None of us could have predicted the course that 2020 would run. When I started building Nile in 2019, I didn’t have a crystal ball. I couldn’t have predicted the murder of George Floyd or the resurgence of Black Lives Matter. There was no way to know that COVID-19 was coming through like a wrecking ball for Black-owned businesses.
All I had was a passion for supporting Black-owned businesses and the drive to create a platform that would better allow online shoppers to do that. And, I had a Google spreadsheet! Almost overnight, this platform that I’ve stayed up late at night and shed many a tear to build and build right has gone from a passion to a necessary purpose. Folks all over the country are looking for ways to buy Black, and they are finding Nile as the perfect answer.
And we definitely need an answer. Nothing has been easy for Black entrepreneurs from the beginning. Without reparations, Blacks in the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras found themselves starting with nothing. Government initiatives, such as GI benefits, that jump-started many American’s ability to establish themselves economically and go into business were flat-out denied to Black citizens. Sometimes entrepreneurship was even a life or death venture — lynchings were not an uncommon tactic in the effort to eliminate competition from Black entrepreneurs, or to limit the prosperity of those who were doing a bit too well. At times, Black businesses have been systematically destroyed to ensure that there is no wealth accumulation.
The problems face by Black entrepreneurs are NOT only historical. They are modern and they are persistent, and they are the reason that I created Nile.
Racism in the mainstream business world means that the lack of Black banks and insurance companies and power or economic structures have left many Black entrepreneurs without recourse to access business loans or capital. Black businesses struggle to get loans, or investment from VCs and other investors. Black businesses are negatively stereotyped when it comes to customer-service, professionalism, and quality (even by other Black people). Black property-seekers are denied mortgages at twice the rate of whites, which impacts entrepreneurs’ ability to acquire storefronts or office space. Racism in leasing further limits options, and Black brick-and-mortar businesses are often effectively redlined into areas that many patrons won’t visit.
These lessons of the rocky road for Black entrepreneurship led me on a personal journey to find a better solution. I wanted to do more, wanted to change more, and wanted to impact more. The more I came to understand the way the weight of racism pressed down particularly hard on Black-owned businesses, while simultaneously realizing how important our businesses were to relieving that pressure, the more I was inspired by my passion to do something about it. I had a transformative idea to build a platform that would allow people to buy Black online in one centralized place. In 2019, I started building what has now become The Nile List. I saw before me a world in which Black-owned businesses are creating products with love and dedication, but are sometimes floundering in reaching customers to buy them. I wanted to make it easier to support this community, to connect with amazing businesses and to create an ecosystem through which Black entrepreneurs, supporters and allies could help funnel resources back into our business community. What we have created with Nile is already on the way to fulfilling this mission, and at a critical moment in our history nonetheless. Our vision is plain. Nile exists to make buying Black easy. Every solution that we build will further this vision. We have started with the directory aspect of our site in order to prove that there is demand for this solution in the market, which we believe that we have done with almost 85,000 monthly users on our site in just 6 months of operation.
Our next step is bigger, will take us further, and will take thousands of Black-owned businesses with us. We’re about to build out technology that will help you buy Black with just a few clicks, even when you’re not on our site. You won’t have to do anything except for download our solution. It will go where you go! When you’re looking online for candles or clothing, Nile will be there to tell you what Black-owned brands you can buy with. And you never have to visit our site. Are you ready for that?
We’re ready too. We are ready to grow, but we need your help to do it. Nile is launching an incentive-based crowdfunding campaign on the Black-owned platform FundBlackFounders. The money that we raise in this campaign will help us build our new tech, make technical and design improvements to our platform, trademark our name, grow our team so that we can onboard thousands of more Black-owned brands, and so much more.
We have never viewed ourselves as just a “Black business” directory. We’ve viewed Nile as a conduit to Black-owned businesses online. We want to build a true community for Black entrepreneurs to access resources, investment, and information that will help them grow. And we want to further ease the process of buying Black by deploying technological solutions, such as ur database, a browser solution, a marketplace, and more. In essence, we want to support everybody Black.
Join us by backing our campaign here. You can learn more about the incentives, which are pretty damn dope if I don’t say so myself. As a backer, you’ll join Nile’s Founders Club, and you will gain early access to our next 1-click technical solution to buying Black. Plus, if you’re a business owner, you can grab exclusive and unparallelled opportunities to promote your business with us. If you’re a lover of Black-owned businesses, you can grab discounts and freebies! If you’re a lover of Nile, you will put us on the path of true growth and scalability. Join us. Join the Nile wave.