BY: JELANI GRANT
The Official Black Wall Street digital platform now has an app that can be found in Android and Apple app stores. Though the app’s user traffic is growing with online stores and various areas in the United States, a majority of businesses in Toronto have yet to utilize this new tool.
In 2014, Mandy Bowman created OBWS in order to encourage black owners to network and promote themselves to their communities. Bowman, 26, told Blavity she believes this is the next step for the black community to reach economic empowerment. The digital platform allowed users to buy black without the middle work of searching for specific products or waiting to hear about the business via word of mouth. The comprehensive, user-friendly directory allows the expanded digital promotion of Black-owned businesses, exclusively.
Founder of the Black-Owned Pop-Up Market, Sepo Achampong, originally from Toronto started his platform for buying black after noticing the demand for such a space. “I was listening to conversations online and seeing what people are talking about, the climate for change is very high. People are realizing the importance of coming together,” he said.
The first event, held in February, had to change to a larger location a few weeks before in order to accommodate everyone. The second event, held in May, had a visitor count of 1,000 people with 62 vendors. One vendor even travelled from the United States to expand their customer base. “They came with everything, sixteen hours by bus and took an eighteen-hour bus ride back just to be at black-owned. That really woke me up…somebody from outside [the city] is doing that to get to black folk, showing we have to step it up,” he said.
Achampong said he started Black Owned Unity out of necessity and is preparing for the next market scheduled for Dec 3rd. Has a personal brand called Ananse, standing for ‘storytelling through textile making’, from the Akan region in Ghana. He uses West-African fabric patterns to create a story consumers can wear. “The colors have meanings, the symbols and shapes all have meanings to them. We put them together, different patterns tell different stories about the wearer,” he said.
The intention of the Black-Owned Pop-Up Market serves a similar purpose as the OBWS app; making it easier for people to buy from black-owned businesses. Imagine if all of these businesses registered onto the OBWS app, potentially expanding their reach to locations they may not have access to.
A special feature of the OBWS app is the nearby notification app. If a user comes in close proximity to a business address submitted into the app, they will be notified. Registering for the app is a simple process, completed through the user’s e-mail address, Facebook account or Google account. With an account, users can build a list of favourite businesses, send messages to other users, and receive notifications of nearby businesses.
Business professionals such as Ninja Outreach founder Mark Samms said his number one advice to building a successful business is “blogger outreach and influencer marketing. I believe that partnering with people who have large audiences is one of the best ways to get noticed.”
“Finding support groups are always [a challenge to growing business]. Having like-minded people around you…there has to be some sort of community, especially if you’re black,” said Achampong.
Finding a supportive circle that can promote the business is a challenge that OBWS can address by just turning on the app’s nearby notifications feature. This app could revolutionize the methods customers use to buy black in Toronto.