When Leonard Young was growing up in Wilmington, his grandparents would tell him about the way downtown used to be.
They talked about how Market Street and Shipley Street had lots of Black businesses, most of which had disappeared from the landscape over the years. And around 2006, still active in the community, they told him about an event at the Christina Cultural Arts Center that wasn’t as well attended as it should have been.
This was in the days before Twitter and Instagram, but the internet was rapidly growing as a tool for information.
“[Other cities] all had some type of Black media that was city-based, whether it was a magazine, a website, a newspaper or a radio station, and when I came back to Delaware there was really nothing,” said Young, who had gone to school in Florida and lived in Texas before returning to Wilmington.
Young started DelawareBlack.com that year, with a focus on Black businesses and local events.
“That’s the premise it was founded on,” he said. “Over the years it expanded to include networking, news and information, articles and resources.”
The website, which he marketed in the early days by handing out cards and flyers at local events, started getting attention from Delaware’s Black communities through his connections with the Urban League of Delaware and his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, as well as general word of mouth.
Around 2008, he started expanding the brand into new markets, starting with nearby cities Philadelphia (AfroPhilly) and Baltimore (BaltimoreBlack). Over the next decade he would expand to 16 markets, including Atlanta (MetroAtlantaBlack), Chicago (ChiTownBlack) and Los Angeles (LABlackPost).
Now, in 2020, those markets have come together into one national site, NationalBlackGuide.com, a process Young started during the summer. The website is directly attached to a new app set to launch this month, BlackGuideApp.
The app is a national guide of Black businesses and events that can be searched by city (including cities that are not among the 16 market cities). Black-owned businesses can add their business for free. You’ll also find news articles and information created and curated to bring users info about what is happening in Black communities across the country.
“People will ask, how is your app different than the others? One thing is the variety of information we have — directories, news and info,” Young said.
Right now, the national Black business directory has about 1,500 listings. Starting in January, Young is launching a campaign to get 50,000 Black businesses listed on BlackGuideApp. He also hopes to host a national online award for Black businesses in 2021.
To get your business listed in the National Black Guide, go to the website and click “advertise.” Note that there is an option for a free listing.
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