SHOPPE BLACK

Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche is helping thousands Live Richer, one penny at a time.

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Knowing how interested I am in most things personal finance, Shantrelle suggested that I connect with her girl, Tiffany ” The Budgetnista ” Aliche, a fellow Nigerian, whose mission is to help individuals achieve their financial goals. I was impressed by the fact that she has created a successful business that helps so many people.

I was also impressed by all of the positive press she’s been receiving recently (shout out to her publicist Dreena Whitfield). I spoke to Tiffany in depth and got an inside perspective on her backstory, road to success and a few tips that will help our readers improve their financial situation.


SHOPPE BLACK: Congratulations on all of your recent success! We wanted to introduce you to all the people in the ShoppeBlack community that want to get their financial situations in order, build successful businesses, and teach their children about the tools that create generational wealth. Please tell us a little bit about your background and how your journey started.

THE BUDGETNISTAMy father was an accountant and CFO for a non-profit organization in New Jersey.  In African households, you rely on the men to look after women in certain ways. Even though my mother made more money, my father was the organizer who took care of the family finances. Honestly, it was a blessing that we did not have any brothers because I would not have learned a lot of the lessons that he would have traditionally saved for a son, if he had one.

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SHOPPE BLACK: What money lessons did you learn from your parents?

THE BUDGETNISTA: My parents had different teaching styles. My dad was more strategic about our financial education while my mom was more hands-on. She would take my siblings and I shopping, and like a true Nigerian, she haggled and negotiated prices at department stores.

We would be at a grocery store and my mother would be negotiating like it was a marketplace! I did not know that people didn’t do that. I just figured, okay this is how you buy groceries; this is how you get the best price. This was everyday life and how I began to learn about personal finances.

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SHOPPE BLACK: I heard you mention in past interviews that people used to consider you cheap. Would you say that about yourself?

THE BUDGETNISTAIn the past, some may have thought I was cheap, but really I was just always mindful of my spending. I may have been cheap when I was younger because I did not have a balance. I saved everything, because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. When I was younger, I was a person of extremes.

I saved everything and by time I was twenty-three or twenty-four, I had about $40,000 saved in cash on top of $10,000 to $15,000 in my retirement account.  I bought my car in cash, I never bought clothes, never went out and never traveled because I didn’t know how to manage outside of saving. I was too frugal.

It really wasn’t until my early twenties that my parents sat me down and said that they were glad that I had learned how to save, but it’s ok to spend also.  Being a person of extremes, I then began to enjoy my money too much and got into over $30,000 of credit card debt. I spent everything and then lost everything. Now, at 36, I have a nice balance – setting money aside and spending.

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SHOPPE BLACK: Children often learn their money habits from their parents. What are some good tips for parents to pass on early to their children?

THE BUDGETNISTA: From the beginning you have to let children know that there are three main categories when it comes to money. Money for spending, saving and giving. I tell parents to start kids off at three or four.  At that age, language for a child changes from “can you give me…?” to “can you buy me…?”

That means a child has already made the connection between money and things.  So, now that they understand there’s an exchange, you have to teach them the best way to make that exchange possible. For example, when I go to Staples, my boyfriend’s daughter who loves Staples would ask me to buy her stuff and I would say no.

We eventually created a chore list on a free website called Choremonster where she can earn money. So now when we go and I ask her what her budget is, she knows that she has to pull from her spending bucket, not the savings or giving bucket. She can also decide how much. Now, she feels in control because she decides what she’s gonna do. It teaches them so many lessons including self control and math.
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SHOPPE BLACK: That’s awesome. My fifteen-year old son is really good when it comes to managing money. Your last anecdote reminds me of the story about when you went to Target with your boyfriend’s daughter and she walked in and grabbed a toy and you were like “Ummm, what did I miss? Did she get a great report card or something? Why is she getting a toy?” That is so Nigerian, by the way.

THE BUDGETNISTA: Right! I couldn’t understand it and I wasn’t even trying to be funny. First, it was like “Oh, Tiffany is so strict!” At nine-years old, it’s easy to feed her appetite for “stuff.”  But what happens when she’s sixteen and the things she wants are three to four hundred dollars? And you going to tell her no and then she’s upset? Her being upset won’t be her fault because you have trained her to expect something for nothing.

We were at the store earlier today and she wanted a snack and she didn’t have any money. So, I said okay, I will front you some money and she was looking like “Hmmm this snack is $2 this is other one is $4”. She would never have had those conversations before. Funny enough, kids don’t mind. What’s normal in your house is normal to them. So the sooner you make it the new normal, the better.

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SHOPPE BLACK: Clearly your expertise is highly valued. Your books have a lot to do with that. Tell us about them.

THE BUDGETNISTAI have three books. The One Week Budget, my first book, is an Amazon #1 bestseller. It really just teaches people how to create and automate their own money management system. I literally say, take a pen and pencil to write things down to having an automated financial system for yourself.

I wrote it because I knew so many people had no idea. And because I used to be a preschool teacher, I can break it down so that a three or four-year old can understand it. That’s what I did and that’s why the book has done so well.

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I also have two Live Richer Challenge books. The first one started in January 2015. My goal was to have 10,000 women master their money collectively. I thought, what if I take what I do and make it a virtual challenge where women sign up and once they sign up, the same day, we all get the same email telling us what to do? Open up a bank account. The next day, put some money in it… just a step by step guide?

We did so well that we got 20,000 women, in 50 states, 65 countries. We saved $4 million dollars and paid off a half million dollars worth of debt. Then I said I want to do it again, so here we are, at the end of the second Live Richer Challenge.

This one is the savings edition and we have 60,000 women in 80 different countries in all 50 states and we are collectively saving together. I cannot wait to see how much we end up saving in comparison to last year! It’s just a movement of women, especially women of color.

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SHOPPE BLACK: Is your Live Richer Challenge only for women?

THE BUDGETNISTA: Men can definitely join. I always tell people, I don’t turn anyone away but my intention was to specifically speak to women of color because we are at least likely to be approached by financial professionals. Even now with this huge movement that I have, I reached out to a large financial institution for sponsorship.

If this was any other group they would jump on it, but once they realized it was women of color, they were skeptical. 60,000 women and you’re not interested in sponsoring??? It’s only because I’m talking about money, instead of giving away weaves and shoes or talking about hair and nails.

They think women of color aren’t interested or don’t have the wealth to support their products or services. And they are wrong. It’s unfortunate but they will learn.

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SHOPPE BLACK: That says a lot about these brands too. Anyone who is aware of consumer trends knows that Black women are among the most educated and savvy consumers out there and that’s the demographic you want to target if you want to make money.

THE BUDGETNISTA: Exactly, it’s like when people didn’t believe that digital music would be a thing. Now Apple, a computer company, is the biggest music seller in the world. You can be foolish and be Sam Goody or Tower Records and think “Oh no, no one’s going to want digital music” but now kids are like “Tower records? What’s that?”  You can either be ahead of the trend or you can be left behind. Some of these companies will be obsolete and I’m okay with that.

SHOPPE BLACK: What impressed me about the 2015 challenge was how many lives you impacted. I heard that one lady thanked you because for the first time in her adult life, she is now paying her bills on time. What are some examples of how your work has impacted others?

THE BUDGETNISTA: One story that was touching was a homeless woman who took the challenge. After a year she was able to purchase her first home.  That was incredible! I’ve had women who are in abusive relationships who told me that they were able to save money and finally leave.

Financial abuse is one of the ways that women suffer in relationships.  By [their partners] withholding money, they have no choice to stay because they have kids and they feel trapped. Money is just a medium that I’m using to make the world better.

SHOPPE BLACK: Even though I’m not a woman, I’m going to be doing the challenge along with Shantrelle.

THE BUDGETNISTA: (laughs) Yes! Of course do it!  I always tell people to do it along with their partner, their man, their husband etc.

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SHOPPE BLACK: Teamwork makes the dream work, right?

THE BUDGETNISTA: For sure, especially if you are going to grow a lot together you both have to be on the same page financially. That is critical. Money is the number one cause of divorce. Everybody is different.  Some people are spenders, some people savers. You should have clear spending and savings goals.

My boyfriend and I have different styles. You don’t have to have the same spending style or financial style. We write down the goals we want to achieve. So, sometimes we try one way and it may not be my style but if the end goal is something that we both are looking to accomplish, there are many ways to get it done.

Live Richer Challenge

SHOPPE BLACK: It’s obvious you are passionate about healthy finances and it’s obviously your calling. I think it’s beautiful when you can find something you really like to do, change the world and make money at the same time. To me, that’s the definition of social entrepreneurship. Do you consider yourself a social entrepreneur?

THE BUDGETNISTA: I definitely do consider myself a social entrepreneur. I remember when I first started “The Budgetnista”, I wanted to make it a non-profit but I’ve worked for nonprofits and I don’t want that. I want a business that maneuvers like a non-profit but pays like a profit (laughs).

SHOPPE BLACK: It makes a lot of sense, helping people and making money. Why would you want to do one or the other when you can do both? Where do you personally invest your money?

THE BUDGETNISTA: I believe that you should invest in what you understand, so I’m going back to real estate investment. But, I also invest in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. That is something that I work with my financial advisor on to decide what is best for me, but my biggest investment is something that I understand more than anyone else — my business.

People don’t realize that having a business is also an investment. People have come to me to invest. You know, put money in to get money. So yeah, that’s my biggest investment, my own business.

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SHOPPE BLACK: Speaking of investing in your own business, everyone has a business card that says they’re a CEO. What advice do you have for aspiring business owners?

THE BUDGETNISTA: You can either look like a business or you can be a business. That’s a problem with a lot of up-and-coming entrepreneurs, they focus so much on looking like a business that they never get a chance to be a business and they run out of money.

I always tell people that there is a little girl down the block who is getting paid for braiding hair. She has a business. You my friend, do not. That’s what a business is: a product or service that somebody wants to purchase and does purchase.

SHOPPE BLACK: So where do you see your business and brand ten years from now?

THE BUDGETNISTA:  Honestly, I see my brand becoming something like a Nike or another brand that is widely known. One thing I want to do is certify brands.

For example, if you go to a store and are trying to decide between two hairdryers and one has my logo on it saying it is “Budgetnista Certified”, you know you are getting a product of value. I am also writing a children’s book now.

SHOPPE BLACK: Lastly, what does money mean to you?

THE BUDGETNISTA: You know Africans always speak in metaphors (laughs). My father would say that money is like a hammer. You can use it to build a house but you can also use that same hammer to destroy the house. Money is the same.

It’s a tool that you can use to build up your life or you can use money to destroy your life. If you use money correctly, it makes life better, but if you use it incorrectly, it can make life miserable.  It’s merely one of the tools you can use to build a better life.

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If you’re just learning about the Live Richer Challenge, no worries! You can sign up now and start getting emails immediately to start your own journey to financial freedom. Just go to www.livericherchallenge.net

Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson 

Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse: Philly’s Black Woman Owned Haven for Geeks

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The world of comic books has become big business. Comics that used to cost less than a dollar are now million dollar collector items.

Comic book character-based movies are grossing millions of dollars world wide. Even events like Comic-Con have become huge international conventions, while gatherings like the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention are growing in popularity.SynergyConart2One lady who has taken her love for comic books and turned it into a business is Ariell Johnson, founder of Philadelphia-based, Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse. We recently chatted with her and this is what she had to say:

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How did your love for comic books begin and what is it about them that interests you till this day?

I have always loved fantasy.  He-Man, She-Ra and Thundercats were mainstays for me growing up.  And it was a cartoon that would launch me into the world of comic books. 

The 90’s X-men cartoon that aired on Fox introduced me to Storm, the first Black woman superhero I ever saw, and it was an experience that stayed with me. 

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She was such a powerful and interesting character and I wanted to learn more about her.  I knew she originated in comic books so I figured if I really wanted to know more about her I would need to start reading them. 

A friend in high school was also a huge X-men fan and a comic book collector, so my comic reading started there with his collection.  I started buying my own comics a little later when I was in college.

I still enjoy comics because I love the endless possibilities that they offer.  They can introduce you to entirely new worlds, new universes, and they help you think outside of the box.
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You have described yourself as a “geek”. What does being a geek mean to you and what is “geek culture”?
 
To me a geek is anyone who gets excited about comics, books, movies, television, games, and pop culture.  You can “geek” about anything really. 
You can be a Sci-Fi geek, but not really care about superhero stuff.  You can love table top gaming but hate console gaming.  There are no hard and fast rules that dictate who is a geek, but you know them when you meet them. LOL.
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Geek culture is the realm in which geeks live.  Much like any culture, it is made up of different things from language and style of dress to how you treat another geek when you meet them in passing. 
It is also very broad but the common thread that links all aspects of geek culture is the excitement that those who identify as geeks have for their fandoms.  
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 You have stated that there needs to be more diversity in comic books. Why do you feel it is important for all types of people to see themselves in these publications? 
As I mentioned, Storm was the first Black woman superhero that I ever saw.  I think that if I had never been introduced to Storm as a child I would have probably grown out of my love for geeky things. 
Seeing a black woman as a superhero was life changing for me.  Before, it always felt like I was watching everyone else be the hero, but seeing Storm made me feel like I could be a hero too. 
I didn’t have to be on the sidelines, I could take part in the action.  That’s what representation does, it helps people see themselves in the stories they are reading. 
When you are represented, it’s like someone is saying to you “your story is worth being told…you are worth learning about”.  And that just feels plain old good, everyone wants to be valued.
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 Obviously, you did research before starting your business. What data and statistics let you know that opening Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse would be a great idea?
I spoke to a few different comic professionals and coffee professionals when I was working on my business plan.  My biggest concern was about the comics.  Coffee shops are mainstays in our current way of life. 
The biggest challenges on the coffee side have to do with location and making sure you have a solid customer base that can afford your product.
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Comics are a little different because in addition to being luxury items they are also a niche item.  Not everyone is
interested in comics, so you need to make sure you are in a good location where you will have access to your target market.
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I used demographic research as well as plotting out the location of other coffee shops and comic book stores to choose Amalgam’s location and I used comic industry resources and articles to gauge the current climate of the comic book industry.  
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Where do you get your comic books from and how do you choose which ones to buy?
Most comics come from Diamond Comic Distributors.  They are the exclusive distributors for mainstays such as Marvel and DC.  The independent stuff is a little harder to come by. 
We have to reach out to individual publishers to get those books.  It’s a little more time consuming, but definitely worth it.  We have also had a fair share of creators reaching out to us, asking us to carry their books in our store.  
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How did you finance the business?
Funds from the business came from a few different sources.  My own personal savings, a crowdfunding campaign, support from friends and family, a special loan program through the City of Philadelphia, and traditional loans.  
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 What are your future plans for Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse?
 
We will start holding events in our space starting in February, and we are all really excited about that, but other than that we are just focused on getting settled. 
We’ve only been open for a month, and getting to this point was a really long road.  I just want to take a minute to enjoy the accomplishment before we start thinking about what comes next.  
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What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
 
I think anything worth doing is going to be hard.  You are going to hit bumps and obstacles along the road to whatever you are trying to build. 
Those things are to be expected, but they are still tough to deal with when you have to go through them.  So, the best advice I can give is to surround yourself with people who love and support you and your dream. 
Having my family and friends around me, people who could speak an encouraging word when I had a tough day, was the thing that kept me going even when I didn’t feel like it.  It’s such a small thing, but it makes such a huge difference.
-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson aka @thebusyafrican

Oo-oop! Why I’m So Glad I Pledged Alpha Chapter, DST

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Before enrolling at Howard, I knew the Greek alphabet by heart, because one of my childhood besties Susanne Brown Robinson’s sister was two years older than us and had already crossed the burning sands into Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. I had already begun reading ‘In Search of Sisterhood’ by renowned feminist Paula Giddings, a Delta. My guidance counselor who called me into her office one day and sat me down, to tell me that I needed to go Howard University, and not Xavier, because it would expose me to the entire world, and change my life, was a Delta.

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As a Freshman student at Howard, there was no doubt in my mind about what I wanted to pledge and which women I wanted to align myself on campus…because there were young women, some not even 20 years old, who were RUNNING the yard. Whether Miss Howard, the Hilltop, Arts & Sciences Student Council, National Council of Negro Women, they were doing it.

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My prophytes, Assiduous 40, at the annual Woman to Woman Conference in 1996, a semester before I landed on campus.

My road to Delta was no easy one. ESPECIALLY not the road to ALPHA CHAPTER. There were many stressful moments – accusations against me by some envious girls who were not chosen for our sisterhood, tough decisions that I made, some regretfully, where I chose my involvement over school work.  We we’re not expected to just know sorors who are on campus with us, relationships with sorors cross generational lines, going back, though a long lineage of women who crossed before us and women pledging many years after. Pledging, especially pledging Alpha Chapter, was a privilege, an honor that comes with much weight and responsibility. All in all, however, drama/no drama, becoming a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated was one of the most beneficial decisions I made in my young adult life.

My best friend, Dr. Nikia Andrea Scott and I, moments after our coming out show on the yard ca. May 2000.
My best friend, Dr. Nikia Andrea Scott and I, moments after our coming out show on the yard ca. May 2000.
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Road Trip with the Bruhs…The Mother Pearl.

I can’t begin to count the times and ways that sorors have stood by me, during the most challenging moments of my life and the highest. My international travels began by visiting sorors who were living overseas. During the aftermath of Katrina, my family and my city were held down by Sorors. Whether at opening packed exhibitions at museums or premiering the sneak preview of my forthcoming documentary in Italy, sorors have been there. And when I say “I do” to my life partner, sorors will be there.

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Sorors, scholars and artists, celebrating our girl Joan Morgan’s bday in Florence, Italy ca. May 2015.

While I may not wear crimson and creme every day, or tout any of my 15 year old nalia, I do recognize the sisterhood I made a life long pledge to. I do strive for excellence in my life. I do embrace strong bonds with other Black women. I am constantly learning and teaching through my work as a curator. And I try my best to serve, whether by serving on boards of organizations I believe in, working with young people in public schools in Philadelphia, or going to great lengths to get training on how to promote our human rights as people of African descent. Internationally, I’m entrenched in an extended circle of bad assssss women, who are doing their thing in every professional, political, cultural, social, business arena.

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Shout out to those young women, who chose me out of the hundreds of girls who attend rush, to enter their sacred sisterhood, founded on the campus of Howard University, 103 years ago. Shout out to my linesisters, the dope women – physicians, attorneys, scholars, entrepreneurs, political mavens, Hollywood execs, moms, and wives, who crossed with me. Shout out to my neos, the young women who were humble enough to carry on traditions that were passed down from our Founders, those 22 courageous women who left another social group to establish an organization dedicated to sisterhood scholarship and service. Those brave 22 women whose first act of engagement was two participate in the women’s suffrage march of 1913, despite not being treated well by their white comrades nor the patriarchal, sexist and violent men who lined the streets of Pennsylvania Avenue that day to express their disdain at the idea of women’s rights. Shout out to my sorors EVERYwhere who whether you are rocking crimson or creme or not, are showing up and showing out every day in everything you do.

Happy Founders Day!

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Photo Credit: Jati Lindsay
Photo Credit: Jati Lindsay
Photo Credit: Kim Wilson, 22-A-00
Photo Credit: Kim Wilson, 22-A-00 during our 10th Year Anniversary at Homecoming. Howard University ca. 2010.

Introducing INNERACT PROJECT: Educating the Next Generation of Design Gurus

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Everyone knows there is a huge diversity gap in design and tech fields. What is important to note is that there is very little work being done with underserved youth at a young age to help prepare them and to combat this disparity.

Therefore, exposure at a young age is essential. My goal with Inneract Project is to provide minority parents from underserved communities with valuable opportunities for their kids to enter design fields.

10314548_10152135114198262_8797767453158308380_nI am dedicated to making sure kids (particularly underserved minority youth) get the best chance in life to be successful. This is REALLY important to me.

ip_ads_collectionI was raised in Richmond, California, where, like most young people in urban communities across the nation, I was primarily exposed to sports and music. I ran into design via a scholarship to play college ball but not every kid in the community will get this opportunity.

While I was in college, I randomly picked design as a major. This was because I liked to draw when I was a kid. Through this random act, I was exposed to a new world. I think every kid in the community deserves to know about design.

There are a TON of career options for youth in these fields. I work in the Bay Area where design is an important skill in the tech industry. Design careers are in demand, and as a result, pay well.

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Creative fields are projected to be one of the most promising new opportunities for employees over the next 7 years. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

Design in Context

In today’s world, design is all around us – logos, architecture, furniture, packaging, websites, technology, fashion, and endless other places. Even so, few people really understand what design is.

Design “process” encourages creativity and innovation, which drives our global marketplace. It takes into account; function, human values, social conditions and aesthetics. It makes our lives efficient, informed, sustainable, and more productive.

It is deeply embedded into our culture and is used to move our nation forward. Yet, it is a missing piece in K-12 education and most underserved communities have little knowledge of its existence.

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Inneract Project is trying to change this. We know from studies that academic achievement by 8th grade is one of the largest predictors of college readiness.

We want to start working with young minority students at an early age, to give them the proper exposure, education and preparation to enter fields in design.photoIn 2015, only 6% of African American graduates received Art/Design bachelor’s degrees from U.S. degree granting institutions. (Higher Education Arts Data Services (HEADS)

As our nation focuses more on innovation, we must educate our youth on what design can offer and develop their problem-solving skills to prepare them for jobs that meet the needs of our changing world.

We must also educate parents and the broader community so they can support this new generation of design thinkers. We believe parents are the key and invite them to not only sign their kids up for our classes and workshops but pass the word around, be involved, and help us build a network of parents dedicated to improving the quality of life and future for our young people.

1098153_10152118967653262_4630090921166282862_nWe are working on an expansion model, testing Inneract Project programs in other cities as well as entrepreneurship for youth. We are empowering them through design and providing opportunities for them to create products that they believe the world needs.

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About Maurice Woods:

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Maurice Woods is the Executive Director/Founder of the Inneract Project (IP). Maurice graduated from the University of Washington with a BFA and MFA in Visual Communication Design. He played basketball as an undergraduate and professionally worldwide for 7 years. Since graduating, he has taught undergraduate and graduate level courses at multiple colleges, lectured nationally and internationally and contributed to various media outlets including the Wall Street Journal.

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Maurice served as Co-Chair of Education for the AIGA San Francisco and nationally as a Board of Advisor for the Diversity Archive Collection Exhibition. Currently he sits on the board for Design Ignites Change. Professionally, Maurice worked as a designer at the world’s largest independent design consultancy, Pentagram Design. He designed extensive identity, retail, exhibit and interactive programs for clients such as Nike, Greyhound, Symantec, Priceline.com, and Google. He has won multiple design awards, featured in publications and is also a Jefferson Award winner. He currently works as a Experience Design lead at Yahoo.

If you’re looking for a Retail Design Agency to help you with the launch of a product or with a company campaign, consider checking out Mynt.

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For specific questions or to get involved to help our mission, email us at info@inneractproject.org. We are currently looking for fundraising board members.

 

Contact Inneract Project on Social media:

website: inneractproject.org

facebook: inneractproject

twitter: @InneractProject

– By Guest Contributor: Maurice Woods

Black Owned Ethical Fashion Brands from Across the Globe

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A growing number of consumers worldwide are becoming more conscious of which businesses they spend their money with.

Whether it’s with a Black owned business, an eco-friendly business or a business that creates jobs in developing countries, consumers want to create positive change by supporting brands that know how to “act right”.

This practice is commonly referred to as conscious consumerism, social consumerism or ethical consumerism.

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Ninety percent of U.S. consumers say they would switch brands to one associated with a cause, given comparable price and quality.

Forty-two percent of North American consumers reported they would pay extra for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact.

One third of U.K. consumers claim to be very concerned about issues regarding the origin of products.

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One organization that is committed to the creation of jobs, ethical products, and profits is The Ethical Fashion Initiative. Through their network, fashion brands can manufacture ethical fashion items produced by some of the most talented artisans in the world.

According to the EEFI, “Artisans are the key to a fashion industry that has ethics and aesthetics. Sweatshops and workers trapped in an endless cycle of creating cheap fast-fashion is not true fashion.”

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Artisans

“If you’re looking for innovative ways to help developing countries flourish, artisans are a terrific place to begin,” stated U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

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Although the artisan industry is not recognized as a major influencer on economic growth, artisan activity is the second largest employer in the developing world, only behind agriculture.

Globally, artisan production is a $34 billion industry. Even during the 2008 economic crisis, when most markets fell, the demand for artisan crafts continued to grow.

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Supporting these craftsmen and craftswomen is a proven way to create employment opportunities and pull families out of poverty.

Our support also provides them with the means to educate and feed their children. It can revive entire communities by stabilizing local economies.

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There are several Black owned businesses that use artisans to create dope products. Here are a few that are based across East Africa, West Africa, the U.S. and the U.K.

Black owned ethical fashion brands

Brother Vellies is based in Brooklyn. Aurora James created the brand with the goal of creating artisanal jobs within Africa while introducing the rest of the world to her favorite traditional African footwear.

Black owned ethical fashion brands

Sole rebels was created by Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu. This is a sustainable footwear company that offers ethical, eco-friendly & vegan shoes handcrafted by Ethiopian artisans.

Black owned ethical fashion brands

FOMI was created by Afomia Tesfayeo. They offer handbags and shoes that are handcrafted in Ethiopia.

Black owned ethical fashion brands

A A K S is a Ghana and U.K. based brand created by Akosua Afriyie-Kumi. The pieces incorporate the use of raffia and leather to create bags hand crafted by the best artisanal local weavers in Ghana.

Black owned ethical fashion brands

Coins were used as jewelry in ancient times. They were passed from generation to generation as a special memory from loved ones. The Coins Shop is a family owned business in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

Black owned ethical fashion brands

Sindiso Khumalo founded her fashion label with a  focus on creating modern sustainable textiles.  Sustainability, craft and empowerment lie at the heart of the label.

Black owned ethical fashion brands

 

Alaffia’s goal is to alleviate poverty and encourage gender equality. Their Empowerment Projects include several Education-Based Projects, Maternal Health, Eyeglasses and Reforestation.

Black owned ethical fashion brands

Lemlem offers hand-woven cotton scarves, women’s clothing and children’s dresses made by traditional artisans in Ethiopia.

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Kenya-based Adèle Dejak creates handmade luxury fashion accessories for the modern woman.

Adèle’s collection expresses her appreciation for African-made fabrics and a dedication to using recycled materials including rice and cement sacks, brass, and glass.

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There you have it. 10 Black Owned Ethical Fashion Brands. Get your Shoppe on!

 

-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)

The #1 Essential Thing to Do Before 2016

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As you prepare for the New Year. I wanted to offer you a tip on one essential thing you could do that would change the game for you in 2016.

….drum roll please….

PURGE. I cannot stress the power of letting go through some good ole purging. Chillllllld….let go so you can let the blessings flow boo boo! Here are some examples of quick things you could do to let the blessings flow before the clock strikes 2016:

+ Bring your email inbox to “zero” (even if that means marking everything “read” and trusting that the communication that needs to come back to you will return)

+ Throw away all papers, clothing, and items that you haven’t rocked with over the past 6 months.

+ Delete messages or contacts from your phone that carry negative energy or remind you of any sense of “lack or loss”.

+ Clean out your refrigerator, freezer and cabinets and throw out old and expired food. You don’t have to hold on to mediocre anymore.

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#ExpectTheBest

#BestYearYet

Happy New Year!

From your Resident Action Coach.

Akua Soadwa

Akua Soadwa is an Action Coach that supports individuals and entrepreneurs with reconnecting back to their spirits to determine the next course of actions for their personal lives or their businesses. She believes that when people listen to, nurture and honor their spirits, they are inevitably “just one conversation and one action away from having everything they want.”
Akua pic - how do you want to feel

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