All photos via: Mandy Bowman
What inspired Mandy Bowman to quit her job at Essence Magazine to pursue entrepreneurship full-time? A book about the infamous 1921 Tulsa Race Riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a white mob attacked and destroyed one of the nation's wealthiest Black communities in America, affectionately known as Black Wall Street.
After reading James S. Hirsch's "Riot and Remembrance: The Tulsa Race War and Its Legacy," the 27-year-old, who grew up in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, New York, post rapid gentrification, made it her mission to support Black-owned businesses in her neighborhood. Little did she know, she was laying the foundation for what she now calls her purpose: her website and app, "The Official Black Wall Street."
"I began doing research but found it really difficult to find Black businesses. A lot of the directories were extremely outdated and hard to navigate so I decided to start my own list," Bowman said. "In doing so I found so many amazing Black-owned businesses and was so proud of these entrepreneurs that I wanted to share it with the world. That was when I decided to build my own directory."
In 2016, Bowman launched a Kickstarter campaign with a goal to raise $30,000 to build an app that would help users find Black-owned businesses. She went on to exceed her goal, raising $33,500 in a little over a month's time.
With her family being her biggest motivation, Bowman explained: "Generational wealth is really big. Something we haven't mastered yet as a community...always important to start something for my family to carry on. People in my family wanted to be entrepreneurs, but couldn't do so because of resources."
Bowman also credited Maggie Anderson, author of "Our Black Year," who lived off of only Black businesses for an entire year, for paving the way for her.
The young visionary went from brainstorming ideas for a website in 2013, to quitting her job, clearing out her savings to invest in her dream, to launching an app that "alert users when they're near a Black-owned business." Today, "Official Black Wall Street" is the largest premium platform for Black-owned businesses.
"Do things that make you really uncomfortable, and things that scare you because once you step outside of your comfort zone that's when you're able to grow and gain so many opportunities that you didn’t even think were possible," Bowman said.
If we learned anything from Mandy Bowman, it's that the risk is well-worth taking. Click here to visit the website of Official Black Wall Street. The app version of the website is available on iTunes and Google Play.