Diversity & Inclusion
Apps / DEI / Social media / Women in tech

SOCIALgrlz targets untapped market: young African-American girls

"Not one mobile app platform has been designed for this demographic." SOCIALgrlz founder Marissa Jennings is breaking the mold.

Marissa Jennings. (Photo courtesy of SOCIALgrlz)

Marissa Jennings was trying to find new reading material for her goddaughters. But then she remembered, it’s hard to find anything created specifically for African-American teenage girls.
“Not one mobile app platform has been designed for this demographic,” she said.
That’s how the glitzy, eye-popping and patented content platform SOCIALgrlz — a website and soon-to-be mobile app — was born.
African-American girls, ages 13 to 17 are an untapped market, but also an influential one, said Jennings. “They set the trends in regards to fashion, in regards to using their cell phones,” she said.
That’s maybe because they’re among the chattiest of a social media savvy demographic. “African Americans communicate, we are communicators,” said Jennings. Now “our message can be heard and seen among one another and everyone.”
Case in point: girls flocked to the Pentagon Microsoft Store earlier this month at SOCIALgrlz Connect, a chance to play around with Microsoft Office Mix. But they told Jennings that they often couldn’t find digital just for them. “The reality is there isn’t,” she conceded.


SOCIALgrlz screenshots. (Courtesy of SOCIALgrlz)

Jennings’s project has been in the works for a long time.
She first came upon the idea of creating a magazine focused on black girls in 2003. At the time, she was a student at Bennett College — a historically black college for women — preparing a press kit as part of her senior project.
After stints as a policy associate for Girls, Inc. and program coordinator for BET, she launched the SOCIALgrlz web site in 2012.
Now the mobile app is in minimum viable product mode and slowly moving towards a launch, said Jennings. She works “wherever my laptop is,” with part-time collaborators pitching in from Los Angeles to New Orleans to New York.
Meanwhile, she’s kept her friends in the loop all along. The SOCIALgrlz team includes two former classmates: COO Elenore Vaughn, who was her mentor; and content coordinator Nathalie Jordan, who edited her paper for that senior project that set the wheels in motion.
Watch Jennings describe SOCIALgrlz to Tech Cocktail, at SXSW 2014.


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