Nailah Ellis, founder and owner of Ellis Island Tea, recently noticed that the Detroit-based company began receiving a surge of online orders. Then she got a call from her sister, crying. Her sister said that Ellis Island Tea had been featured on Beyonce’s “Black Parade Route” business directory.
“Everybody was super excited and supportive,” Ellis said. “The community has always been supportive. One of the more common responses was ‘finally, you’re being noticed on a national scale like you deserve to be noticed.’ ”
Black Parade Route is located on performer Beyonce’s website; it was created by Zerina Akers, founder of the Black Owned Everything business directory, named after a song that was released by Beyonce on Juneteenth.
All proceeds generated by the song will benefit the BeyGOOD Black Business Impact Fund, administered by the National Urban League. BeyGOOD has also partnered with the NAACP to offer $10,000 grants for Black-owned businesses in five cities: Houston, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles and Minneapolis.
Black-owned business directories like Beyonce’s have been created across the country in an effort to provide a direct route for investing in the Black community. Nationwide, they have become more relevant as Black-owned businesses have struggled to stay open during the early months of the coronavirus outbreak.
Robert Fairlie, economics professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz, says that 41% of Black-owned businesses were shut down in April.
“That has a lot of repercussions,” said Fairlie. “One repercussion is that lost income for that month. Business owners have to pay their rent on their business, they have to pay equipment and they have a lot of other expenses that don’t necessarily just go away because you’re not operating.”
But right now Ellis, like many Black business owners, believes the future is bright and hopes that people continue supporting businesses. She started selling tea out of her trunk 12 years ago. Production and online sales have been in process for six years now.
Detroit is the New Black is another local business featured in the ‘Black Parade Route’ directory. The brand started in 2014 and moved to a few locations before settling in its 1430 Woodward Avenue downtown storefront in 2019.
“I think people are interested in buying Black and supporting minority businesses, but it can be challenging to locate them sometimes,” said founder and CEO Roslyn Karamoko. “I think the lists have been super helpful. We saw quite an increase in sales in June just by way of being included on a number of different lists. It’s been a blessing for sure.”
Karamoko said that DITNB hasn’t done much marketing, but they receive their publicity from the work that they do in the community. This includes working with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Bedrock Detroit to create the Industry Club, which is a small business accelerator and exposure program for young people.
In the end, Karamoko hopes that people recognize Black-owned businesses as a regular business with good products.
“I don’t want it to become this trend,” said Karamoko. “Buy it because it’s good and because you believe in what we’re doing and the messaging behind the brand. I think that is what creates a sustainable customer base and one that you can plan your business around, as opposed to a trend that happens one month and dies down.”
A common issue that many Black business directory creators stated is that people may not know where to go to support a Black-owned business.
Here are three more Black business directories that include metro Detroit businesses:
Power to the People 313
Black health care providers, beauticians, lawyers, dentists, restaurants, apparel and many more can be found on the Power to the People 313 website’s new Black business directory. Metro Detroiters have the ability to submit businesses to the online local directory, and can include an address, website and Instagram link.
“The hope is that we’ll continue to use more Black businesses,” said Khadijah Johnson, one of the lead organizers of Power to the People 313. “Sometimes, we don’t know where to go. We only have so many suggestions from friends and family.”
The organization was created when Asia Horn formed the Power to the People movement for Black femme and women organizers in the Grand Rapids area. Other branches of Power to the People began to form based on the region’s area code.
Power to the People 313’s next initiative will focus on voting in partnership with the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.
In addition to searching for businesses, the NOIR Detroit Black business directory is unique due to its additional events calendar and community resource sections. The website also encourages community involvement and highlighting non-profits.
The directory’s website was curated and designed by three friends: Mardi Woods, Debra Sanders and Alicia Nails. The idea came about years ago when Woods was looking for events to attend and Black businesses to support. When the three put their ideas together years later, they felt it was important to provide a free resource to the community.
“It’s open to everyone,” said Woods. “We wanted to make sure that we could try to get everybody to list because it’s free. There’s been a lot of people who are looking to support Black businesses.”
Text and email notifications are also available to schedule a reminder when a visitor wants to attend an event.
500+ Black-owned businesses to support in Metro Detroit area
Food and beverages, beauty and grooming, health and wellness, shopping and services are the five categories of this Black business directory. Kaila Gardner and Philip Lewis worked together to compile a large directory of businesses called ‘500+ Black-owned businesses to support in the Metro Detroit area.’
“I think one of the main reasons I thought to create a directory page was to show that Black people are still resilient, they’re still excellent and they are innovative,” said Gardner. “From doing this resource page, I literally found out so many businesses that I didn’t even know existed.”
Gardner says that directories are helping people to know the businesses that are located in their own neighborhoods. Gardner hopes they will gain new customers and a new market from being featured.
To be added to the directory, Gardner and Lewis ask to be contacted on their social media accounts.
(Article written by Chanel Stitt)