Entrepreneur and advocate Cynthia Daniels is launching Black Business Friday, a virtual shopping experience that will showcase 200 Black-owned businesses in the U.S. on Black Friday.
Traditionally known as the busiest shopping day of the year, Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, also usually marks the start of the holiday shopping season although this year, due to the pandemic, forecasters expect consumers to begin their buying earlier than ever. Shoppers will find fashion, beauty, home products and other items from Black-owned companies at the one-day Black Business Friday. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. After RSVP-ing on Eventbrite, shoppers will receive a link to the shopping platform on the morning of Nov. 27. The aim is to help smaller companies during the coronavirus crisis.
”Now that we’re in this virtual space, it allows people to broaden their customer base. Also, small business owners have been at a disadvantage for so long,” Daniels said. “Typically, you hear about these designers out of Los Angeles and New York. Small businesses don’t necessarily have the budgets for marketing like those companies do. Now that the world is focused on virtual platforms, that gives them a level playing field.”
Earlier this year the executive organized the Juneteenth Shop Black, a virtual experience that generated $1 million in sales for Black-owned businesses. Daniels’ Juneteenth online event took place on June 19 and featured more than 100 businesses from 22 cities in the U.S., as well as from Vancouver and St. Croix. There was such consumer demand that the site crashed temporarily when it first went live, she said. In total, 109,000 people shopped the site from 51 countries, said Daniels, who is based in Memphis.
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The success of the Juneteenth online event and the data collection from that has allowed Daniels to share the potential impact of next month’s online event. “Obviously, this is the biggest shopping day already. That’s a bonus with people wanting to shop online.”
Daniels decided to keep the number of Black Business Friday participants at 200, twice the number that were featured in the Juneteenth online event. More than half of the participating businesses are fashion ones. Knowing that 70 percent of the shoppers at the last event were women, Daniels has created a women’s section to showcase fashion designers and jewelry and handbags.
Her experience includes creating Memphis Black Restaurant Week in 2016. Daniels said, “There was a time, when I really, really had to over-share and express that just because we’re highlighting Black restaurants doesn’t mean you have to be a Black person to eat there. Yes, this is a Black Business Friday, but we want everybody from all ethnicities, from all races to shop.”
She also started the Soulful Food Truck Festival to help Black-owned food trucks that she had had to turn away from the restaurant week roster, since they technically are not restaurants. The annual festival wraps up Memphis Black Restaurant Week. It is designed to boost their sales on a Sunday, when the majority of restaurants in Memphis are closed. Music was added as another element, “because who doesn’t want to hear live music with their families on a Sunday?” Daniels said. More than 6,000 people attended this year’s event, which was held in March right before the lockdown.
From Dec. 11 to 14, Daniels will hold the third annual Black Christmas Expo, an online shopping event that will feature 100 businesses.
Hopeful that the interest among consumers and investors in Black-owned businesses will last, she said, “With the world having almost come to a standstill, more people are aware that Black businesses are at a disadvantage when it comes to venture capitalists, investors, being able to get loans from banks and anything along those lines. More people want to change that from a financial perspective.”
She continued, “And shoppers now recognize that local business owners are hurting more than anything, during this pandemic. And minority-owned businesses are struggling more than everyone else. This has hit the reset button with a lot of people to be more careful about how they spend their money locally with minority businesses.”
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