SHOPPE BLACK

GIVING BLACK: The Many Reasons Why We Should Financially Support our Favorite Causes.

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“Black people are the most generous people on this Earth.” That’s a paraphrase of one of my father’s many bits of socio-philosophical brilliance.

He usually uses it in reference to Black folks’ collective emotional generosity – how forgiving we can be in welcoming some Black celebrity back into our loving fold after some public transgression, even if amends haven’t been fully made. But we are also a people who are quite generous with our material and financial resources.

Black folks’ survival and progress have always been rooted in how well we cultivate Ujima (Collective work and responsibility) and Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics).  Many of us have never even considered adopting the title of “philanthropist.”

All the same, generations of church folks, sorority sisters/fraternity brothers, coaches, educators, mentors, activists, etc. have reliably identified our communties’ needs and valiantly employed ever-more creative fundraising to get those needs met. This, indeed, is precisely what philanthropy looks like.

Young Docs DC
Young Docs DC

While altruism can inspire us to be more strategic and impactful with our charitable dollars, mainstream non-profit organizations aren’t always the most accessible or welcoming to Black people as change agents or to our self-determined issues and concerns as philanthropic priorities.

A great way to navigate this murky space is to commit to learning more about smaller, local non-profit organizations or about local chapters of larger national groups like NAACP (www.naacp.org).   These groups often afford increased access to staff and decision-makers, giving donors greater opportunity to learn about and influence organizational philosophy and greater confidence in the stewardship of funds raised. 

Donors will also feel more rewarded – and encouraged to give more generously – when the impact of an organization’s work can be readily seen and felt in the donors’ communities. 

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Black folks can also consider joining a giving circle like The Black Benefactors (www.blackbenefactors.org), pooling resources with like-minded Black donors to increase the giving impact as well as gaining valuable insights about giving mechanisms and strategies for individuals and groups alike.

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Black people have a broad and deep tradition of giving, from car washes that support a young neighbor’s college costs to multi-million dollar capital campaigns for sustaining our Historically Black Colleges and Universities. We must continue to build on that tradition. 

Guided by the generations-strong spirit of black charity, let’s combine insight from analyzing structures and systems that affect our well-being at every level with the power of organizing and collective action.

Let’s pledge to talk more frequently and intentionally with loved ones about organizations known for their dedication Black people’s advancement and about how we can pool resources to sustain and influence that good work.

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Howard University students perform community service nationally and internationally

With eyes on the prize of Black freedom, here are some organizations to learn about:

Young Docs DC

The Algebra Project

Black Benefactors 

Black Youth Project 100 

The Dream Defenders 

Any of the 105 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (refer to United Negro College Fund for a list)

Kings Against Violence Initiative 

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People 

National Society of Black Engineers 

Teaching for Change 

Young Peoples’ Project 

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Teaching for Change Bookstore in Washington, DC

–  By Guest Contributor: Nzinga Tull

LISNR: The Black Owned Business that Raised over $10 Million and is Disrupting the Mobile Technology Industry

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I have a huge appreciation for disruptive technology. That’s why I was excited to discover LISNR, a Cincinnati based business that is easily one of the most disruptive companies within the mobile communication industry.

I chatted with Rodney Williams, the co-founder and CEO of LISNR.  This is what he had to say:
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What is LISNR and how can it be applied in day to day life?

LISNR is the creator of SmartTones, a new communication protocol to connect devices.  It is similar to Bluetooth, however we simply use sound to generate second screen experiences, drive proximity marketing campaigns and to connect devices.

Think of all of the places you’ve been in the last 24 hours.  Now, think about how many of those places have a speaker infrastructure.  Your car, Starbucks, your office, your computer, your TV – with LISNR, all of these places and devices now have the ability to send data over audio.

We can send promotional offers while standing in line for coffee.  We can replay a huge play you missed when you got up from your seat at a sporting event.  We can deliver an interactive game through your television while you’re sitting on your couch watching Walking Dead.

 

You left your job at Procter & Gamble to pursue this business idea. How did you know it was the right decision to make?

I knew that LISNR had the potential to change the world.

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You were born without hearing. Thankfully, your hearing is now restored.  Is that part of what inspired you to create a company that uses inaudible sound waves?

Yes, it was absolutely part of the inspiration behind the company.  Being born partly deaf has forced me to always examine how I solve problems.  That ability to problem solve has allowed me to approach real-world challenges in entirely new ways.

I always look at the world from the other end of the telescope – and doing so, gives me the ability to see things some people can’t.  As an example, when I started thinking about how to interact with consumers while they are shopping – I thought, “Why not use this ubiquitous medium (sound) that’s all around us??”  It was that question that ultimately led me to start LISNR.

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You recently raised $10 million from Intel Capital. Before that you raised $4.4 million from Mercury Fund, Jump Capital and Sierra Capital. What do you feel makes your business attractive to investors?

I think that investors see the potential that this company could have at scale, and they believe deeply in the team we’ve built.  If you think about it, the real potential for LISNR is beyond the amazing work we are doing with people like the Cleveland Cavaliers and Visa.

The fact of the matter is that LISNR provides a utility to connect devices – and when every device, appliance and gadget coming to market today is connected to the internet – that means very powerful things for LISNR.

Additionally, we’ve been able to attract some of the brightest minds in the world to work on this technology from places like P&G, Gracenote, Yahoo, Lockheed Martin and more.  That says a lot on it’s own.

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Where do you see yourself and your company in 10 years?  

Take out your phone and open the menu.  Do you see that Wifi icon?  The Bluetooth icon?  Soon, LISNR will live right next to those…in the hardware on hundreds of millions of devices around the world.

 

Besides not needing hardware to perform like Bluetooth – how does your brand enhance the customer experience better than other similar brands on the market?

I could go on and on about the advantages of LISNR over other technology in the market.  No hardware, exceptionally better coverage, no wifi, no app open and running, little battery drain, so on and so forth.

I think the reason that we continue to win in the market is that LISNR gives brands, retailers, teams a new, scalable way to reach consumers with contextually relevant information at the moment that matters.

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What are your growth plans? Do you plan to use this technology for military or medical device communications?

What I love about LISNR is that we are relentlessly focused on building our core technology.  When we are able to be so focused on doing one thing with excellence and open our technology up to other bright people to build on, we are constantly surprised by the new use cases people come up with.
Yes, we absolutely plan to see SmartTones in use in the military and in medicine.  Some projects are already in motion – but that’s classified 🙂

What advice do you have for other aspiring entrepreneurs?

Prove people wrong.  I don’t want that to be taken as negative – but I love the doubters.  I love the naysayers.  I’m motivated to show the world what I know to be true.

Tony O. Lawson


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22 Businesses in the $3.4 Trillion Health and Wellness Industry

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Our list of Black owned businesses in the health and wellness industry is here right on time. Why? Because each new year is typically accompanied by resolutions related to improving health. My goals have generally stayed the same – to increase my income, improve my diet and to exercise more.

This past year, kudos to me, I’ve made quite a bit of progress. I’ve lost almost 30lbs in the past 7 months. Now, in the right lighting and depending on how much I’ve had to eat, I can actually see something that resembles a six pack. I owe much of this progress to whomever created the meme below.

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With so many factors negatively affecting our health, whether it is genetically modified food or the unpronounceable chemicals in our household products, it is even more important that we pay much closer attention to our health.

There are at least five chronic health conditions that disproportionately affect Black Americans more than any other group. Also, the health issues that were once unique to the West are now becoming prevalent on the Continent. Don’t be fooled by the late night infomercials featuring starving children.

Today, increasingly more people in developing countries go to bed having consumed too many calories rather than going to bed hungry. Being overweight is rapidly becoming a more common problem than being underweight. This is due in large part to the popularity of fast food chains spreading across Africa.

 

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The good news is that these days, whether you live in the Western hemisphere or on the Continent, it is likely that you are taking some steps toward living a healthier life.

Africans in Africa are rapidly becoming much more health conscious and the big bellies that once represented wealth and good living are not the status symbol they once were.

In the U.S., more Black people are also interested in fitness and health, as is evident by the large following that fitness-related sites like Black Men RunBlack Women Do Workout, and Black Fitness Today have amassed.

hbcu_5k1According to a report by the Global Wellness Institute, the $3.4 trillion Global Wellness Market is now three times larger than the worldwide Pharmaceutical industryThe report states that the sectors seeing the most significant growth since 2010 are the Fitness and Mind-Body industry as well as Healthy Eating, Nutrition, and Weight Loss industry.

What does this mean? Simply put, people are relying less on drugs to prevent and solve their health issues.
The Fitness and Mind-body industry ($446.4billion) includes gyms and health clubs; personal training and yoga. The Healthy Eating, Nutrition, and Weight Loss industry ($574 billion) include: health foods, natural and organic foods; weight-loss and diet services; diet and weight-loss foods and meal services; and anti-obesity prescription drugs.

Black Owned Businesses in the Health and Wellness industry

There are abundant opportunities available for Black owned businesses and entrepreneurs who are interested in in this industry. Here are several businesses and services that encourage health and wellness and will help you get in shape for the new year and beyond!

Healthy Eating, Nutrition, & Weight Loss

Food and Beverage

Black Owned Businesses

Jus Blend is a Jamaican-rooted; New York City-based family business that produces fresh, cold pressed juices to the city and surrounding areas. Their produce is “fresh and sourced within 24-hours of your order.”

Black Owned Businesses

Jimmy’s Vegan Cookies  Jimmy Prude is the founder of this wholesale Vegan Cookie company based in Chicago. His products are now available on select Whole Foods shelves.

Khepra’s Raw Food Juice Bar: Khepra Anu founded this Washington DC-based raw food juice bar that was featured in the Washington Post’s Best Eats in 2012.

The WaterHole is owned by Lisa Harris. This Maryland based juice bar also provides coffee, wifi cable, and good vibes.

Local Farms

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Five Seeds Farm is a family-owned and operated city and country farm in Baltimore, MD. This city-based farm was developed in the spring of 2008 in the backyard of a Belair-Edison neighborhood and quickly expanded to other vacant lots and private yards across the city.

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Renaissance Community Co-op has a mission to create a democratically-owned and controlled grocery store in Northeast Greensboro, NC, that provides all of Greensboro with healthy foods at affordable prices.

Black Owned Businesses

Patchwork City Farms is a family owned urban farm located in the South West Atlanta historic West End neighborhood. Patchwork City Farm’s mission is to “work with local landholders – public and private – to create a sustainable, naturally grown local food system.”

Fitness and Mind-body industry

Yoga

Black Owned Businesses

NY based Afro Flow Yoga infuses electrifying dance movements of the African Diaspora with a meditative yoga sequence of gentle yet powerful stretches. Founder, Leslie Salmon Jones is a former Alvin Ailey dancer, certified holistic personal trainer, yoga instructor, certified wellness coach, and public speaker.

Michael Hayes, the owner of NY based “Buddha Body Yoga,” has over 20 years experience teaching and has has traveled regularly to Thailand to study with master teachers. His class will benefit anyone regardless of their individual anatomy, flexibility, age, or yoga background.

Black Owned Businesses

Chelsea Loves Yoga is founded by Chelsea Roberts, PhD. She is an Atlanta based yoga instructor and educator. The purpose of Chelsea Loves Yoga is to illuminate the voices and images of yogis who have been traditionally eliminated or (under)represented in Yoga in the United States and abroad.

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Dade2Shelby  Derrick “DJ” Townsel, a former NFL athlete, has become an inspiration to thousands who didn’t think a passion for fitness or yoga could be a possibility for them— mainly men and people of color. Derrick is now a sought-after Certified Personal Trainer and Calisthenics Instructor based in Orlando.

12208487_1160592893969453_8166857437012076124_nSelamta Yoga is an eco-friendly yoga mat company based in San Diego and founded by Aregache Demelew, or “Mimi’. The company is dedicated to spreading the practice of yoga, eastern philosophy & culture to the world. Selamta means “Peace Be With You” in Amharic (a native language of Ethiopia)

Black Owned Businesses

Spa & Resorts

Black Owned Businesses

Virginia-based, Salamander Resort & Spa, features 168 luxurious rooms and suites, a luxury spa, full-service equestrian center, a dedicated cooking studio, wine bar, billiards room and a unique array of conference and banquet facilities.

Chatto Salon is a full service, eco-friendly salon located in the Gold Coast area of Downtown Chicago, IL, that offers its own natural and organic products.

Atlanta-based, IWI Fresh Garden Day Spa, partners with local farms and gardens and handpicks fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs to create fresh skin care products. They offer spa services such as Manicures, Veggie Pedicures, Veggie Facials, Herbal Massages, Waxing, Threading and Natural Hair Care.

Black Owned BusinessesFrancine’s Salon and Day Spa, the first Black owned Salon & Day Spa in Hartford County has been located in Bloomfield, Connecticut, for over a decade. The founder, Francine Austin, is a 20-year plus veteran of the cosmetology industry.

Fitness Centers

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Shaun Chambers, BodyRoc founder, is a former boxer and song writer. His BodyRoc Fit Lab is CT’s first dynamic, boutique boxing studio. A high-intensity workout that fuses fitness with entertainment, the signature circuit-style workout combines treadmills, heavy bag boxing, and weight training, all in a dance club environment.

Black Owned Businesses

KTX Fitness founder, Keith Thompson, has created an Atlanta-based cycle class that is guaranteed to have you sweating. KTX’s “Rock the Bike™” Cycle, Step, and Zumba are uniquely different and literally an exercise party as it provides a fun and challenging workout that is sure to have you working every muscle.

Black Owned Businesses

Rahman “Ray” Grayson, Mr. Shut Up and Train, is the founder of this Atlanta-based personal training company. His signature “In Motion” style of training focuses on keeping the heart rate elevated and the body in motion. Whether you are aiming to lose weight, build muscle, or gain endurance, Ray has the plan for you.

Knight’s Personal Fitness is a Philadelphia-based personal training facility founded by Tommi Knight. His first location was in a basement. A few months later he moved to a 1,100 square foot studio space. Now, Tommie trains clients in a 5,000-square-foot facility. I guess you can say, business is booming.

Dance

Black Owned Businesses

BRUKWINE is a Caribbean inspired dance workout created by professional dancers and choreographers, Tavia and Tamara. Brukwine, “Break out and Wine,” is a NY-based workout class featuring dancehall moves turned choreography, complete with waste winding and hot sounds straight from Jamaica.

The Dwana Smallwood Performing Arts Center is based in NY. Founded former principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater turned Director of Student Affairs (and founder of the OWLAG’s Dance Company) at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, DSPAC aims to mold the world’s next generation of elite dancers and artists.  No worries, they also offers a variety of classes for adults ranging from Orisa dance workshops to Afro-Caribbean technique classes.

Black Owned Businesses

 

-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson

Get Your Website Right!: 10 Tips on How to Create a Dope Website

Every Black business owner needs to get their website right. Not now, but right now. Many of us want to support Black-owned businesses, but sometimes, business owners make it challenging to do so.

I’m sure you’ve had the following experience a time or two (or three): Someone tells you to check out a Black-owned business. You google them, go to their site, that is if they even have one, and quickly close the tab.

You’re either overwhelmed by the theatrics, underwhelmed, or simply aren’t able to get the information you’re looking for.

In efforts to help out some of you who may be entrepreneurs who may be in this situation, here’s a list of Do’s and Don’ts for getting your website right and helping your business grow.

Tip #1: Have a website. This seems like a no brainer but you’d be surprised. There’s nothing in the world worse than googling a business or asking an owner for their website only to find out that it doesn’t exist.

Oh wait, there may be something worse: clicking onto a website and finding out that the page is down or under construction. If you’re Black and in business, you should have a website. In fact, make that your top priority for 2016. If this is something that you know that you are going to struggle with then it might be worthwhile hirign a professional like slickplan to help you with your website.

Tip #2: DIY and make it modern. A decade ago, if you didn’t know programming and code, there was no way that you could create a nice looking website on your own.

More than likely, you had to hire a web designer like www.reddropmedia.com.au to create a digital platform for your business. Well, that’s no longer the case. If you’re strapped, I definitely recommend getting a web designer to help you, but building a website yourself is possible.

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Modern Platform: xnasozi

There are several platforms that will give you all sorts of options you desire to do a DIY digital platform. From wordpres hosting (our personal favorite), to Wix, Weebly, Squarespace and Shopify, there are several user-friendly and modern platforms that will help you present a 21st century digital face to your customers.

Tip #3: It has to be responsive. When a site is mobile responsive, that means that no matter which device you are using to view online content – your computer, smart phone or tablet – the experience is seamless.

The first template we used when launching Shoppe Black a few weeks ago, was NOT mobile friendly.

The initial template we used was free – which means that it didn’t have all of the sexy bells and whistles that our current theme has. 82% of the thousands of views we’ve received on our site globally have come from mobile users.

Let’s face it, we’re a mobile society. Don’t turn off potential customers because your website is not responsive to their cellular phones or tablets.

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Tip #4: Aesthetics are key. In the land of visual culture, aesthetics are QUEEN. When it comes to aesthetics, as a people, sometimes we win. and sometimes we lose. There’s a way of expressing Blackness without being so literal.

In this day in age, we don’t need to saturate our branding with an excessive amount of djembes, RBG flags, kente cloth, black fists, and Adinkra symbols to prove how Black we are. We can articulate BLACK sans “tribal” prints.

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Create a clean website, with even cleaner looking images, logos, and aesthetics that will translate well to any customer. Leave the tacky and trite images for the an era bygone. Embrace your inner Afrofuturist and go beyond the expected.

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Progressive Logo: Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Art (MoCADA)

Tip #5: Photography is EVERYTHING. Do something about those pictures. It irks me to the core when I go on websites and see blurry, dark, poor quality images.

Granted, I’m a curator by trade, so my eye tends to be a little less tolerant than the average consumer. However, I think with the invention of Instagram and the smart phone, everyone now has the capacity to try their photography skills on for size.

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Dizzy yet?

If you have a website, invest in some high quality photos that truly speak to the caliber of your goods and services. I’ve been known to not patronize a business strictly because I was turned off by their images. Hire a professional photographer.

Check out the images of highly successful brands on platforms like IG. Use free online stock photos. Invest in a good camera. Watch some tutorials and take your own photos.

Whichever route you take, please, pretty please, just say no to posting subpar images on your site.

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Great Image: DCity Smokehouse

Tip #6: Keep the content current. So you have a website. The aesthetics don’t look like something out of a Black liberation parade circa 1972. It’s mobile friendly. People like the way it looks. There’s only one problem: You haven’t updated it in years.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of creating something nice and then ignoring it. I’ve fallen victim to I.M.W. (Ignore My Website) myself – shantrelleplewis.com. If someone were to go to my professional site, they would think I haven’t curated an exhibit or done anything significant since 2013.

Of course that isn’t the case – I’ve been featured in national and international press, curated two highly successful exhibitions, traveled to multiple countries, received awards, launched two companies and a whole lot more. But you couldn’t tell based on my site. Moral of the story: Keep it current.

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Tip #7: Link your social media. COINTELPRO and Big Brother aside, it’s critical to have a social media presence. Don’t lose out on any potential marketing opportunities because you haven’t linked your twitter, facebook, tumblr or instagram accounts to your website. The goal is to get more follows, more follows, more follows!

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Tip #8: A facebook page isn’t a website. Having a presence on social media is awesome. We all need it. But a facebook page shouldn’t substitute having a website.

You communicate how serious you take your business when you have online presence. It tells your customers that you believe enough in your brand to invest in its online presence. Get a website. If you don’t have one yet, see Tip #1.

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Tip #9: Keep it real. All races and ethnic groups spend money. We know that. We also know that it’s not always smart to pigeon hole our clientele. Some of us cater specifically to Black audiences. Many of us don’t.

We can be a Black-owned business with diverse customers and still be a shining example of what it means to be Black and in business. What’s NOT cool, however, is when you click on a website that’s supposed to be Black owned and not one, single, solitary image is of a Black person.

That’s just wack. Newsflash: Sometimes that turns customers off too, especially your Black customers who came to you for the specific purposes of supporting their own.

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If attracting Black customers is not important to you, cool. But if it is, diversify your portfolio a little more and let your website reflect it.

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All Around Greatness: Oyin Handmade

Tip#10: Hire a Professional. There are maaany professional web developers in these streets who can create a beautiful site for you. It usually won’t cost much either. As a serious business owners, investing in a professionally done website should not be a hard decision when you consider the potential return on investment. Shameless plug: Shoppe Black offers web development services.

Honorable Mention:

Here are a few businesses that pass our Shoppe Black Website Test with flying colors:

Justice of the Pies | Chicago based Pie Maker
justiceofthepies.com

Lolo’s Seafood Shack | South-side Chicago Based Restaurant
lolosseafoodshack.com

Tastemakers Africa | NYC based Travel to Africa App and Content Platform.
tastemakersafrica.com

Leisure Life NYC | Casual Vintage Inspired Men’s Wear Boutique
leisurelifenyc.com

DCity Smokehouse | Washington, DC based Restaurant

dcitysmokehouse.com

William + James (self-promotion is the best kind) | NOLA/Philly based Haberdashery
williamplusjames.com

What updating tips did you find useful? Need any additional support? Leave a comment or email us at info@shoppeblack.us.

Shantrelle P. Lewis

Intra-Africa Trade: The Key To Unlocking Wealth On The Continent

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The majority of African trade is conducted with Europe, North America, and China. Only 16% is with other African countries. By comparison, 60% of Europe’s trade is with its own continent. The same is true in Asia. In North America, the figure is 40%. The main factors responsible for the low rate of intra-Africa trade are restrictive trade policies and poor infrastructure.

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It costs Africa’s largest retail and fast food company, Shoprite, over $20,000 a week to secure import permits to distribute goods within one country. As if that isn’t enough, 1600 additional documents are required in order to send ONE of its trucks across the border to neighboring Zambia.

AECOM-IDEV-Trade-Hub-3-e1444412385145-802x531Another problem is the excessive amount of border check points.  To transport goods from Nigeria to neighboring Ghana, you have to go through about 5 border checks. The legal and illegal payments made at these borders are all costs that are passed onto consumers in order for the traders to make a profit. At one checkpoint in Mali, border agents extort as much as $4,000 every day. In addition to the aforementioned high costs of trade, unclear policies are another hindrance. Seeds from Kenya can be held indefinitely at an Ethiopian border because they don’t meet Ethiopia’s standards. Tanzania may ship corn to Kenya only to find out that a ban has been implemented on the importation of corn.

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The issue of poor infrastructure also needs to be addressed. The lack of adequate road, rail, and other physical infrastructure, continue to impede trade within and between African countries. According to a report from the UN Economic Commission for Africa, only about 30% of African roads are paved.  As a result of this, shipping a car from Japan to Abijan costs $1500 while shipping that same car from Addis Ababa to Abijan would cost $5000. Some of these unpaved roads have potholes big enough to swallow an SUV. The railways in Kenya and Uganda face multiple constraints, including aging equipment and infrastructure that is over a century old.

Nagulu Ntinda access road to ken joy supermarket which is likely to develop into a pond. Most of the roads around Kampala are getting worse day and night. INDEPENDENT/JIMMY SIYA

These are just some examples of red tape and trade barriers that are costing Africa billions of dollars and depriving the region of new sources of economic growth. However; in spite of all this, there is reason to be optimistic. It seems that for the past few years, this issue has become too dire to ignore and strides are being made to rectify it.

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In 2012, South Africa’s President, Jacob Zuma, unveiled a plan to spend $97 billion on infrastructure by 2015 to upgrade roads, ports, and transportation networks. At the World Economic Forum held last May in Abuja, Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta, called on African leaders to work together in removing obstacles that hinder movement across the continent. In his speech, he said free movement would help Africa meet its development targets. He also announced plans for Kenya and Nigeria to sign agreements that will boost trade and investment between the two countries. Since then, the Nigeria Export Promotion Council, NEPC, and its Kenyan counterpart have pledged to explore the vast market opportunities in Africa to promote trade and investment.

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Also at the 2014 World Economic forum, Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, spoke on the matter of visa issuance stating that presently, he and other Nigerian businessmen are required to obtain visas to enter about 38 African countries but a foreigner has more access to these same countries than he does because all they need to do is get a visa at the airport and pass through. Steps are being taken to streamline the visa process so that African businessmen and investors can invest in other countries with ease.

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In Kenya, barriers that formerly prevented professionals like doctors and lawyers from practicing in Rwanda have been removed. Now, a Kenyan lawyer can practice law in Rwanda without sitting for the bar all over again. This will also lead to a reduction in unemployment because new graduates will have more job options and not so new graduates will have more opportunities to provide services.

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Increased intra-Africa trade is the best way for Africa to use all of its resources and talent to become self-sustainable and prosperous. The less cumbersome the trade process is, the lower the cost of goods and services will be. The lower the cost of goods and services, the more people can afford them. The more people can afford them, the more empowered the people will be to gradually improve their economic status and begin to thrive.

 

Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson

Kidz Cab: The Black Owned, “Uber For Kids”

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Kidz CabAireal Taylor is founder of Kidz Cab. Her company transports children ages 4-16, back and forth to school and various extracurricular activities. If you have a child, you know that these days, managing the kiddies’ schedules requires an assistant, a manager, and a junior assistant. They’re busy little people! We can barely keep up with them half of the time.

We chatted with Aireal and this is what she had to say:

Kidz Cab: The Black Owned, “Uber For Kids”

SB: Parents are usually overly safety conscious when it comes to their children. What are some of the lengths do you go to to ensure the safety of your passengers?

Aireal: Safety is definitely our number one priority at my company, highly vetting our employees is first and foremost. Our employees undergo a federal background check, identity verification, random drug and alcohol screening and more. We also use a fleet technology that tracks all of our vehicles in real-time, it also sends destination alerts to parents and tracks the drivers driving and vehicle idle time on location.

SB: Since your launch in August of this year, you have had over 200 parents register for your service. To what do you attribute this demand for your service?

Aireal: I really didn’t know that my service would take off so fast! I believe that the concept itself is what brought on demand for my service. In the busy times we live in, parents need help! I brought them a safe alternative to their transportation dilemma.
Kidz Cab
SB: You came up with the idea of Kidz Cab while doing research for a marketing assignment in college. What data did you come across that convinced you that this was a good business idea?

Aireal: Honestly, not finding a multitude of companies with the concept out there! I thought the idea was something that would be so valuable to busy parents and I was very surprised there was not much out there.

SB: If you could develop a skill overnight that would improve your life or your business, what would it be?

Aireal: A skill I’d love to develop overnight to improve my business would be graphic design. Graphic design is such a valuable skill to have, from creating your own social media templates, letter heads, business cards, websites etc. it gives you more control over your business.
Kidz Cab
SB: What has been the most gratifying part of your entrepreneurial journey so far?

Aireal: Knowing that I’ve created something that I can continue to expand on that will not only help individuals but will also be something that I can leave to my family is most gratifying.

SB: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Aireal: My advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to plan diligently. Making sure to thoughtfully plan things out before executing is so important for sustainability. A lot of times entrepreneurs are so excited to get their product or service out that they skimp a bit on planning, DON’T!

If you’re in Detroit and want to contact Kidz Cab, you can reach out to Aireal at: 248.719.4885. They’re booked for Fall 2015 so get your requests in early for 2016!

Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson

What Africa Needs: Trade Not Aid

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Trade-Not-Aid

“Trade Not Aid” is a popular phrase used by proponents of the idea that instead of giving ‘free money’ to Africa to fight poverty and hunger, donors should support job and business creation through foreign direct investment. Don’t get me wrong, not all aid is bad. I am not referring to emergency aid given in situations like a natural disaster.

Nor am I referring to donations given to help a child go to school or clothe an orphan. My sister actually runs an NGO, Change A Life Africa (www.changealifeafrica.org) whose focus is providing disadvantaged children with a quality education. While some NGOS are also guilty of exploitation themselves, I have seen the difference such organizations can make and applaud and support their efforts.

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The type  of aid I am referring to is government to government aid. It’s time we recognize that this type of assistance is not only the least effective in terms of poverty reduction but is also destructive. It is stunting the growth of an African middle class that is needed to spur economic growth. Zambian-born economist and author of the best seller, Dead Aid, Damiso Moyo states that “Over the past 60 years at least $1 trillion of development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa.

Yet, real per-capita income today is lower than it was in the 1970s, and more than 50% of the population live on less than a dollar a day, a figure that has nearly doubled in two decades.”  If this economic development model is CLEARLY not working, why is it still being imposed? Why is it being used in Africa only?

China moved 300 million people out of poverty in 30 yrs. India has approximately 300 million people in its middle class. They did not achieve this by relying on aid to the extent that the entire continent of Africa does today and has for the past half century plus.

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A serious issue is that African governments are now relying on this aid  as a source of income like a welfare recipient waiting on their monthly check, instead of looking for alternative means of revenue generation. Some say that aid promotes government corruption because the funds are just moved to private accounts abroad.

I’m certain that this happens a lot of the time. However, that is not the only issue. Even where there is no corruption involved, you have a situation where African governments are relying on western countries to provide their people with goods and services that they should be providing e.g. education, healthcare, infrastructure etc.

Who will respect a leader that does not care for his own people? That’s partially the reason why many African ‘leaders’ get zero respect in the global community. They are perceived as beggars. They are sitting on priceless natural resources that can be traded, begging for money from countries that are in actuality, broke themselves. But I digress…

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Another issue is that aid does not create a meaningful amount of jobs or opportunities to start and grow a business in Africa. Aid also comes in the form of goods donated. Why not invest in local producers of these goods or invest in a manufacturing plant to produce the goods that are currently being shipped to Africa?

This is a sure way to spur job creation and invest in a local business instead of flooding the market of charity goods that will put local producers out of business. There is no way to reduce poverty if there are no jobs or means for individuals to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors as a means to increase their income and start to create wealth for themselves.

Therefore, if there is no middle class to drive the economy you are left with a situation similar to that in Nigeria where there exists the extremely wealthy and extremely poor with a few middle class citizens sprinkled in the middle. I’m sure you can see how this would also lead increased crime, whether it’s the latest 419 scheme or good old fashioned armed robbery.

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The good news is that in recent years due to the slowed economic growth in Western countries, the amount given in aid is now gradually reducing. Now, more than ever, the focus has turned to Africa, not just as a poor desperate continent in need of help, but as a place where Western and Eastern countries need to do business in order to not only stay competitive in the global marketplace, but to survive.

This in addition to business friendly policies that have been implemented in several African countries  have led to economic growth in different regions of the continent over the last few years.

Trade Not Aid

The aforementioned to me is proof that we do not need handouts. What we do need, however, is to be taken seriously as players in the global trade market. We have the resources, we have the talent and we have the potential. What we need to do now is phase out aid and increase the amount of trade deals and investments that help move the Continent in the right direction.

– Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson

The Biggity Blackest Moments of The Wiz Live and Why We Loved It So Much

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If you’re Black and you have a TV, then last night you were watching The Wiz Live with every other Black woman, man and child. We all know remakes aren’t always the best. Matter of fact, they’re oftentimes the worst. So I think we all held our breath, while truly wishing for the best, for last night’s live performance of The Wiz. Well, guess what? NBC didn’t disappoint. Well, if you were expecting Michael’s spirit to come down and possess little Elijah Kelley, then, you only have yourself to blame for feeling some kind of way. But if you came with an open mind about reminiscing over an iconic tradition in contemporary Black history while introducing a new generation to all of its glory, then I’m sure you experienced nothing short of joy for 2. 5 hours last night. Here’s our list of the top Blackest moments of last night’s performance of The Wiz:

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#11 Representation: When was the last time you saw a dark skin, full figured heroine/goddess on prime time television? When Shanice proclaimed “she’s so beautiful!” whilst Nigerian powerhouse Uzo Aduba floated on stage, I could have fainted. All body types, complexions, hair textures – even a Latina moment “no problema!” – graced that stage tonight. 

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#10 The Aesthetics: The Set, the costumes, the hairstyles… EVERYTHANG. Speaking of hairstyles, did y’all see that Basquiat throwback from the scarecrow? S/O to Morehouse student @hermesxos for pointing that out. Speaking of hairstyles, did you see those beards? My Twin Joan (Morgan), just turned me on to @postbadbeards recently. Who’s here for fine Black men in beards? All of us.

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#9 Blackspeak Everything from Mary yelling out something about Dorothy’s “skinny ass” to Neyo’s “mollywop” to Dorothy’s “conversate” the sound of Black American vernacular took me back to my grandma’s house circa ever year of my life.

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#8 The Choreography: Fatima Robinson put her FOOT in it. Geoffrey Holder has to be sitting somewhere smiling. While the main crew could have put in an extra step or two in their footwork…the range of choreographed genres gave the people what we wanted. Especially the millennials. From Nae-Nae’ing, the stilt walkers, the stepping, the Quan – pure Black genius.

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#7 Mary J. Blige: Who knew Mary could act? That’s the 411. She gave us mean. She gave us shade. She gave us 1992.

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#6 Black Queer Realness: There are no words. None. Wait, I lie. There are a few. WERK. SERVE. SLAY. Paris isn’t burning, it burned down and the Kids Showed Their A$$es. I was about to feel some kind of way about them not singing the Emerald City Sequence but I changed my mind after those few minutes of pure magic. I think Son of Baldwin said it best when he said “Oz being home to queer folk makes PERFECT sense.”

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#5  Those Sexy A…Poppies Period.

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#4 Orisha Representation Maybe it’s just me…after all, I am an Iyawo at the moment…but The Wiz was definitely giving me Orisa Realness. First, Amber Riley steps on stage with matriarchal everything in all blue, definitely giving us Yemaya energy. Then Queen Latifah comes through with the thunder and lightning like my daddy, King of Kings, Sango, KAWO KABIOSILE (BTW, Happy Sango’s Day everybody!). She even said “I got a throne room!”  Where they do that at? Somebody’s clearly been all up in Orisa 101. Then, Uzo, drops down from the clouds wrapped in golden swaddling threads and white boas bringing us home with Osun’s regality. I could even take it a bit further and attribute the bravado and maroon aesthetics of Evillene to Oya, the goddess of storms and the winds of change. Whether it was intentional or not, for people in the Ocha community, it looked like a Yoruba cosmological visual symphony.

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#3 The King Queen! Chile WHAT? I mean, I haven’t really genderbended since my tomboy days in highschool but can I be Queen Latifah’s understudy when the show goes to Broadway? Queen Latifah was EVERYTHING. And I do mean EVERYTHING. If I had to give an award for best performance, I think she got it. She was a whole MAN chile. Not a half of one, but a WHOLE one. And then she was a Miss again. And her skin. And her highlights. Just yes.

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#2 Crash Course in Intersectionality Feminism, Class, Race, Queerness it was all there. Discourse for us to engage, respond to, feel good, break down for our young ones and smile about.

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 #1 It was All Black Everything. With the exception of the David Bowie looking dude in Emerald City who could be from New Orleans for all we know…The Wiz Live was ALL BLACK. We finally got something.

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Despite not getting the memo to join a watch party somewhere, I was definitely not alone. I kept good company with every other Black person in America via Black Twitter. This production of The Wiz is going to be a historical intergenerational moment for Black families from now until infinity. While I was watching in Philadelphia, my parents were watching in New Orleans, my 6-year old niece in Chicago, my older brother and his family in Maryland. During commercial breaks, I facetimed the 6-year old, recapping this production in all of its glory. It was like talking to my good girlfriend on commercial breaks during Scandal. I asked if she remembers watching the original movie at my parents. She looked at me, made a face, in disbelief. She was only about two at the time so probably doesn’t recall wearing the dvd out to the point that it stopped working one day. Friends were retweeting their parents’ memories of seeing it on Broadway. People were reliving their own personal nostalgic moments. Considering the level of visual brutality and violence we’ve been subjected to incessantly, it felt amazing to indulge in uninterrupted Black joy for a moment, no matter how brief. I’ll be able to relive this moment with the 6-year old and all of you, for many moons to come. Thanks NBC for giving us the most wonderful night of Biggity Blackest television that we’ve experienced in a very long time.

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P.S. Shout out to David Alan Grier. The fact that he comes from that old school classical training was clear. I THOROUGHLY enjoyed his interpretation of the Mean Ole Lion. Probably the most nostalgic nod to the original production.

Shantrelle P. Lewis

20 Black Owned Businesses in the UK

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By now you must have seen our first list of Black Owned Businesses in the Diaspora. On that list, we mentioned several Black owned businesses based in the UK. This time, we are showing even MORE love to our brothers and sisters across the pond with a new list of dope businesses you should most definitely check out and support from your country or when you visit the United Kingdom.

20 Black Owned Businesses in the UK

Home Decor

Eva Sonaike is a lifestyle company that produces luxurious home décor, fashion accessories and textiles.

Black Owned Businesses

 

Fashion

Uptown Yardie is a British company inspired by Jamaican heritage, selling a lifestyle captured through shoes and clothes.

Black Owned Businesses

Afrination is an urban clothing brand inspired by African culture and tradition.

Black Owned Businesses

Dionne Gooding is a footwear designer that combines the latest London styles and soft leathers and suede with jaw dropping fabrics from West Africa.

Black Owned Businesses

Tsemaye Binite  is an award winning contemporary fashion label characterized by exquisite clothing encapsulating a love of luxury and innovative design.

Black Owned Businesses

 

Duro Olowu is impressing the right people with his vibrant mix of African prints, seventies tailoring, and unlikely color combos.

 

Hair/Skin Care

Hug My Hair

Curly by Nature

Almocado

Root2Tip

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Jewelry and Accessories

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Afro Deco 

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MaroonDawta

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Sapelle 

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Food

The Black Farmer

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Check out our most recent list of Black owned businesses in the UK !

Follow ShoppeBlack and The Busy African  Instagram!

Nigerian Billionaire, Tony Elumelu announces the 2nd Round of his $100m Entrepreneurship Programme

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Last year, Tony Elumelu, a philanthropist and one of Africa’s most successful businessmen, announced the creation of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP) for emerging African entrepreneurs. The goal of the programme is to help up to 10,000 African entrepreneurs  develop their ideas into sustainable businesses.

 

In 2015, TEEP empowered 1,000 African entrepreneurs, selected from over 20,000 applicants, with start-up investment, active mentoring, business training, an entrepreneurship boot camp and regional networking across Africa.

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The foundation invested a total of $4,860,000, including $1,405,000 in agriculture; $410,000 in education and training; and $365,000 in manufacturing.  The program funded start-ups across a further 20 industries, all based in Africa.

Mr. Elumelu believes that the initiative will enable African entrepreneurs transform the continent. “In 2015 the African entrepreneur will emerge on to the global stage, as a new generation shows the world what those of us doing business in Africa have long known: that our continent is home to some of the most exciting and innovative entrepreneurial talent.”

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TEEP opens for entries at 00:00am West African Time on 1st January 2016 and will accept applications until midnight WAT on March 1st, 2016.  To be eligible, entrepreneurs must complete the online application form with questions on their background, experience and business idea, plans for growth and proposed pan-African impact. Further guidance and application procedures can be found on the online portal.