The global pandemic has put e-commerce at the forefront of retail and continues to vastly accelerate the adoption of all things digital.
This doesn’t exclude what the future has in store for Black e-commerce. A savvy serial entrepreneur and Brooklyn native has decided to create a shopping mall experience beyond traditional brick-and-mortar walls.
Alquincia “Akanundrum” Selolwane is the mastermind behind the first-ever Black Virtual Mall, which “leans into what has historically been very successful with traditional malls, and that is creating a convenient source forshopping; a one-stop-shop,” she explained in a Forbes interview.
The virtual mall was inspired after the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out 40% of Black-owned businesses. The concept was designed with the traditional mall in mind, including shops, a movie theater, and a food court.
“The movie theater hosts entertainment and informative content for you to consume for free, then there’s the food court that actually works and functions, and you can go to the restaurant of your choice in your city, and you can activate the Uber Eats, Grubhub, or whatever they have, and get food delivered to you,” Selolwane describes of the virtual experience.
She added, “when you go to the stores in the booths, they’re individually outfitted with their own branding, and that’s a huge thing that separates me from any marketplace.”
As a business owner, Selolwane sheds light on the ongoing issues Black-owned businesses have had to endure during the pandemic, including limited capital and limited access to government funding such as the Paycheck Protection Program.
“Largely, we don’t receive the funding, we don’t receive the startup capital, we don’t receive the loans, we don’t receive anything that not only helps us establish a business but keep our businesses open,” Selolwane said of Black-owned businesses negatively affected by the pandemic.
With this in mind, she is privy to the economic buying power of Black Americans, and as a result, is dedicated to the customer experience with her mall. She is limiting space, ranging from $50 to $200 a month, to 500 entrepreneurs to prevent overcrowding.
“I want them to be seen,” Selolwane says. “I know people get scroll-fatigue, and if they have to scroll and there’s endless and endless droves of stores, so many people won’t get seen or clicked on. Like, no one goes past the third page of Google typically when they’re searching for something,” she said.
Selolwane makes a profit from tenant rent, but all profits from products sold go directly to the entrepreneurs.