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New app helps locate black-owned businesses

By Bekitembe Eric Taylor   | 5/9/2013, noon

Hundreds of black-owned businesses have a new way for consumers to find and shop with them. There is an app for that.

The Around the Way app, the brainchild of a marketing and technology firm in Washington, D.C., allows the customer access to companies that are at least 51% African-American owned and employed.  The U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce last fall endorsed the app as the wave of the future for buying black, but the local chambers attended an online seminar last month in order to educate their membership on its use and marketing.

Eric Hamilton, Chief Marketing Officer for Around the Way, said that the structure of the service follows the Google model.  “When Google first started, they allowed companies to list their service for free, but charged a premium for those who wanted to be located by ratings rather than location,” he said.  “All of our registered companies sign up for free, but there is a premium service for $89 per year that allows a company to be the first choice in that category no matter how far away they are from the consumer.”

Since the fall, the Around the Way has registered over 800 companies in Georgia with 200 of that in metro Atlanta.  Free to download, the app features a search tool with categories from banks to restaurants to auto shops and more.  Users are able to geo-locate and get directions to the closest business via category, but it also allows for some healthy competition.

 “Say you’re in Atlanta and you want to find a laundry or dry cleaners,” said Hamilton.  “The app will give you the choice to go to the business that is within 5 miles or the higher rated business that may be in Marietta,” he said.

Allison Cross, co-owner of Boxcar Grocer on Peters Street said that her store registered with the Around the Way app about two months ago.  “Latinos and blacks are the most major consumers of shopping though mobile apps,” she said. “I’m excited about the potential to collaborate with other businesses also using the app.”

Boxcar Grocer offers organic and natural foods and baked goods, so they plan to use some of the bakeries, health and beauty manufacturers, and related suppliers listed on Around the Way as suppliers for their store.

Michael T. Hill, founder of the Atlanta Metro Black Chamber of Commerce, said that the Around the Way is an excellent tool to assist the black consumer in leveraging the $73 billion in buying power that they currently spend in other communities. 

“I think it’s a great start in terms of connecting with the African American consumer through technology,” he said.  “It’s very similar to the Be Locally tool that one of our members developed on our website www.ambccc.us, where it allows consumers to rate a positive experience that they’ve had with a local company.”

At present, there are over 52,000 African-American owned companies in metro Atlanta.  It is hoped that that collaboration with the marketing team of Around the Way and the black chambers will increase the awareness of those companies in an effort to bring the black dollar back into the community.

“We’ve looked for solutions in our schools, our churches, and at the government level for saving our community,” said Hill.  “Now, it’s time for our business community to step up.”

Hill said that the Atlanta Metro Black Chamber of Commerce plans to officially launch the Around the Way app marketing plan to its 350 members in June during its music, technology, and entertainment roundtable series.