By Jennifer Streaks
Mandy Bowman knew that buying Black was important before it was the trend that it is today.
Bowman is the founder and CEO of Official Black Wall Street, a platform that connects consumers with thousands of Black-owned businesses in 10 countries worldwide. The directory, which launched in 2015, has particularly useful recently, at a time of heightened momentum around the #BuyBlack movement.
Bowman was largely inspired to start her company by the 1921 Tulsa race massacre—the racially-motivated attack wherein Oklahoma city officials, the local police department and angered white residents targeted what was then the wealthiest Black community in the country in one of the deadliest massacres in U.S. history. The riots resulted in the deaths of hundreds of African-American residents and the demolishing of at least 30 blocks of Black-owned businesses and flourishing predominantly Black neighborhoods.
“Buying Black should not be a trend, it should be a habit. We have to realize that buying Black is how we take care of ourselves and our community.”Mandy Bowman, CEO and founder of Official Black Wall Street.
After learning about this dark time in history for Black Americans, Bowman started working on what is now Official Black Wall Street. It started as a spreadsheet listing Black-owned businesses and took off from there, eventually evolving to include an accompanying app that launched in 2017. From apparel and cosmetics to leather goods and banks, Bowman learned that for almost anything you desire you can find a Black business to supply it.
For(bes) The Culture sat down with Bowman to learn more about her growing initiative.
For(bes) The Culture: How did you put the plan for Official Black Wall Street in motion?
Mandy Bowman: First, there was the website and there was so much that went into building that website. It was a true labor of love, but also very intense because I wanted to get it right and make sure that it was user-friendly and that I had included as many businesses as possible.
There was also the cost. I was able to successfully raise $33,000 for the app through a Kickstarter, but it was a lot more expensive than I expected. Loans weren’t really an option, so it was a big challenge to figure out where the rest of the money would come from. But I knew that I wanted to get it done so I kept pushing and finally it was completed.
For(bes) The Culture: Right now there is a lot of momentum behind buying Black. Have you seen increased engagement with the Official Black Wall Street website and app?
Bowman: Yes, definitely. We are seeing increased website views and increased app downloads. I am really happy about that. But buying Black should not be a trend, it should be a habit. We have to realize that buying Black is how we take care of ourselves and our community. Especially now when we are seeing Black businesses close due to a lack of funding.
For(bes) The Culture: When it comes to maintaining personal finances, what are some of the best practices that come to mind when it comes to financial planning, security and freedom?
Bowman: The first thing I would say is to find a financial adviser. Sitting down with a professional and talking and listing out your goals helps you focus and create a plan that will help you reach those goals. I also think it is very important to save money for when hard times hit. No one could have seen a pandemic coming, but we do know that eventually there is some sort of financial issue that will arise and saving ensures that you are ready for it.
For(bes) The Culture: Looking at what is happening right now, what lessons should we take from this?
Bowman: I think that is very important to have multiple streams of income. Find something that you can do, something that you like to do and find a way to make money from it.
For(bes) The Culture: We have seen so many corporate Black Lives Matter statements. How do we turn those statements into action?
Bowman: It is so important to start seeing internal changes within the corporate structure. How many Black executives are there? How many Black people are on the Board of Directors? How much do you pay your Black employees and is it on par with what you pay your white employees? These changes are important to start seeing true equity and fairness.
For(bes) The Culture: Are there any further plans for the app?
Bowman: Yes! We have new content and more events to help entrepreneurs. We want to make it easy to find Black businesses and make it easy to become a Black entrepreneur.
Originally posted on Forbes