BBLK app designed to “discover Black-owned companies,” created by Denver entrepreneurs

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A GPS for locating Black-owned companies. That’s the imaginative and prescient Ramond Murphy and Mariam Kazadi had this summer time after being impressed by Blackout Day 2020.
On that social media-driven day of protest on July 7, thousands and thousands of individuals pledged to not spend cash except it was at a Black-owned enterprise. It was an occasion meant to uplift Black companies and artists, display the financial energy of the Black neighborhood and its allies and make a press release that corporations want to face up for justice and equality for Black Individuals if they need their {dollars}, organizers mentioned.
Murphy and Kazadi determined in the future wasn’t sufficient.
“We have been all in search of a extra curated area to seek out Black companies,” mentioned Kazadi, who works for Comcast Enterprise and is a author for Christain life-style journal Back2Basics. “We thought, let’s present a platform that anybody might use.”
Now, two months after Blackout Day 2020, the BBLK app has arrived.
The app — pronounced “Black”– went stay Friday. It may be downloaded by visiting bblkapp.com. A launch by smartphone app shops is predicted later.
The app supplies addresses, hours of operation and cellphone numbers for greater than 1,100 Black-owned companies throughout the nation, a minimum of one in every of 50 states, its creators say.
Murphy and Kazadi, each 29, have been born and raised within the Denver space. Naturally, there may be an emphasis on the Mile Excessive Metropolis. Round 400 companies in and round Denver are listed on BBLK and counting.
“A number of occasions, (Black-owned companies) they’re smaller, they don’t have massive presences on-line,” Murphy mentioned. “The toughest half for folks is simply to know the place they’re.”
That development shall be facilitated by the app itself. BBLK isn’t only a listing for shoppers, it’s a free advertising and marketing device. Enterprise house owners can obtain it and add their firm info for a possible itemizing. After vetting to ensure it meets BBLK standards, the enterprise shall be added to what Kazadi and Murphy anticipate shall be an ever-expanding database.
Past cofounding BBLK, Murphy can be listed on the app. Beneath the humanities & leisure banner — one in all 17 enterprise classes within the BBLK search menu that additionally consists of headings like meals and beverage, monetary companies, training and actual property– you’ll discover Murphy. He’s a rapper who data and performs underneath his first identify, Ramond.
Earlier this 12 months, Murphy collaborated with different members of Denver’s hip-hop scene on the tune “I Can’t Breathe (Once more),” a musical amplifier for the ache, angst and dedication behind the Black Lives Matter motion. He sees the BBLK app as one other approach to help that motion, this time from the financial facet.
“It was type of the identical because the tune. It was simply taking a look at methods to make use of your voice and platform to do extra to impact change,” he mentioned.
WHEAT RIDGE, CO – SEPTEMBER 2 : Ramond Murphy, co-founder of BBLK app, shows the emblem on his cellphone at West 29th Salon in Wheat Ridge, Colorado on Wednesday. September 2, 2020.  (Picture by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Submit)Murphy and Kazadi might have had the imaginative and prescient however they reached out to a buddy to assist them design and construct BBLK: graphic designer and fellow Denverite Leonard Johnson.
Johnson, who might be discovered on the app underneath his nickname/tradename, Grafitti, has designed cowl artwork for Murphy’s musical releases. He noticed Murphy and Kazadi discussing the concept would finally turn into BBLK on social media. Once they requested him to be a part of it, he jumped on the probability regardless that he had by no means constructed a listing app earlier than and needed to be taught some new abilities on the fly.
“I’m massive on selling the neighborhood,” mentioned Johnson, 33. “As we have been going by the idea, it was type of a no brainer.”
As a contract graphic designer, Johnson is aware of quite a lot of purchasers within the Black neighborhood that might profit from the publicity the BBLK app stands to supply.
“For that firm that’s simply beginning and so they don’t know easy methods to attain folks and so they don’t know easy methods to be discovered, it’ll positively assist them,” he mentioned.
Beta testing on the app began weeks earlier than its launch date. Murphy let each his grandpa, who’s over 80, and his nephew, who’s in his 20s, attempt in out, he mentioned, ensuring it was as consumer pleasant as potential forward of its launch.
Murphy’s buddy and fellow entrepreneur Jonathan Lobato examined out the operate for including a brand new enterprise itemizing. His West 29th Salon in Wheat Ridge opened a bit over a 12 months in the past. It has had a difficult begin, being briefly shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic, however issues are coming round. The salon simply employed somebody to supply massages, including to its hair and nail companies. Lobato is now out there for an esthetician.
“I received on and it was simple to navigate which is large once you’re in search of a enterprise nowadays,” Lobato mentioned. “This app is actually one thing that might assist catapult folks in our footwear.”
A screenshot of the BBLK app, designed and constructed by Leonard “Graffiti” Johnson.Lobato is hoping to place the app to make use of when making future enterprise selections like the place to host particular occasions. He sees that as a approach to double down on the advantages for the Black neighborhood.
“It’s not one thing that’s only for (the salon), it’s serving to lots of people, serving to foster a way of neighborhood,” he mentioned.
The BBLK app is free to shoppers and to individuals who need to record their companies on it. The one manner Murphy and Kazadi will earn cash is through donations and merchandise gross sales. The donate tab within the app permits customers to offer as little as $5 and as a lot as $500 and provides a hyperlink to a web site promoting BBLK app T-shirts.
Even a portion of the donations shall be cycled again into the neighborhood. Murphy and Kazadi plan to choose a minimum of one traditionally Black school or college to direct among the cash to every 12 months. Out of the gate, 10% of the donations will go to a faculty or faculties and scholarships, Murphy mentioned.
The BBLK app staff has partnered with the Denver’s Juneteenth Music Competition Corp. The nonprofit, which organizes the annual Juneteenth celebration in 5 Factors, will assist with promotion, fostering extra neighborhood partnerships and help with regards to channeling donation {dollars} to colleges and scholarships, Murphy mentioned.
“We’re excited to function a fiscal accomplice with the BBLK app,” Norman Harris, who leads Denver’s Juneteenth Corp. mentioned in a press release. “We consider that this platform will stand on the forefront of our neighborhood and create modern options for connectivity and commerce.”
Murphy, Kazadi and Johnson plan to place most of their share of the donations early on again into the app, including extra features and enhancing the consumer expertise as a lot as they’ll. All three mentioned they might love for the app to blossom and turn into a longtime focus for them.
The purpose of the BBLK app isn’t to eclipse companies owned by folks of different races, Murphy mentioned. It’s about offering a better avenue to help these companies extra continuously for those who need to accomplish that. Kazadi mentioned she hopes folks will embrace utilizing the app to seek out and help Black-owned companies a minimum of as soon as per week.
“Our slogan for BBLK app is to make each Friday a Black Friday,” she mentioned.

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