Why Brian Williams decided to shut down PurchaseBlack - Technical.ly DC

Business

Dec. 15, 2016 12:56 pm

Why Brian Williams decided to shut down PurchaseBlack

“You don't keep a business open because it feels good.”

PurchaseBlack founder Brian Williams.

(Photo via Twitter)

Brian Williams didn’t create PurchaseBlack.com just to make money.

No, the mission was always bigger than that. “My goal with this business was to create impact,” he told Technical.ly in a recent interview. Specifically, Williams’ driving motivation has been to support the African-American community by connecting consumers with African American-owned businesses.

But at one point, a few months ago, there came a moment when Williams had to sit down and ask himself, Can I do what I set out to do given the situation right now? And the answer, unfortunately, was no.

See, in order to create the impact he had envisioned, there were a few things that Williams needed — buyers, for example. And some investment would have been nice. But there was one thing that Williams and PurchaseBlack.com absolutely couldn’t do without — Black-owned businesses.

And while Black-owned, consumer-facing businesses do exist, well, according to Williams, they’re less diverse in category than would be ideal to support scale on a platform meant to showcase their wares. There are a lot of Black-owned personal-care businesses, for example, but relatively fewer companies and products outside that arena.

“The one thing that isn’t insurmountable is that you can’t sell products from businesses that don’t exist,” Williams said.

So Williams took a look at the evidence and decided to shut down PurchaseBlack.com. It wasn’t exactly easy — “This business is emotional for a lot of people, including myself,” he said. But if the University of Texas MBA knows one thing about business it’s that “you don’t keep a business open because it feels good.”

So what comes next for Williams and PurchaseBlack?

Visit the site today, and you’ll see a message to customers detailing just why Williams decided to shut the project down. Williams is also recouping some of his investment in the site by selling a PDF list of all the great Black-owned businesses he’s encountered over the years for a donation, as well as sweatshirts and more merch (forthcoming as of writing) with the word “blessed” scrawled across the front.

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A new way to support PurchaseBlack. (Screenshot)

A new way to support PurchaseBlack. (Screenshot)

“This Has Been A Blessing to My Life,” he writes on the site. “As a Black Man, as a Black Person, There is Nothing I Could Have Experienced That Makes Me Love Being Black More Than What I’ve Gained From PurchaseBlack.com.”

As for Williams himself, he’s “not 100 percent sure” what comes next. But whatever it is, it’ll involve that a drive to make an impact. “I can either build a business that makes a difference,” Williams told Technical.ly, alluding to the fact that PurchaseBlack.com was, for now, his attempt at this, “or I can get rich and make a difference myself.”

It’ll be a “Brian Williams Foundation type thing,” he said.

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Tajha Chappellet-Lanier

Tajha Chappellet-Lanier was the lead reporter for Technical.ly DC. The California native previously worked for NPR and the editorial board at USA Today. She can talk travel plans all day, and has strong opinions on the best doughnut in D.C.

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