We've gotten a few questions about Official Black Wall Street (OBWS) and the person behind the brand, so what better way to answer them than to have the founder herself walk you through a few of our most frequently asked questions. If there's anything else you'd like to know, comment below!
Q: Who's the founder of Official Black Wall Street and what's their background?
A: Hi everyone! My name is Mandy Bowman, I'm 26 years old and the founder of Official Black Wall Street. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and went to Babson College where I studied Entrepreneurship and Global Business Management. After graduating I began working in the music industry in digital marketing and transitioned over to the magazine/print industry. I hope to make the leap into the full time entrepreneur world next year or once our app has launched, but until then I work as the Social Media Manager at Essence Magazine from 9 - 5pm, and from 5pm - 9am, weekends, breaks, and any free time whatsoever, I am the founder of Official Black Wall Street. Sometimes I sleep (laughs).
Q: Why isn't the founder's name anywhere on the site?
A: Funny thing about that... When I first launched the website I told my dad about it and he was in disbelief. His first (side-eye worthy) response was "Are you sure you did this? I don't see your name anywhere" (laughs). But I didn't include it because I didn't want to become the face or focus of Official Black Wall Street. My main goal in launching this website was to educate as many people as possible about these amazing Black-owned businesses we can support. I didn't do it for self promotion or personal gain so I didn't see the purpose in putting my name on the website. Of course this is something I am extremely proud of so it's all over my own accounts.
Q: Why did you start Official Black Wall Street?
A: After I graduated college I became extremely woke, probably a result of going to a predominantly white institution. I had never been so aware and proud of my blackness before. So naturally, after graduating I wanted to learn and read as much as possible about everything from Black culture and history to Black issues. I made a list of books and one of them was 'Riot and Remembrance: The Tulsa Race War and Its Legacy' by James S. Hirsch which, shameless plug, is also one of the rewards in our Kickstarter. The book is centered around the rise and destruction of Tulsa, Oklahoma's "Black Wall Street." I knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur since middle school so I was beyond inspired reading about this self-sufficient community and all of its prosperous Black-owned businesses.
That story inspired me so much that I set out to support as many Black-owned businesses as possible in Brooklyn. After growing up in Bed-Stuy and living in Queens, I witnessed how gentrification priced out many of the Black entrepreneurs who built the neighborhood. That made me even more passionate about this. I began doing research but found it really difficult to find Black businesses. A lot of the directories were extremely outdated and hard to navigate so I decided to start my own list. In doing so I found so many amazing Black-owned businesses and was so proud of these entrepreneurs that I wanted to share it with the world. That was when I decided to build my own directory.
I researched and planned for about a year, and then the Michael Brown shooting happened and Ferguson turned into a war zone. I remember walking into work completely dazed, jumping on my computer and immediately signing into twitter, refreshing the page every few minutes throughout the day to make sure I didn't miss any updates. It was draining. What made it worse was being in an environment where some of those around me clearly weren't as effected. I joined marches, I tweeted, I shared articles and at the end of the day I still felt beyond helpless. I felt like I was losing my sanity (self-care is so important, y'all). The only thing that made me feel like I was making a difference was going home and influencing as many people as possible to withhold their money and spend it at Black businesses instead. I found purpose through Official Black Wall Street.
Q: Who's on your team?
A: We have a team of city reps all around the country that we'll announce in the next coming weeks, contributing writers, and an editor who helps approve business submissions.
Q: What's next for OBWS?
A: The Official Black Wall Street App! I've been planning for this app and Kickstarter since we launched the website in July of 2015. We found an amazing local Black developer so the next step is raising the funds to begin app development. I really wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to find Black-owned businesses and the app will do that and more. There will be special offers, local events, full yelp-like listings, directions, and forums where we can exchange resources and support each other's ventures to grow from within. We've gotten so many emails from aspiring entrepreneurs who want to start a business but don't know what type of license they may need or how to get something trademarked. The Official Black Wall Street app will be a hub for people to support Black businesses and help grow the number of Black entrepreneurs.
Unfortunately we're still in our infancy stage and don't have the funds to build a custom app. So if you haven't done so already, please donate any amount towards our Kickstarter so we can begin app development. Also share it with your friends, co-workers, aunties, God children, etc. We only have 9 days left and a ways to go so any donation is more than appreciated. You can see our cost breakdown on our Kickstarter page as well.
Q: Have you gotten any negative emails about what you're doing?
A: Unfortunately yes, but that was expected. I've thought of responding to some of them who are convinced that trying to build the Black community makes me racist (laughs) but why waste my energy when I can put it towards supporting my own?
Q: Are you affiliated with any other similar businesses?
A: Not at the moment but we're hoping to collaborate with a few businesses in the near future. Stay tuned!
Q: How can I help out?
A: You can donate to our Kickstarter :) And also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We're currently looking for city reps, social media interns, and contributing writers. If you're interested in helping out in any other capacity, you can also shoot us an email.
Q: Can I advertise with OBWS?
A: Yes, you can send us an email at email@example.com and we'll send you our packages and rates.
Q: Last words?
A: Okay, so this isn't a real FAQ but I must give a huge THANKS to all of you who have bookmarked and used our directory, shared an article, followed one of our social media pages, referred a friend, donated any amount of money to our Kickstarter, etc. It really means a lot to see that people believe in what we're doing and see our vision. I've spent many (many, many, many...) sleepless nights working on this website and everything that comes with it. In the process of launching I wore a ton of new hats and put in a lot of time, money, and energy in hopes of getting it off of the ground so I'm extremely thankful for all of the support and happy that it's become a useful resource for people searching for Black businesses or simply looking for inspiration through one of our entrepreneur spotlights. There really aren't enough ways to say thank you but just know every little bit of support, donations, words of encouragement, etc. is appreciated. We still have a long way to go but we're getting there.
Stay & Buy Black,