When I think of the first Black owned business I’ve ever supported, countless trips to Alex Walker’s barbershop on the northside of Kalamazoo, Michigan vividly flashes into my mind. I can still picture the multiple side tables with Jet magazines stacked high and the smell of an assortment of Black hair products in the air. From corner stores, laundromats, restaurants and car dealerships, Black people have always strived to be business owners and hopefully we all can remember our first moments recycling money back to the community, but with the ease of online shopping and chain stores being so accessible to the masses, it can be a challenge to find a small business to support.
Hanief Saterfield thought of the concept behind his mobile app Bobspotter after reading Maggie Anderson’s book Our Black Year and getting inspired to solely utilize and support Black owned businesses for a year. Saterfield’s year long goal lasted for five hours in California after quickly coming to the conclusion that it’s very difficult for the Black community to support Black entrepreneurs when they don’t know where they are. The first iteration of Bobspotter started as a directory of verified Black owned businesses that naturally expanded from the United States to around the world (specifically the U.S., Canada, Africa, France, the U.K, the Caribbean and Shanghai). In 2015 after the tragic death of Trayvon Martin, Bobspotter became a resource for Black people looking for safe places to spend their money and businesses that would also value the person behind the dollar. Six years later the directory has evolved into a community of Black entrepreneurs looking to service their communities while developing sustainability within their companies in the process.
Budding entrepreneurs and creators looking to build their own apps and start their own businesses should follow Saterfield’s sage advice and “build the first thing and let that inspire you to build the next thing.” The internet has made it possible for people to create whatever they think is missing from the world but without that next step to turn an idea into something more than a thought in your head, you’ll be left with meaningless concepts that will have no impact on the society around us. Aside from upcoming creators that dream of developing the next Facebook or Moviepass, supporters are just as important as creators because they directly influence what will make a mark on the world next.
When going on Bobspotter there are plenty of resources like podcasts, blogs, videos and a social network so users can stay connected with their communities and highlight the great businesses around them and the app will continue to flourish under a man that knows his idea of a “Black Yelp” is much bigger than the best place to file your taxes or get some solid barbecue. If people of any color, gender or socioeconomic background want to gain success they have to realize that finding and gaining knowledge and power can’t end with one person. My favorite quote that I took from Saterfield came from discussing his future. He said, “if I go you better not let my shit die,” and I want to add don’t let the success and lessons you gain from your time on this earth live and die with yourself.
Article By: Marcel “The Messenger” Jeremiah