Local entrepreneurs aim to build African American business roster

Girard and Tracey Newkirk, two business owners and entrepreneurs from Wilmington, saw a need in the community: a need to generate more exposure to the wide range of African American businesses in the Cape Fear area.

The husband and wife team, through Genesis Block, has launched a new initiative and is working to bring together community partners to develop the BlackBiz List, an interim name, with the aim of launching and developing a platform. form of online and mobile applications to build a list of African-American businesses.

Genesis Block is a community collaboration, comprising coworking, event and social space, where people come together in a creative environment to work and attend events, according to the website. Space is provided for the second floor of 5 S. Water St. in downtown Wilmington.

The organization invites all members of the community to join a discussion on the new list and generate ideas in a virtual meeting from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to the Genesis Block Facebook page.

Businesses can also conduct a survey to participate in the list, the Newkirks said.

The group met with its development team on Wednesday and aims to launch the website and mobile app, with all of its features and testing, by late summer or early fall.

“In the short time that we started, people started sending things. And I find companies that I had never heard of. So I think it’s going to be exciting for the community to see the wide array of different types of businesses that exist in one place, where you can just go and search by category, ”said Tracey Newkirk.

The group is looking to work with partners to create a technology platform that helps market and promote African American businesses and serve “almost with a Yelp-like interface,” said Girard Newkirk, also founder and CEO of the technology company based in Wilmington. KWHCoin.

Other features on the list could also include GPS positioning so users can find individual businesses, and a rating function, he said.

Tracey Newkirk, in her role as co-founder of the Genesis Block organization and president of the African American Business Council in Wilmington, said there has been a lot of interest in the region in a list of Afro-speaking companies. -american.

While there are such lists, the Newkirks felt that having a website and mobile app to promote African American-owned businesses, which could be updated frequently and easily accessible to the community of Cape Fear, would be of benefit to the region. Tracey Newkirk is also the founder of the consulting firm, UNEXO.

“Girard and I, talking about that, and him having a software company, we were like, ‘Let’s put this together’. It’s necessary. Our goal with Genesis Block being a community collaboration is to create solutions to the needs of our community. And we felt it was a huge need, ”said Tracey Newkirk.

Part of how Genesis Block works is to take a “science-based approach” to how it grows and collaborates with the community, Girard Newkirk said.

“We thought that to come up with a mobile app and also a website and come up with not just a list, but something that would be an interactive tool, something that would encourage people to use it, something that would encourage organizations to use it. to use also, would be the best way to serve as a basis to respect these principles ”, he declared.

The majority of local African American businesses are sole proprietorships, he said. Building a supportive ecosystem would help bring visibility and accessibility to these companies, many of which run lean organizations.

“We have been researching how we can grow and how we can develop black businesses in the community. And the country’s African-American gross domestic product is around $ 1.25 trillion. But of that $ 1.25 trillion, only 2% is spent on black-owned businesses. So there is a major opportunity… if we can put in place the infrastructure to have more support for black-owned businesses locally, ”said Girard Newkirk. “This will be one of the key principles of economic prosperity and wealth generation for the future. “

The group is now gathering all the information from those who want to become a partner, including community organizations, and also trying to raise capital for the effort, he said.

“It’s going to be a very clear expression of almost a new business model of how we use this interface with the community to connect with entrepreneurs, with tech developers, with marketers, who are all working under one roof. , or all under one roof, for a wonderful cause, ”said Girard Newkirk.

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