BlackOwnedBusiness.tumblr.com was started in the last year. Cadine Kenton had been an active tumblr user for about 3 years when she came across this video by Maggie Anderson. “Maggie Anderson and her family had pledged for one year to buy black, so basically supporting black-owned businesses. Her video begins with the poignant fact that even though black americans have over a trillion dollars in buying power, money only circulates within our own communities for 6 hrs. This a terrifying fact because we have one of the lowest money retention rates within the United States. Retaining money in our communities is one of the ways minorities have traditionally built wealth, by investing in small businesses, jobs, and opportunities are brought to underserved communities.
This video struck a cord with Cadine and she wondered why we weren’t doing more. As an aspiring entrepreneur, she felt she should spread the word, which is how B.O.B. came about. Along her journey, Maggie met a number of small business owners from the young to the established but as her year wound down it became harder to support these businesses as many of the businesses she had frequented earlier in the year closed down.”
This past September, she decided to highlight these businesses, in the medium she was on, Tumblr. The blog started taking off in November after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. “A lot of people were still reeling over the murder of the unarmed teenager. Black people were upset over the lack of justice and decided that they were not going to support Black Friday that year. People were angry and they wanted to show that #BlackLivesMatter so they decided to hit the government where it hurts, their pockets. People started looking for alternatives to big retailers, they turned inwards towards black owned businesses in their own community. I remember eating dinner on Thanksgiving when suddenly my phone started blowing up with notifications from Tumblr of new followers, likes and reblogs. I had 4k followers in about 48 hours.”
Cadine was surprised of the blog’s sudden popularity but she knew that it was something that was needed at the time. Something positive in all the negativity. Suddenly, artists, photographers, jewelry designers, and other small businesses owners started to submit their own businesses. Due to a job change, Cadine realized she needed a team and got two mods Lexi & Ash to help her handle the blog.
The blog Is going strong with 10k followers right now and BOB plans on moving out to other platforms.
If you know anyone with a black-owned business who wants to promote their shop directly with them go to their submission page.
With so much negativity going towards the black community, how did you come to make the decision to take it upon yourself to do something positive?
I think that positivity has always come from our most trying times, when you think about MLK, Malcolm X, Bayard Rustin, Andrew Young, William Ryan, James Farmer & John Lewis, some of the most iconic figures of the civil rights movement, they were trying to change the world at a time when it was dangerous to do so. Yet, from their actions millions of people in this country, black, white, asian etc. have benefited and are living a more fulfilling life. If anything I was just following in the footsteps of people who came before.
When you launched BlackOwnedBusiness, it was part timing but also part filling a need. Do you think that other communities can apply this concept?
I absolutely believe that other communities can apply this concept, turning inward and supporting your own isn’t a new. Communities have been doing it for years, just with varying degree of success. I think what really drives this blog is that today with the advent of Etsy, eBay, ShopEnvy, etc. people can become business owners literally overnight. The internet makes it easier to connect to customers without having a physical store, ship products, maintain finances and online shops can be funded with very little capital. For people who are historically discriminated against, the internet has changed the game, suddenly the doors are open to you and anyone else as long as they have an idea.
How did you get into using Tumblr as your medium?
I was introduced to Tumblr maybe 3 years ago from a friend, I’ve become pretty well versed on the platform over the years which really helps when we are screening content for the blog. As we move towards a more submission based model, I find myself tweaking submissions to ensure that they are better received on the platform. Ex. If someone submits only text, I embed links, add photos etc, to make it easier for people on Tumblr to A. get to the site in question and B. see what they have to offer from within the platform before they even decide to click out. I think Tumblr really works for this because its primarily a visual medium and thats how people shop. You see something cool and you buy it, same concept applies to online purchases.
What are some of the most challenging parts and most rewarding writing for your blog?
I think the most challenging part of running this blog is that it is really time consuming, especially when we field questions, lots of research goes into making sure we accurately answer them. Finding the information we need takes time as most stores don’t blatantly say they are black owned, so it takes a bit more digging on our part to find answers to questions people have, Which is why we encourage submissions, we trust our followers and they trust us, over 50% of the content on the blog are submissions and we’d like that to continue.
Now that you have gained such a loyal fan base, where do you want to take the brand?
The end goal really is to service more people and have the blog sort of run itself in terms of submissions, a couple of people have asked us to feature reviews, product sales etc. We are looking into that, but it would require a little more manpower on our end and possibly moving off Tumblr to a platform with more customization to house all the new content. I’m hoping to start the transition this summer once we staff up.
How do you handle managing your blog and your position as founder?
As the founder and mod number #1, it is a bit difficult. We are in transition now and I’m looking for more help managing the blog especially as we think about moving to another platform or setting up our own site. My position is really flexible, I’ve learned to wear multiple hats, community manager, customer service, talent acquisition, PR person (though one of my coworkers has been telling everyone about it, thanks Emily!) creative director, etc. Some days its hectic trying to juggle work, my personal life and BOB, but its worth it. Our followers are truly amazing, I feel humbled and blessed when they take the time out of their day tot hank us for our service or ask us questions. So they motivate me to keep sticking with it even when I’m feeling overwhelmed.
Where do you see your blog going in 5,10 years?
I have no idea, I’m hoping by 5 years we’ll have an actual website, maybe a youtube channel for reviews (if YouTube is still big) and maybe a couple million subscribers/followers.