You may have heard the old joke about the black person who bought ice from the white man’s store instead of the black man’s store. When asked why, he said, “The white man’s ice is colder.”
That joke holds an allegory of the lack of support black people often show to black-owned businesses. While hard data is hard to find, a story in the Associated Press highlighted anecdotes of black business owners frustrated by a lack of black customers.
In the AP story, Terina McKinney, who designs leather bags and belts, said about black customers, “They all ooh and ahh and ask a ton of questions, but don’t necessarily make purchases.”
In addition to that sad-but-real mentality that black-owned businesses may be inferior, the AP story also mentions that black people often don’t know where black businesses are located or know about the ones that exist online.
One organization is trying hard to turn that all around. LetsBuyBlack365 is an online community and nationwide black economic empowerment movement. Its mission is to help connect black businesses to black customers.
Nataki Kambon is one of the co-founders of the movement. She sees the LetsBuyBlack site along with its Connect Social Network as a way to “create an environment where both business owners and consumers can walk in [to a black-owned business] with the understanding that we are all having a positive relationship.”
LetsBuyBlack365 offers a crowdsourced directory of black-owned businesses. Anyone can list a business and review it, but there are vetting measures in place to make sure these are actual businesses, black-owned, and with real reviews.
In addition, Kambon and the organization offer resources to businesses. “Through memberships and subscriptions, there are ways those businesses can get real value-added services to help with customer service, to scaling up to all area of business; management consulting; finance consulting; marketing….,” she says, but stresses the primary focus is to connect the business to customers.
The site also allows those who are passionate about the #BuyBlack movement to serve as activists. As people engage with the platform—by listing businesses or reviews, or furthering the cause, they receive points for social credit. Kambon says the team is working on ways to make the points redeemable—by offering budding entrepreneurs business development services; and eventually, redeeming for goods and services.