently launched the “Investment Challenge,” which allows users to manage their own $500,000 virtual portfolios. At the end of the six-week contest, the person with the highest asset value will receive $1,000-in real money-and other prizes are given weekly.

Al Perkins can relate to many of the people who come to the site. The CEO and founder of New Visions Inc., a computer applications company, made his first visit to a brokerage firm in 1992. A first-time investor, he was a bit nervous (especially since there was no one there who looked like him). But it wasn’t long before he was buying stocks online. Now he’s paying part of his children’s college tuition from the gains of some of his winners, which include Dell, Microsoft and Pfizer.

It was in 1998 that Perkins combined his financial savvy and background in computers to launch a Website to provide information and quality financial services to other African Americans who have been traditionally left out of the loop. Today, Blackstocks.com has strategic partnerships with major corporations to provide financial information, products and services.

Loretta adds that the site offers a “win-win” situation. “For our users, they have access to a myriad of products and services. Our strategic partners have a community to market their brands, and Blackstocks.com wins, because we’re able to offer our services at cost to our partners and at a minimal cost (in most cases free) to our users.”

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