A New Direction: Black Industrial Firm Invests 100K in African-American Start-Up Because ‘Black Businesses Should Pull Others Forward’

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Courtesy Jeffrey Allen
Courtesy Jeffrey Allen

When the seed for the Black economic commerce website Ebonomy was planted nearly two years ago, brothers Jeffrey and Clayton Allen knew there was a need to index Black-owned businesses.

“The Black community needs a strong economic base,” Clayton Allen, Ebonomy’s Chief Technology Officer told Atlanta Black Star. “In order to engage in cooperative economics and education, we must be able to find Black businesses and sources of information. Ebonomy is a way to organize the resources, including businesses and other types of websites from the Black community while also making these resources searchable.”

After officially being incorporated in April, Ebonomy – which is a combination of “ebony” and “economy” – launched July 4. The site works by businesses signing up to have their companies indexed for easy access by those seeking to support Black-owned groups. The website is not just limited to tech companies such as itself. Ebonomy also includes a variety of organizations, like hair care companies and news sites.

The brothers previously held positions in business, but the new venture is the first of its kind for Jeffrey Allen. He worked in the construction industry for 11 years, while his brother Clayton served as a partner in a Charlotte, North Carolina software development company.

Clayton Allen (Courtesy Jeffrey Allen)
Clayton Allen, CTO at Ebonomy, Inc. (Courtesy Jeffrey Allen)

When it came to looking for an investor for Charlotte-based Ebonomy, the Allen brothers knew they wanted to contact JHP Industrial Supply Co., Inc. which was begun 35 years ago.

“As young kids, we would hear the stories of how JHP gave chances to small business and members of the community who normally wouldn’t pass for normal loans at your standard banks,” Chief Executive Officer Jefferey Allen shared. “Once we connected and shared the vision with Emanuel [B. Henderson III], he was immediately interested.”

The connection ultimately resulted in a $100,000 investment by the Syracuse, New York-based firm.

Henderson, president of Black-owned plumbing and industrial supply wholesale distributor JHP, told ABS there were two reasons he felt it was important to get involved with the start-up company. One was the importance of Black economics. He also felt African-Americans should step up and support Black-owned businesses with joint ventures.

“Businesses Black or otherwise should want to reach back and pull other businesses forward because … someone did the same for JHP — pay it forward,” he said.

Henderson adds there are plans to collaborate with the Allen brothers down the line.

Clayton Allen revealed their consumer base is composed of anyone who wants to “get perspectives on issues that may vary from what is delivered through ‘mainstream’ media and education.”

“We welcome the support of people from all walks of life who wish to support Ebonomy’s vision,” Jeffrey Allen added. “As well as those who look to simply find and support Black-owned companies.” But he notes their target demographic is a consumer group “of African descent.”

The co-founders hope to see tremendous growth in six months’ time. With more than 2 million Black-owned businesses in the United States, the brothers hope to index existing companies as well as encourage new ones to form.

Jeffrey Allen (Courtesy Jeffrey Allen)
Jeffrey Allen, CEO at Ebonomy, Inc. (Courtesy Jeffrey Allen)

“We hope to be a household name for users,” Jeffrey Allen said.

In the meantime, the Allen brothers have said the response to their company has been “amazing,” though some have been critical of the small variety of search results.

“As we continue to collect and index more URLs, the results will continue to improve,” Clayton Allen said of the feedback. “There is great opportunity if you see a limited amount of results for a particular search because it shows an opportunity for an existing business of that type to get their business indexed.”

If no websites show up for a given search, the CTO encourages Black users to create the business and then index it on Ebonomy.

In discussing the long-term implications for a company like the Afrocentric site and what it means for Black economic power, Clayton Allen believes it will “revolutionize” business dealings.

“Ebonomy has the potential to empower existing businesses and create opportunities for new entrepreneurs,” he said. “Providing more exposure to Black-owned businesses will increase revenue for them. More revenue for our businesses creates more jobs and a more sustainable future, not only for the Black community but for the world.”

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