The Tulsa Race Riots of 1921 will forever remain an unforgettable stain on the history of America.
The racially-motivated attack saw Oklahoma city officials, the local police department and angered white residents target the wealthiest Black community in the country (at the time) with one of the deadliest massacres in U.S. history. The riots resulted in the deaths of hundreds of African-American residents and the demolishing of at least 30 blocks of Black-owned businesses and flourishing predominantly Black neighborhoods.
Mandy Bowman was both enraged and inspired after learning more about this horrific moment in American history, so much so that she immediately began putting in the work to launch what is now the Official Black Wallstreet App — a growing directory of Black-owned businesses across the country.
"After reading about that, I really wanted to go out and support as many Black-owned businesses as I could," Mandy told ESSENCE. "Especially being from Brooklyn, New York, where gentrification really changed that neighborhood and even caused one of the Black-owned businesses in my neighborhood—BedStuy—to close down."
Feeling the overwhelming urge to lend her support to the rapidly increasing number of Black-owned business that exist today, Mandy went in search of a listing of some sort that she could use to identify businesses in her area. Much to her surprise, she came up empty-handed.
"I began looking for different Black-owned business directories and couldn’t really find one that was updated and easy to use, so I started creating my own list,” she says. “From there, I found so many amazing Black-owned businesses, many that were right in my area, that I had never known existed and I just wanted to share them with as many people as possible. That's where I came up with the idea of creating a platform where people could discover Black-owned businesses and review them easily."
It wasn’t long before the 27-year-old visionary began putting her plan in motion to develop the very type of user-friendly, Black-owned business directory she’d once sought out herself.
"The idea for the website came first, but I really wanted to get to the app,” she continued. “I wanted to make the search as easy as possible, to the point where we can literally let people know, ‘Ok, there’s a business next you right now that you should walk into.'"
Although the need for the app was clear, Mandy admits that like any start up, getting her idea off the ground wasn’t without its obstacles.
"I think the biggest challenge just in general when it comes to being an entrepreneur is managing your expectations," she says. "Things rarely go as planned and one thing that I learned from an advisor is that, a lot of times, what you begin doing is completely different from what you end up doing. So, there’s a lot of trial and error that goes into it just to figure out what works. Funding was another big challenge. I was able to successfully raise $33,000 for the app through a kickstarter but, it was a lot more expensive than what I'd originally expected. Loans weren't really an option so, for me, it was a big challenge to figure out where the rest of the money would come from."
Addressing one of the greatest challenges with navigating the path from full-time employee to entrepreneur, Mandy offers an important word of advice about time management to those who may be struggling to balance everyday work like with being a new business owner.
"What I learned is that there were little pockets of time throughout my day that I was wasting," Mandy says. "For example, on my commute into work, I started writing articles. Honestly, when I first started working on a concept for it, I would just stay up as long as possible to get things done. During that time, it wasn’t like I was forcing myself to do it; it was actually the opposite. I would have to tell myself, “Mandy, you have to go to sleep now.” I was so passionate about it that I didn’t even want to go to sleep, I just wanted to continue working to make this happen."
The Black Wallstreet app has already begun making waves across the Internet since its’ launch in late October 2017. Mandy’s ultimate goal for her bubbling new venture is to see it evolve into a massive resource for aspiring entrepreneurs that also bridges the gap between consumers and the Black-owned businesses they’re eager to support.
"Right now, I would describe the app as a great resource for discovering Black businesses," she says. "It's also been a great resource when it comes to mobilizing millennials to buy Black and I definitely want to see it grow in that vein. I'm exited to see it expand in general, from being something people can use to find Black-owned businesses or shop Black-owned businesses, to a place where aspiring entrepreneurs can get access to different resources if they want to start a business. I just foresee it becoming the hub for all things Black-owned."
To download the Official Black Wallstreet App and learn more about all that it has to offer, you can visit their website HERE.