Local Entrepreneur Celebrates Juneteenth with Release of Black-Owned Business App
Shaundretta House Boykins was raised in an entrepreneurial household, with two grandparents who were entrepreneurs themselves. So even though she started her career in financial services, she says, “I have always had a love and a respect for business owners, because it takes courage, it takes tough skin.”
After 20 years in the financial sector, she decided to leave banking and go into the nonprofit world. Now as director of the Women’s Business Center at ECDI, Boykins has first-hand experience with the challenges of starting a business and what resources are necessary to be successful.
She says exposure is one of the biggest opportunities for growth for Black businesses. According to a 2020 report from Guidant Financial, the second biggest challenge for Black small business owners was marketing and advertising.
There’s a lack of visibility in mainstream media when it comes to Black-owned businesses, and according to her team’s research, locating Black-owned businesses in an area is four times more difficult than finding a business that is not Black-owned.
Boykins says, “I’m just really passionate about the economic playing field for Black people. Because we’re the biggest consumers, we also should own something and we also should manufacture something.”
So two years ago, she had the idea to create an app in order to showcase Black-owned businesses for people looking to support them. At one point the project was deferred, but eventually, through networking, chance encounters and mutual connections, she found a team to help build the app.
Now with Chief Technology Officer George Zarebski and Chief Branding Officer LoLo, the Minding My Black-Owned Business app has now been in full swing since early this year.
Timing has been the central theme around the creation of the app. She was connected with her team through Ron Day, BurgerIM franchisee and CEO of Dayvision Investment Group, and she was connected to Day through several mutual connections over the years — later to find out his office was down the street from hers.
The timing of the app’s release is special as well.
“You know, that’s our Liberation Day,” she says of Minding My Black-Owned Business’ Juneteenth beta release. “Days are special to me. And so I just wanted to be a day that I will always be able to remember.”
Boykins jokes that she didn’t want to be an “Appzilla” regarding the creation of her app. She’s a worrier and a perfectionist, but thankfully so are her developers. And they seem to be just as invested in the mission of Minding My Black-Owned Business as she is.
“They’re not charging me anything to do this work. Anything,” she says. “So, it’s a tremendous blessing.”
She also has a team of girlfriends who stepped in a week before this launch to help her while she recovered from eye surgery. So it’s been a team effort.
“I pulled some girlfriends together and some came and volunteered, and said, ‘What do we need to do to make sure that the app launches Juneteenth?'” she says. “And they stepped right up to the plate.”
To keep the Minding My Black-Owned Business app running, the app will have several revenue streams, including paid business features, ads and possibly a membership subscription after the first year.
But as far as what’s next, Boykins eventually wants to expand beyond Columbus to include businesses statewide. Then, she has goals of bringing the project to “all 14,000 plus zip codes in the U.S.”
But the goal of showcasing Black-owned businesses is also representative of a larger (and much longer) conversation about generational wealth and economic equality.
“I want to make people of color understand the importance of being an owner of something. You’ve got to own your business in order to leave a legacy for your children,” she says. “And so that’s why I really go so hard for businesses, because I understand what it can do.”
For more information, visit www.mmbob.app.