Mandy Bowman has taken matters into her own hands when it comes to the difficulty of finding Black-owned businesses: she created an app designed as a directory of Black-owned businesses that ranges from the United States to 10 different countries outside of the United States.
Launched in October, the app helps people to find and support Black, small business owners who really need the exposure. You can search for businesses via category and location, or via your current location. You can also get alerts on your phone whenever you are walking by a Black-owned business.
Bowman says she was inspired to launch the app after reading the story of Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“I had just read that story a few years ago, and it motivated me to start supporting Black-owned businesses,” she says in a recent interview with TNJ.com. “Even in my hometown of Brooklyn, New York, there’s been so much gentrification that a lot of businesses that were there when I was younger had to close down. So, I wanted to find as many as possible and support them. But I couldn’t find that many, so I began creating my own list and figured I should share it with others.”
The app can be downloaded on Android, and there is also a web-based platform that has the same directory. According to Bowman, users are amazed to find Black owned businesses that they did not know of right in their neighborhoods. Business owners even contact her to thank her for including them on her list reporting that as a result, they have gotten more orders and sales.
“There’s been so much gentrification that a lot of businesses that were there when I was younger had to close down.”
And while the rewards have been many, there have been a few technological challenges. “I am very new to the tech space, and this is my first time launching anything like this so the biggest challenge was learning how to tailor my expectations,” she notes. “When it comes to tech, things don’t always happen the way we want them to. Sometimes things get delayed. For example, right now we are waiting for Apple to release our update, and we’ve been waiting a really long time, but we kind of have to just roll with the punches.”
In the meantime, Bowman is working on her 2018 goal of doing more events around the country including events in pop-up marketplaces. “In addition to the events, we also have more features we want to implement into the app to help people build a community on the app, and help them find more Black-owned businesses and buy directly from Black business owners,” she says.
This month, Wells Fargo is celebrating her unique work through a community building campaign the company is doing for Black History Month.
“Wells Fargo is highlighting Black entrepreneurs around the country who are doing things to help build their communities. We are working with them to give business owners they are highlighting more exposure through our app,” Bowman says. “I’m excited about the call to action with this campaign. Instead of just telling people to go out and support Black owned businesses, we’re saying ‘go and support these businesses, and here’s how you can do so.’”