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Apps / Baltimore / Ecommerce

This Baltimore-made social shopping platform is designed to support Black businesses

CEO Vincent Johnson developed Xclusit to overcome the limitations of traditional shopping apps and the whims of social media marketing.

Vincent Johnson. (Courtesy XCLUSIT)

Traditional shopping apps often lack tools for brand promotion. An Ellicott City-based entrepreneur is betting on tech to provide tools for businesses in Baltimore.

“I taught myself how to code,” said Vincent Johnson, founder and CEO of Xclusit, an app designed for Black-owned businesses to exhibit their products and provide shoppers with an organized shopping experience.

Johnson pursued a master’s in divinity at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, where he focused on Black economics, and shifted to entrepreneurship post-graduation. He wanted to pursue his PhD — but went with what he loves.

“I love entrepreneurship so much,” said Johnson whose app is a Technical.ly 2024 RealLIST Startups runner up.

This is the second entrepreneurial endeavor for the Mt. Juliet, Tenn., native. His initial app was named Coupify. Throughout his journey, which included attending accelerators such as Atlanta Tech Village and conducting customer discovery, he realized, after walking to numerous businesses in Atlanta (where he relocated from Baltimore), that Coupify didn’t quite meet the needs of Black business owners.

He remembers walking into high-end boutiques, introducing himself and getting responses like: “We don’t do coupons up in here.”

Conversations like that are what inspired him to pivot into creating a social platform for businesses to showcase their products. Xclusit uses an Instagram style format (without the funky algorithm) to display everything from photos to video.

“Research has shown that, you know, the new wave of marketing is short video reels because of people’s attention span,” said Johnson, who also used to do social media marketing for businesses.

Screenshots from the Xclusit app. (Courtesy Vincent Johnson)

He called marketing a business on social media akin to gambling.

Social media algorithms can be unpredictable. While features like targeted ads exist, Johnson pointed out that they often require financial backing, a resource that many Black businesses lack.

“The algorithm, for me, understands and knows okay, you are a business [and] you are promoting. So because of that, you need to pay to play, you need to pay to be seen,” said Johnson who said in his experience businesses aren’t getting organic reach and impressions like last decade, which some have called the “golden-age” of posting.

For businesses, Xclusitoffers a $30 monthly fee, but the first two months are free to allow users to test and get accustomed to the platform.

“Xclusit is all about connecting you to the audience that you desire to be connected to,” Johnson said. “And connecting the consumers to the businesses that they love to support.”

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