Tell us about your business
My Black Markets’ mission is to help Black businesses and their customers to build a Black economy. Essentially what that means is we direct customers to Black owned businesses, and we offer business services to help them improve.
The aim is to be able to get any product or service from a black owned business, and we will network those businesses so that the money circulates, and our money stays within our community, creating an economy.
There are now around 16,000 businesses owned by people of black African and Caribbean descent in London alone – making up 4% of all businesses in the capital and a further 27,000 black Londoners are self-employed – up by 80% over the past decade.
Ethnic minorities as a whole have a disposable income of over £300 Billion per year. London’s black-owned businesses now generate a combined annual sales turnover of £10bn and employ 100,000 people. Coupled with the £4.5bn spending power of London’s black community, African and Caribbean people are wielding increasing economic power.
What was the catalyst that made you decide to go into business?
The catalyst for starting this business was reading Dr Claud Andersons’ “PowerNomics – The National Plan to Empower Black America”. In it he describes the poor conditions of Blacks living in America, which inspired me to look at the condition of Black people in the UK, and I was shocked to find out that in some cases we were in a worse condition. Black youth unemployment in the US is 29.7% versus 45% in the UK. 44% of Black people murdered in the UK are murdered by whites and Asians – making Black people disproportionately higher victims of killing by people from other ethnicities, whereas its only 7% in the US. Black people are also more likely to be jailed in the UK than the US. So using his principles and studying our research and statistics I crafted a plan to help Black people in the UK.
What was holding you back from being an entrepreneur at the time?
Prior to starting My Black Market I was studying and practicing law. And after a few encounters with the High Court Masters in The Royal Courts of Justice, I realised the whole court system was an illusion and it wasn’t about justice at all. I live by the rule “If you can do better, do better.” I felt my time would’ve been wasted and I wanted to dedicate my life to making a real change.
What was the best business advice you were given?
The best advice I was given is to write a thorough business plan. No matter how much you think you know your business, writing a plan exposes all its weaknesses and opportunities you didn’t think of when you first came up with your idea, and it’s better to address them now, than discover a company breaking flaw that could’ve been addressed prior to launch.
Why do you feel there is a need for a formal black economy?
Black people are at the top of all the bad tables, charts and statistics, and at the bottom of all the good ones. According to the Office for National Statistics If you are Black or mixed race, you will die at birth, have a worse standard of living, and die before the average white person. This is because we have poor quality services. We have poor a quality of service because we live in poor neighbourhoods, and we have poor neighbourhoods because we drain our community and don’t practice group economics.
It is worth noting that there are segments of the Asian community who also don’t practice group economics i.e. the Bangladeshi community who also live in poverty. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows there is a clear link between poverty and ethnicity in the UK. The review, Poverty and Ethnicity: A Review of Evidence, found that in areas such as employment, care, and where you live, people from many ethnic minority groups do proportionally worse than White British people.
The Black community spend 95% of its money outside of our community, and 3% of what we do spend within it, we spend with non-Black owned businesses, leaving us with only 2% of our income; and nobody can live off of 2% of their income. As a result we live in the worst conditions in the UK. Other communities keep their money circulating by buying and selling to their own locking the wealth in their community. White money bounces from hand to hand 8 – 12 times before leaving their community, Asian and Arab money bounces 12 – 14 times, and Jewish money bounces up to 18 times, but Black money bounces a grand total of zero times. My Black Market will allow you to get any product or service from a Black owned business, and we will network that business so that your money stays in your community and benefits you.
What are evidence supports a need for a viable black economy?
Despite ethnic minorities having a disposable income of over £300 Billion per year, and Black women spending six times more than their white counterparts on hair care, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission over half of Black children grow up in poverty. This means our money is not being used for our benefit. We are the only people on the planet with our hair texture yet all our hair care products are made and sold by Asians.
Black male unemployment is at 55% that means over half of our fathers, brothers and sons will not be able to provide for their families. The Department of work and pensions stated Black people face 32% more discrimination when handing in a CV for a job. If you can’t provide for yourself legally you’re more likely to turn to illegal means.
A 2008 Ministry of Justice report showed that Black people are over represented 7 times their population in jail compared to whites and we rank highest in economic crimes. As our businesses grow they will be able to offer job vacancies through our website, reducing unemployment in the community.
What are some of the challenges you are facing in terms of this business?
I look at every new business as an exploration. You spend months doing research and drawing up business plans, then you get to put all your hard work to the test. The challenges are the same for any start up in the beginning, lack of time, money and people, but I’m enjoying solving any issues that come up, and having to work out a solution to them. It’s part of what makes being an entrepreneur exciting.
Give an example of positive outcomes to date regarding your business?
I have met so many brothers and sisters who have great businesses, offering great products and services that people are not aware of.
I have met so many sisters making hair and skin care products for Black people that are healthier than the mainstream products on offer; who refuse to sell their products in these shops owned by Asians who never hire Black people. Seeing the excitement in their faces knowing there will be a platform allowing them to showcase their life’s’ hard work, passion and dedication, while helping their community at the same time is what really make building this company so special and gives me the motivation to work even harder.
Demonstrate how your customers are demanding more from you at the moment and how is the business responding?
My Black Market is all about us coming together as a community and deciding what works best for us as a whole so we are always responding to feedback from the community. I recently spoke to a brother named Wayne Riley who produces a Black comic called All Knightz. He expressed that the skills needed to produce a comic means his company is able to provide a wide range of services, so they wouldn’t know what category to list their business in. As a result we now allow businesses to have multiple category listings.
Has this type of business model been tried before?
Black people have never had a functioning economy in this country. There have been elements of our business that have been done similarly, like the great work put in by our predecessors creating Black business directories, but I believe it will take more than just that to achieve our goal. My Black Market is a comprehensive plan to build a Black UK economy.
What social media tool are you using at the moment (that is the most valuable) and why?
I’m not really the best at maximising social media, so I have Malachi Mcpherson as my Digital Marketing Manager, he’s an expert at online marketing. As for myself I mostly promote using good old Facebook, that’s the platform I’m comfortable with and have a following on. A lot of people make the mistake of starting accounts and promoting on a platform they don’t have a following on, so essentially you’re talking to yourself.
What is your take on personal business failures?
I believe there is no such thing as failures, there’s only feedback on what is working and what is not. If you “fail” then just re-evaluate and approach the problem with the additional wisdom that you now have.
What is difference that is making the difference for success in business at the moment?
The world we live in today moves very fast, so success is based on the ability to evolve just as fast. It’s important to be up to date on the latest technology and platforms. These platforms allow people to be closer to you and your company, so it’s important to put out good content and have a good social media presence to build relationships with your audience.
Who are you following on Twitter and why?
I don’t really use Twitter, I’m more of a YouTube person. I subscribe to channels like Fast Company and Creative Guerrilla. They keep me up to date with the latest movements and strategies in the business and marketing worlds. I watch them and think how can I incorporate what they’re doing in to my business.
What book would you recommend for entrepreneurs?
Even if I wasn’t bias I would say my book “Multiple Streams of Inspiration Vol 2”
I co-authored it with Les Brown and some of the greatest minds on the planet. My chapter is called “Think It, Act It, Attract It”. To sum it up, whatever you think about will determine what you will start acting like, and what you start acting like is what you will attract. It’s important to have a clear vision in your mind of what you want, and then just go for it!
What is your favourite quote and how are you applying this in your business?
My favourite quote is by Les Brown, and its applicable in life as well as business, he said “Do what you can, with what you have.” Entrepreneurs tend to be perfectionists, and we wait for the perfect time to line all our ducks up in a row, but life is like trying to get on a moving routemaster bus, if you don’t start moving now you’ll miss it. Plus once you start “Acting” out your business, you will “Attract” the right people and situations to make it a success. You’ve got to be in it to win it.
What next for your business?
We are currently running a campaign to raise awareness, populate our platform with Black owned businesses and raise funds to build it, and we are offering special discounted packages to businesses who subscribe during our campaign. Next for us is to launch the company and platform in October. Our aim is for you to be able to Buy Black without inconvenience this Black History Month.