The protests in Ferguson and aftermath of the recent decisions to not indict officers connected to the killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown have ignited a fury in black America.
Tired of seeing no repercussions for the killing of unarmed African Americas, social media lit up with frustration. Responding on an economic level, many protested Black Friday shopping, vowing to “spend not one dime” on any company that wasn’t black owned. Answering the call to action is Brian Williams. A finalist at 2014’s Elevator Pitch Competition at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference, Williams launched his company Purchase Black, LLC in 2013. The website, PurchaseBlack.com, is dedicated to providing a link to hundreds of black owned businesses nationwide. “I didn’t know there were literally hundreds of thousands of incredible black businesses,” says Williams, who came up with the idea over 3 years ago, while working toward his MBA. “We largely don’t know about these companies. They’re spread out all over the country and usually in local areas. I know the best in my neighborhood, but not Houston or LA. With social media, it makes it possible to broadcast to a million for free. It’s created an opportunity for locals to have a national voice.”
Williams’ site is clean and simple. Offering a directory to varied business types, no matter the cultural background, black owned businesses are specifically pinned with a red, black, and green badge. “So say if I was to carry an African American focused brand from a non-black owned company. I’d be happy to do that. But they won’t get the badge,” says the 29 year old, who points out that 75% of his new business comes from new customers, while the rest is from those returning. “People are coming to the site to see 700 products. And then come back and see 800 products. They’re revisiting to see what’s new. That says something about the dedication to utilizing an option that is African American focused. We are constantly looking for more businesses to sell their products on PurchaseBlack.com. So if a business sells Hair Care, Skin Care, Gifts, Art, Clothes and Accessories, they can get a free webstore on Purchase Black by visiting PurchaseBlack.com/Become-A-Seller.”
Overwhelmed by the influx of traffic during this year’s Black Friday, Williams is looking to expand his staff and leave his job as a government contractor, in January , to fully focus on the website. “I’ve been asked several times by people why am I doing this. When I talk to older folks they ask me why am I chasing this tech market. I have an engineering degree from a top school, first in my family to go to college,” says Williams, who’s based in Washington, DC. “And I say, because this needs to be done. And I do have the ability to do it and it’s important to me to leave my community better than I found it. When it’s all said and done, ‘Did I do something that mattered?’ I want people to believe you can be a black business in technology and be successful. I want to be that push.”
The 2015 Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo hosted by Nationwide, May 13-16, at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. Expect innovative sessions, high-powered speakers, and an early peek at the products, trends, and services you’ll need to stay ahead of the curve. Be sure to enter our Elevator Pitch Competition to qualify for the $10,000 grand prize. To register and find out more, visit www.blackenterprise.com/ec/<http://www.blackenterprise.com/ec/>