As they ran their own business last year, Ernisha and Tracey Hall found themselves meeting so many minority-owned business owners that they decided on a new project — building a directory of Black-owned businesses.
The constant requests they got from other business people for recommendations added fuel to their fire.
“As a business owner, I learned very quickly that sometimes we don’t get a fair chance. … I felt it was very important to find a way to put us on an equal platform,” Ernisha Hall said. “And sometimes it’s just that we can’t be found. I had no idea there were so many amazing Black-owned businesses in so many different areas and categories.”
In January 2020, the Halls, who also own and operate Niray LLC, a website, graphic design and branding business in Fredericksburg, kicked off the Virginia Black Business Directory, an online platform that lists minority-owned businesses in the Washington, Maryland and Virginia area.
The Halls have been married for four years and opened Niray in 2018. “As we continue to grow, we want the VABBD to become the Virginia State directory or the Yellow Pages for Black-Owned Businesses,” Ernisha Hall said.
Ernisha, the executive director for Niray, designed the website in one day, and Tracey, vice president of the business, made a few tweaks before it launched.
“Our mission is to bridge the gap in wealth by connecting minority-owned businesses to consumers, creating networking initiatives, providing educational opportunities and promoting community collaboration,” Ernisha Hall said. “Listing your business information in this directory will not only increase your viability, it will serve as a way to further unify the community.”
The fees for inclusion in the directory include $10 a year for one business; $20 a year for two businesses or one business in two categories; and $25 a year for three businesses or three categories.
The mobile app – available for free on Google Play and the App Store – features 51 categories, and the website, https://www.vablackbusinessdirectory.com, features 42 categories with more than 600 listings.
“Some categories on the mobile app have been split to make it easier for people to search and find,” Ernisha Hall said.
Categories include: authors and bookstores; beauty and spa services; community organizations; food trucks; and transportation and chauffeur services.
Additional perks include promotion of the business on social media; client ratings; and space for posting things like job and internship opportunities.
Candice Cherry, owner of 24K Imaging, based in Chesapeake, was busy building the portfolio for her fledgling business by shooting photos of family and friends when she decided to register for the directory in March.
Cherry specializes in birthing photography, a documentary style that captures the delivery process, and COVID-19 brought that to a temporary screeching halt.
“I’m always into supporting Black businesses, and my mother instilled in me support, support, support — especially if they’re good quality,” Cherry said. “And I wanted to make sure I was included in a space that was minority friendly. It’s a great resource.”
The site, although primarily for Virginia-based businesses, includes a few listings from other states, too.
“This is about promoting black excellence and black minority businesses, but we’re not going to exclude anyone,” Ernisha said. “At the end of the day our goal and our mission is to see everyone be successful.”
Sandra J. Pennecke, 757-222-5356, [email protected]
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