Mandy Bowman, Founder & CEO, The Official Black Wall St. App
Terrence Nelson: What does The Official Black Wall St. App do?
Mandy Bowman: The Official Black Wall St. App is a tool that helps people find and support black owned businesses. Consumers can use the app to search for black owned businesses in their city by category or location and also leave ratings and reviews for businesses that they have patronized before. Also, black business owners can list their businesses and become apart of the community and gain exposure to all of our users.
Nelson: Since launching have you gotten any feedback from business owners on the impact The Official Black Wall St. App has had on their business?
Bowman: We have gotten a ton of feedback from consumers which is great. People tell me all the time, how they’ve downloaded the app and found so many black owned businesses that are right in their community, that they did not know about or didn’t know that they were black owned. We’ve also gotten feedback from black business owners who have advertised through us or listed their business and have gotten press through online publications because of the app. So it’s been a great tool for consumers and business owners and we plan to do a lot more in the community in 2018 and we’re excited about that.
Nelson: In your TED talk you discussed creatively sharing resources between black owned businesses, what does that look like in the digital age?
Bowman: For me personally, I get contacted all the time through Linkedin from people who are entrepreneurs or who are interested in the social media, digital marketing and entertainment industry. I’ve given people tips via Instagram, Twitter and Facebook DM on how they can gain more traction, followers and engagement. There are also so many Facebook and Meet Up groups where people trade ideas and bounce ideas around. Now it's so much easier for us to move forward because we have so many platforms where we can share information and ideas.
Nelson: Will The Official Black Wall St. App include resources for people to start their own businesses at any point?
Bowman: Yes, one thing we really want to do in 2018 is hosting more events around the country centered around black entrepreneurship. Things like panel events where people are able to speak on their own experiences and how they were able to get into their industries.
Nelson: A large amount of the funding for The Official Black Wall St. App came through your Kickstarter Campaign, was there any particular reason you went the crowdfunding route versus the venture capital route?
Bowman: To be honest, I didn’t have the (venture capital) knowledge. I wasn’t well versed in the VC world at all. I’ve found that is a common thread among a lot of black entrepreneurs, the lack of access and an understanding of the venture capital process. I’d known several people that have done Kickstarter and Go Fund Me before so I felt that was the best route for me to take. Also, I wanted to get the app up and running as fast as possible so I figured crowdfunding was the best way for me to go to get things moving.
Nelson: What were the advantages of you doing Kickstarter versus venture capital funding?
Bowman: I think that early in the game, I was still figuring out what I wanted to do with Official Black Wall St. and where I wanted it to go. In the venture capital game, investors really want you to have everything all figured out when you pitch them so there is less flexibility. So I believe crowdfunding allowed me the space the evolve the idea and try some different things.
Nelson: Where is The Official Black Wall St. going in the future?
Bowman: We’re already working on different updates for the app. We had a running list before we even launched all of which I’m very excited about. Next year we’ll be launching features to incentivize people to patronize black owned businesses. Also, we will be adding features that will allow users to ask one another for recommendations.
Nelson: What does innovation to you?
Bowman: Innovation is taking something and finding a way to make it unique and make it your own. I would say nothing is new, so it’s taking something that already exists and being creative and making it more resourceful and amazing.