For Christabel Agbonkonkon, the outrage that followed the murder of George Floyd prompted her to contribute to the Black community in a way that could empower Black people to be self-reliant within the workforce.
On March 31, the Frisco, Texas, resident launched BlackUp, a recruitment platform aiming to connect Black professionals with companies genuinely seeking to increase and maintain their Black workforce.
“Jobs are so foundational to our mental health, self-reliance, and economic security that can help you believe in yourself,” Agbonkonkon said, a Frisco church member, according to the Church of Jesus Christ In North Texas. “It’s about building self-esteem and a better feeling about the world around them.”
She continued: “Giving Blacks better access to jobs would do so much to improve their mental health. Jobs can provide for families, keep families together, and keep people out of trouble and out of jail.”
The company’s slogan, “BlackUp, Making Job Equity a Reality,” speaks to Agbonkonkon’s vision of bridging the equity gap that Black professionals face in the employment market. In doing so, BlackUp uses artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the broad science of mimicking human abilities, while machine learning (ML) is a specific subset of AI that trains a machine how to learn using methods from “neural networks, statistics, operations research and physics to find hidden insights in data without being explicitly programmed where to look or what to conclude.”
“We needed a better algorithm, that’s BlackUp’s design, to provide a better matching algorithm and a better screening process for both the enterprise and our employees,” said Agbonkonkon, as per ELOEP.
The company provides a subscription-style service in which partners pay on a monthly or annual subscription model, post jobs, contact candidates, measure diversity metrics and progress, and more. Candidates can benefit from a free service for seeking part-time, full-time, contract, remote, or hybrid work from reputable companies around the U.S.
Originally from Nigeria, Agbonkonkon is a soccer mother of five who inherited her entrepreneurial spirit watching her mother sell clothes. That same spirit gave birth to BlackUp with the enormous help of students from her alma mater, Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Business. In building a prototype for the online platform, the research illustrated that she needed to help Black people connect to jobs that better match their skills.
“It’s not a job that a company employs just because it’s trying to fill an allocation; it’s a deliberate match between a company that uses AI and machine learning and a candidate,” she said. “We believe that when people match a qualified job better, it helps them stay in their job.”
The goal for BlackUp is to have 1 million Black professionals signing up, Agbonkonkon said.