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How Online Shoppers Can Zero In on Black-Owned Businesses

(Photo by Aaron Pruzaniec)

Looking to direct your dollars to black-owned businesses but struggling to find a retailer for a certain product or service? A new Google Chrome browser extension from San Francisco-based coder Angie Coleman can help. BuyBlack, reports the Huffington Post, highlights black-owned businesses for users.

Say you’re shopping for new throw pillows on Wayfair.com. Click on BuyBlack’s logo — a black fist that appears top right in your browser after you download the extension — and you’ll see a list of black-owned alternatives, like Interwoven, a home decor site. If BuyBlack can’t find an alternative, a message pops up asking users to send suggestions.

Already, over 300 businesses can be found through the extension, which Coleman created during a hackathon hosted by nonprofit Reboot Safety, a group that has also held hackathons around police brutality. Coleman told Huffington Post by email that she was inspired to create BuyBlack in part because of recent calls by Solange Knowles and other celebrities to support black enterprise.

“When people are asked to buy black, a lot of what we hear is that no one knows where to find these black-owned businesses,” she wrote. “It’s similar to conversations around Silicon Valley about hiring black people and how ― out of 46 million black people in the U.S. alone – they just can’t seem to find black entrepreneurs that are qualified. I didn’t want anyone to have that problem, so I made a list.”

That list includes not just consumer goods, but also art, vacation rentals, food and more. (Earlier this year, two startups announced Airbnb-style platforms aimed at people of color.) “We’re actively growing and we’ve open[ed] up user submissions to find new businesses or ones we missed,” she said. “The next version of the extension will allow users to rate and save their favorites.”

As Next City’s Oscar Perry Abello has reported, black entrepreneurship does more than just increase personal wealth: Black business owners may serve as vital role models, and provide capital to support more up-and-coming entrepreneurs. One study even posits that black entrepreneurship contributed to the 1990s decrease in crime. The black community’s buying power is expected to reach $1.2 trillion this year.

“If the government isn’t going to pay reparations for hundreds of years of unpaid labor that built this nation, then black people need to start supporting each other, and hopefully this will empower other groups to support our ideas and businesses, as well,” Coleman said.