PurchaseBlack: the Etsy for African-American products - Technical.ly DC

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Feb. 25, 2015 12:59 pm

PurchaseBlack: the Etsy for African-American products

“It shouldn't be that hard for an African-American person, male or female, to find products that work,” said founder Brian Williams.

PurchaseBlack founder and CEO Brian Williams.

(Photo courtesy of PurchaseBlack)

It was with a sense of purpose, but also the pragmatic approach of an engineer, that Brian Williams launched PurchaseBlack.com on Black Friday, Nov. 29, 2013.

The website is a verified marketplace that aims to support black-owned businesses while allowing black consumers to shop more easily for specialized products.

“There are lots of wonderful black-owned businesses across the country and a large African[-American] buying power,” said Williams. “But those two things weren’t really connected to one another.”

PurchaseBlack, which he describes as the Etsy or Amazon Marketplace for African Americans, aims to be “the bridge.” To sell on the platform, businesses have to be vetted first. Once they’re approved, they get their own web address on the site.

After earning his MBA at the University of Texas, Williams moved to D.C. in 2013 with PurchaseBlack in mind. “D.C. is a hub of successful African-Americans in the DMV area,” he said. He worked for a while at Accenture, then left in late January to work full time on the site.

Anticipating that it might need several turnarounds, he built the website flexibly.

“I’m an industrial engineer by trade, so I understand the concept of continuous improvement,” he said. “We’ve revamped the site several times. As long as there’s more efficiency to squeeze out of the platform, well continue to do it.”

Williams said the website is already revenue positive. He means business, but in a broader sense. “The business has to be about sort of the long term health of the black community,” he said.

PurchaseBlack’s flagship feature is the badges that identify black-owned businesses. “I want to make it extremely easy, if people come to the site and they want to support a black-owned business, they don’t have to guess,” Williams explained.

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“African Americans have unique tastes and preferences and, by and large, they are under-served by the market as a whole,” he added. “It shouldn’t be that hard for an African-American person, male or female, to find products that work.”

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Lalita Clozel

Lalita Clozel was the former Technical.ly DC Lead Reporter. She has written for OpenSecrets.org, the Los Angeles Times and Philadelphia City Paper. As a student at the University of Pennsylvania, she wrote for The Daily Pennsylvanian, covering legal affairs, city politics and labor unions.

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