A military spouse is using her self-taught tech skills to elevate visibility for thousands of Black-owned businesses.
Jasmine Grant started her entrepreneurial journey for the same reason many others do: she was frustrated because she couldn’t find what she needed.
“I was trying to find a Black Girls Rock shirt and I couldn’t find it online. There wasn’t a directory that was easy to click on at the time. I went to the app store and there were two Black business apps, but they had the same problem. They didn’t have a listing,” Grant, a Navy spouse, said.
She decided to create a solution with a new app called The Black Wallet — a digital resource center for Black entrepreneurs and their businesses. While that sounds like an easy DIY, the financial requirement of hiring a creator was surprisingly expensive.
“The cheapest quote I got was $40,000. Well, I don’t have $40,000, so I’ll just make it myself.”
Grant hunkered down for a year, researching and learning the technology behind app creation. The Black Wallet launched in 2017 as a one-stop-shop, now with 3,000+ Black-owned businesses from all over the U.S.
With roughly 2.6 million Black-owned businesses in America, according to 2017 census figures, Grant wants to be instrumental in helping them succeed.
“We currently have 800 more [businesses] in queue. The goal is to add 1,000 more a month.”
On the app, users can search for local and online businesses, along with events. It also has a feature to help those on travel or during a PCS move lookup places by location.
Grant is working to:
- Use technology to leave an impact on Black culture and entrepreneurship,
- Make Black businesses better, and
- Dispel the argument that people have for not supporting Black businesses.
But support requires community, and Grant says she wants to recreate the camaraderie that fueled communities like Black Wall Street — a once self-sufficient prosperous business district created by African Americans in the early 20th century, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
“We were more community-minded [then]. Because of everyone being online and the fact that we are more spread out, you can’t just walk next door and say, hey I have this problem come help me.”
As many businesses move online because of COVID-19, Grant adds, “our pivot isn’t just about pivoting our services; it’s how we connect to people on a deeper level even if we are starting that connection online.”
Her efforts also aim to level the playing field for entrepreneurs who look like her.
In the wake of protests after the murder of George Floyd, conversations surrounding racial injustice and police brutality have been elevated to the forefront. Calls to action to white allies on how to show solidarity with Black neighbors include opening wallets. The National Bureau of Economic Research estimates 41% of Black-owned businesses had closures due to COVID-19.
Grant offers an analogy on why this approach not only makes a difference but also offers steps for correcting America’s historical financial impact on Black culture.
“The statement about America that we are one country united. We are supposed to be a team. Whenever you do a team project if there is somebody falling behind on your team then your entire project is a mess. So, if all you have to do is help the team member that’s behind so that everyone looks good, why wouldn’t you do that? America is also America. The only way to have power in this country is through money. We are not going to have the power we want until we have money,” she explained.
And there are critical events throughout U.S. history confirming that Black people have not had the same opportunities because of power being snatched away.
The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, as an example, occurred when white residents were deputized by city officials to destroy Black Wall Street. The aftermath of the violence left 35 blocks of the district charred, thousands imprisoned, and it is believed 100-300 people were killed, according to Tulsa Historical Society and Museum.
In addition to highlighting businesses through a directory, The Black Wallet offers an education component. Grant’s community efforts amplify entrepreneurial beginnings in hopes of inspiring those new to running a business.
“A lot of times when you see interviews with Black business owners, a lot of them have already made it. They have the success and the money and are telling you how to get there. That’s cool, that’s great, we need that inspiration. But what about people who are still trying to figure out how to make $500 or be consistent. They matter too but no one is really telling their story,” she said.
Her new video series takes viewers inside the journey of the novice business owner.
“Entrepreneurship can be lonely, so I want people to know that there are more people out there just like them. I want you to see yourself,” she said.
The words that users are met with on her app sum up what Grant is passionate for consumers to know: Need something? There’s a Black business for that!
And because of The Black Wallet, searching for that business or product doesn’t have to be an extensive or frustrating process.
Visit http://theblackwallet.com to learn more. The Black Wallet can be downloaded on Apple and Google Play.Read comments