As a recipient of the SheaMoisture Social Justice Coalition Grant, Mandy Bowman wants to make sure #BuyBlack becomes a motto and a lifestyle for everyone.

CEO Mandy Bowman made the mission to “buy black” a lot simpler when she launched Official Black Wall Street in 2016. Four years later, the platform is a hub for Black-owned businesses and the first app of its kind to alert shoppers when they are close to a Black-owned and operated brick and mortar. Her quest to secure financial freedom for Black people began when she became aware of the socio-economic disparities between herself and her white counterparts in college.

“I attended a PWI and was in shock during my senior year of college when I realized the steep wealth gap and difference in our post-graduate opportunities,” Bowman told ESSENCE.

“While many of my Black classmates were stressed about finding a job after college, there were numerous white students who had the luxury of working at their family’s company or taking a year off to travel.”

After studying Entrepreneurship and Global Business Management at Babson College, she was determined to help current and future generations through economic empowerment. Fortunately, her quest to make sure our money remained in our families was supported by history.

“I began studying the history of Black ownership in the country and stumbled across the story of Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I read statistics about how difficult it was for Black entrepreneurs to grow a business, predatory loans, red lining and so many other policies that only widened the wealth gap. It lit a fire in me to do something to help my community move forward.”

Thus Official Black Wall Street was born, connecting consumers to black businesses and providing entrepreneurs with much-needed resources. Bowman’s ingenious idea and subsequent efforts earned her the honor of being named a SheaMoisture Social Justice Coalition grant recipient.

Ilyasah Shabazz, professor, author and Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz’s third daughter, serves on the advisory board for the Social Justice Coalition.

“Young people are developing many opportunities for themselves today,” she said of Bowman’s work.

“However, the selfless vision by Official Black Wall Street to create a business where dollars can be recycled within a community is outstanding.”

This type of cyclical fiscal support from the Black community is even more important now as the world reels from the effects of a global pandemic.

“Since the pandemic began an estimated 40% of Black owned businesses around the country have shut down,” Bowman explained.

“That’s almost half a million Black-owned businesses and hundreds of thousands of people in our community left unemployed. Even with the grants and federal aid offered to business owners around the country, so many Black businesses were left to fend for themselves.”

That’s where apps like Official Black Wall Street come into play—to funnel much-needed dollars back into black-owned companies with ease; and the SheaMoisture grant will help the company reach more folks even faster.

“With the SheaMoisture grant, we will take the work we’ve done to new heights by creating a new tech-driven platform that will further incentivize us to Buy Black,” Bowman told ESSENCE. “My overall goal is to make it even easier (and fun) for people around the world to support Black-owned businesses and recirculate the Black dollar back into our communities. This grant will also allow us to connect Black entrepreneurs with resources using advanced technology.”