Medical illustrator Iman Carr and copywriter Shakeel Alexander met as artists in the predominantly white city of Buffalo. In that city, they said, most artists are working on their passion projects for free and doing other jobs to get by. But if you did happen to be getting paid for your creative work, nine times out of 10, you were white.
Carr and Alexander wanted to change that.
Thus was born Blvck Door, an online platform to connect creatives of color to employers. Artists can see what opportunities are out there, and be paid fairly for their talent. The goal is to foster an equitable and diverse workforce by giving voice and opportunity to BIPOC artists in smaller places that aren’t oversaturated by huge competition, and where creative jobs aren’t as abundant. It’s pairing a paycheck to their passions.
“There are medical illustrators that work in marketing and all these different companies, but it’s so small and so siloed, it really depends on who you know,” Carr told Technical.ly. She knows from experience — “coming from that background and not having a network of people that looked like me or I could look to for certain experiences.”
What Carr is describing and both founders experienced in Buffalo is the network effect in action. It’s the advantage some people have over others in accessing opportunity based on where they grew up, where they went to school, where they work and most importantly, who they know. Meanwhile, the network gap is what results from not knowing the people who can connect them to opportunity.
It’s why in 2016, LinkedIn found that 70% of people were hired at a company where they had a personal contact. Glassdoor did a similar study and found that there was a statistically significant increase in chances to get a job offer for people that were referred by someone else at the company. That increase averaged out to one in 20 people getting a job offer they otherwise wouldn’t have gotten.
Carr is in the Design Leadership (MA/MBA) dual graduate program at MICA and John Hopkins University. As finalists of the 2022 UP/Start Venture Competition, Carr and her cofounder Alexander are trying to create a platform that didn’t exist for themselves.
“The more we started to create the platform, whether it’s through social media or our website, we’ve started to learn more and more people were in the same boat as us,” Alexander said, “trying to pair a paycheck to their creative passions.”
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.-30-