By Robert Stitt
According to the New York Times, “Blacks spend less money in Black-owned businesses than other racial and ethnic groups spend in businesses owned by members of their groups, including Hispanics and Asians.” In other words, African Americans are good at talking about “buying black”, but not so good at following through.
Aaron Barnes feels the reason blacks don’t buy from black businesses is primarily an issue of trust and knowing what is out there and what the options are. “Trust and awareness are probably the biggest culprits…They’re cyclical to an extent. We have a dishearteningly low amount of trust in people who look like us. Therefore, we turn a blind eye to businesses owned by Black folks. After a while, you completely lose touch with the black economy and can’t even identify a black-owned business in your neighborhood—let alone your city or region.”
Barnes, a graduate of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing, is now a PhD student at the University of Illinois and the Founder/CEO of Dapper Black Box, a business aimed at exposing the nation to the wonders of black businesses. “Supporting Black companies helps free us from mental slavery, develops long-term wealth, and increases our political leverage,” Barnes adds.
How does Dapper Black Box make “buying black” easier? Dapper Black Box is a subscription service. For $28 a month, subscribers receive three to four hand-picked men’s accessories and toiletries from black-owned brands.
The idea came to him when he was at a business summit and realized that there was only one black brand represented. He also realized that there were not any subscription services that made the brands available. He funded the company with his own money and has used social media for marketing.
In order to offer the best deals at the best prices, Barnes develops relationships with black-owned businesses and negotiates the terms for products. The supplier may not make a lot of money off of the items, but their brands are being sent all over the United States and the exposure is priceless. It’s a true win-win-win for all involved.
Currently, Barnes has a supplier list of around 100. He hopes that number will top 200 by 2016. He hopes that his business will not only inspire black business owners, but promote the quality of the goods and services black businesses have to offer. “I enjoy putting people onto quality Black businesses. Something that really bothers me is the low threshold for disappointment with business owners of color. I enjoy exposing people to black businesses that take pride in their craft and deliver high value.”