PurchaseBlack's Brian Williams on having a company that's 'conspicuously Black' - Technical.ly DC

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Jun. 23, 2016 10:23 am

PurchaseBlack’s Brian Williams on having a company that’s ‘conspicuously Black’

This has upsides and downsides, he says, but ultimately it's true to Williams' mission.

PurchaseBlack founder Brian Williams.

(Photo via Twitter)

Brian Williams’ mission for PurchaseBlack.com has always been the same: to support the African-American community by supporting African-American-owned businesses.

That’s not to say that PurchaseBlack.com is only for African-American consumers — Williams welcomes anyone. But he’s unapologetic about saying his company is “conspicuously African-American.” It can make people uncomfortable, he says, but from his perspective, “someone needs to say it’s OK to make something specifically Black.”

"I don't hide behind the word 'minority.'"
Brian Williams, PurchaseBlack

This, Williams told Technical.ly, is one of the central challenges of his company. But like any good challenge, it’s got upsides as surely as it does downsides.

PurchaseBlack’s conspicuous Black-ness means the mission for the business is very clear. “I don’t hide behind the word ‘minority,'” Williams said. His goal is to support fellow African-American entrepreneurs, he’s very upfront about it and if you want to join him, great, this is the place to be. That clarity, Williams feels, is a strength — a strength that’s brought his bootstrapped company to where it is today.

You may recall that Williams’ launched his site on Black Friday 2013 as an “Etsy for African-American products.” Since then he pivoted from a free-for-all marketplace to an exclusive opportunity — making the site invite-only for businesses. Oh, and now the company boasts mobile apps for iOS and Android, too.

It’s been almost a year since Williams moved to the new model, and that’s the one he’s still employing. He only accepts what he describes as “excellent” companies, owned by members of the Black community, but beyond that, the product being sold could be anything from hair care products to super fancy chocolates.

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“My favorite part of this is I get to brag about the companies,” he laughed, highlighting a few favorites.

This invite-only standard and mission-driven ethos is attracting attention. After entering the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest in May, PurchaseBlack is currently among the 100 national finalists chosen from thousands of submissions. Next PurchaseBlack will make a video for the FedEx team, and if the company is selected as one of the winners in July, Williams could win anywhere from $7,500 to $25,000.

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