Have you ever wanted to spend your money with a Black-owned business but had no idea how to locate specific establishments in your area? Well, now there is an app for that. WhereU is the new mobile guide for finding Black-owned businesses nationwide. Unbeknownst to a lot of people in our community, we actually have collective buying power in the trillions. Yes, you read that right, the trillions; 1.3 trillion to be exact. However, our communities don’t see this money and despite all the buying power Black dollars have, very little of that money stays in Black communities or is spent with Black-owned businesses. We don’t shop or spend money with our own businesses, instead we buy from large corporations and our dollar doesn’t circulate in our community the way it does with other communities. This app has the potential to create more substantial wealth within the Black communities and money that stays in Black communities or is spent on Black-owned businesses. There are over two million Black-owned businesses in this country alone, but just 2 cents of every dollar an African American spends in this country goes to Black-owned businesses.
The WhereU app was created by Atlanta-based social entrepreneur Dr. Dionne Mahaffey, and it merges technology with the need to handle poverty, crime and other social ills in the African American community by focusing on economic development and job creation. Her company, The CPAI Group, also launched The Loyalty Stamp, a mobile rewards app, last year and continues to be at the forefront of emerging technology applications. This is the premiere and reliable Black business directory app for Apple and Android devices offering a local business search with real-time listing of Black-owned businesses across various categories.
Rolling out sat down with Dr. Mahaffey to talk about her vision, Black dollars and what it means to support your community. –starling thomas
Why do you think that our dollars don’t circulate within our own communities?
If you think about integration and how we gained acceptance with other communities, we started down the path of trying to align ourselves in various facets. In trying to align and integrate and assimilate, it took our dollars out of our community because if you think about segregation, our dollars stayed in our community for a much longer time. If I made some money, the local store in my community pre integration was owned by a Black person, and the local barber and usually those industries are still us and that’s what we support. The tailor, the grocery store, the mechanic, everything was well contained in our community. I think our love of self has been thwarted and we spend a lot of effort outside of our own communities rather than our own. Currently, our money only stays in our community for six hours compared to before where in some reports it stayed for months. When you take a historical look at the thriving African American communities of the early 1900s, like Atlanta’s Auburn Avenue, L.A.’s Central Avenue, Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Chicago’s South Side or U Street in Washington, D.C., the dollar circulated 36 to 100 times, sometimes taking a year for currency to leave the community. Currently when we make money we go outside of our community to spend it, and if you look at other communities, a dollar circulates in Asian communities for 30 days, in Jewish communities approximately 20 days and White communities in general, for an unlimited number of days. Of that 1.3 trillion dollars, only 2 cents of every dollar goes back to Black-owned businesses.
What inspired you and your company to create this app?
I’m a serial entrepreneur and I wear many hats as a serial entrepreneur and one of those hats being that I am a techie. I’ve worked in the technology industry for the lions share of my career and even through my entrepreneurial career technology has always been a part of the foundation of anything that I do. Being someone that can write code, that understands how to write technical requirements for an app, it just came to me in my sleep. I was using an app and in my opinion it had something other than what I was looking for in addition to businesses listed. This wasn’t a Black app but it can be said for most apps in this space: there were these pop ups for these events and I’m not interested in events if I am looking for a caterer so I wanted to do something more stream line that basically gets to the heart of the matter. Find a business, call them, text them and if you have a good experience after visiting their store or business then I want you to refer them, so that’s the simple goal. We have very good interface so it gets straight to the point, you can find the businesses across categories. Those referrals if you think about how we operate as a people we’ve done a lot by word of mouth, we’ve done a lot by self-promotion of one another or if a friend told you they had a good experience then you used them. This is about leveraging those traditions in our community to ensure that we sustain our businesses and ensure that they have long-term sustainability by supporting them and telling other people when you have had a good experience with them.
How does a business get on this app?
There are 2.6 million Black-owned businesses in the United States and we have just begun to scratch the surface. They can go to our site and business profiles can be submitted from the web-site whereucamefrom.biz or within the actual WhereU Came From app. The app can also help majority; non-Black corporations meet their diversity objectives by finding minority businesses to support. Once the business are added it’s a real time process. If I add you right now as soon as I click save it’s going to show up in the app. We are working on some new features for in the future where companies can just go on and add themselves and manage their profile.
What does it mean to you to be a social entrepreneur?
Social entrepreneurship is about making the world a better place and about leveraging, innovation for a positive outcome. There is nothing to me more positive than us ensuring sustainability in our community and building Black wealth because this is the legacy that we want to leave for our children and the generations after us. We haven’t paid enough attention to ourselves and that’s what our goal is as social entrepreneurs. It to ensure that we are empowering Black businesses as much as possible to sustain themselves. I try to live a life with lifelong learning and lifelong helping, so to me my purpose is to always learn something new and to always give of myself in a useful way that helps advance some one else’s cause or agenda if its going to have a positive impact on our community. It will take all of us across all socio-economic statuses to build black wealth. We’ve got to invest in our own community. For us, community can’t be limited to where we are domiciled since many of us live in non-Black neighborhoods. When we start to embrace the diaspora view that our community is wherever we find our people, then we will be more inclined to support one another, even if it means taking a long drive.
The WhereU app is here to help make it easier to buy Black. Everything from house cleaning, plumbing, catering, lawyers, doctors, graphic designers, restaurants, beauty salons and more, the app’s referral and location-based system helps you start your search among the most trusted Black professionals and businesses.
For more information, visit www.whereyoucamefrom.biz. Also find them on Facebook @whereyoucamefrom and on Twitter and Instagram @WhereUCameFrom. Download the “WhereU” app in the Apple Store or Google Play.