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In 2010, Ahmir Young did what any typical Facebook user would do, create a group based on his interest and gather like minds. At that time, he started the Black Owned Businesses group with eight people with the intention of gathering like minds locally.
“I was tired of spending money with people who don’t look like me nor care about me,” he said. “Racism is clear as day and we are still giving people who hate us our money. I didn’t know this group was going to turn into a movement.”
Fast forward to 2014, the EGrassRootsBusiness.com website was launched. The site is a place to feature black businesses in various states and cities, allow consumers to provide real-time reviews, encourage event producers to list their events, businesses develop their own coupons and promotions for those wanting to try them out or return again and allow people to spend money with known black businesses.
“Word of mouth is cool but dated in this economy. A business that is virtual can pick up customers from anywhere, but people need to know who you are,” he said.
Over 550 businesses are listed from a variety of categories within the firm to business and business to consumer. The site also has an app available in the Google Play and Apple stores for downloads with over 1,000 having the access. The Facebook group contains nearly 35,000 members.
While many argue black business initiatives and directories are dated, the census date proves different. There were 2.6 million black-owned firms in 2012, a 34 percent increase from 1.9 million in 2007. While 9.4 percent of all U.S. companies were black owned, the largest percentage was 19.2 percent within the health care and social assistance sector. The state of Georgia had the most black-owned businesses in 2012 totaling 256,848 companies with Florida coming second with 251,216.
Metro Atlanta has more black owned businesses 176,245 in 2012 than any other metro area. New York City’s Metro area had 250,890. Cook County Illinois has the most black-owned firms out of all the counties with 110,155. Detroit and Memphis had the largest concentration of black-owned businesses out of the largest 50 cities. Detroit had 77 percent whereas Memphis had 56.2 percent.
The EGrassRootsBusiness movement has also produced other fruits such as a black-owned business coupon book, the first known of its kind on a national level. The group also hosted local meetups in Atlanta, Charlotte, Philadelphia, and various parts of the DMV region. It has also partnered with the South Fulton Business Coalition to work jointly on projects in the Fulton County area of the region.
“I want to see people get serious on a local level so we can do more on a national level,” he said. “It all starts in our backyards. There is so much more we all can do to support each other.”
There are also quiet successes within the movement from people finally starting their business, creating partnerships, finding the will to keep their struggling business going and several new life long connections.
“Those are the things you wouldn’t notice unless you had your eyes open. We have kept money in our community longer by passing referrals and making people think about using a black business for various services,” he said. “We always hear about how fast the dollar leaves our community and forever talk about it. Well, we are doing something about it.”
Many non-profits have thrived in the group, and a few members have started working on community issues together. Members give advisement and encouragement to each other while praising each other for accomplishments.
Young wants to eliminate all the excuses people come up with and the bashing of black businesses.
“You never hear other races bashing their businesses, they work it out and handle it. We can’t wait to blast someone,” he mentioned. “Many of us love to talk, but very few of us are willing to put in the effort. No reason why local meetups are not full and more people are not doing business with each other.”
EGrassRootsBusiness has a merchandise line from t-shirts, coffee mugs, laptop bags and much more. Young looks at it as a symbol to show who is truly a supporter of black-owned businesses. There have been conference calls to teach people business and other crucial information.
Many directories and initiatives have come and gone, but Young credits the efforts of the businesses, team members and patrons for keeping the movement going.
Team members include Dustin Queenan, Tamikka Goldsby, S. Elle Clark, Lakeisha Singletary, Rochelle Hayward-El and Lem Mobley.
“We’re consistent and continue to push ourselves to the limits. We are innovative and creative,” he said. “Everyone wants to see each other do well. We’re the networking event that never ends.”
Fan Page: Egrassroots Business
Publisher’s Disclosure: The writer and editor of this magazine is also the founder of South Fulton Business Coalition and a team member for Egrassroots Business project.
Article by Dominique Huff