Brian Williams's Solution for Ending Black Unemployment

The 29-year-old entrepreneur launched PurchaseBlack to rack up support for Black-owned businesses.

Posted: 02/25/2014 05:00 PM EST

Brian Williams has a formula for ending Black unemployment. In 2007, there were nearly two million Black-owned businesses, and likely, if following the trend, the numbers will only go up. The unemployment rate for January 2014 left about 2.3 million African-Americans still looking for work.

So let’s say that African-Americans pledged to increase their support of Black-owned businesses starting today. In turn, business starts booming so much so that each Black-owned business tapped into the unemployment pool and hired one Black worker per business.

Unemployment goes down steadily in the Black community, without “protests, Congress or marches,” Williams told BET.com. It won't happen overnight, but Williams is dedicated to do everything in his power to help.

"Spending our money with each other and providing the mechanism to do that is one of the goals of my business," said Williams, 29, who works as a government agency consultant in Washington, D.C. "It’s what makes me stay up late and wake up early."

Enter PurchaseBlack, what Williams likes to call an African-American Amazon, where he taps Black-owned businesses to be featured in a marketplace for products geared toward African-Americans. The companies include Solo Noir, which produces luxury skin-care products for people of color; Trendsetters of Delaware, which specializes in distinct jewelry; and Diva by Cindy, a natural hair-care line; among several others. Williams started the site late November 2013 after taking a year to build out the site by hand mostly by himself.

The idea for PurchaseBlack came while doing research on Black businesses while he was studying for his MBA at the University of Texas. Some of his biggest discoveries were that African-American companies tend to sell their products in a very regional way without much exposure to a national audience. And they also often don't have much distribution or a strong e-commerce presence.

The grunt work, he says, is mining small- to medium-sized Black business directories to get those products on his site. In the past few months, he has recruited a few dozen businesses. By the end of 2014, he hopes to have at least 1,000 businesses represented.

"If I can get a business to grow enough to hire that one person, that makes a difference in the lives of African-Americans in our country," Williams said. "So that’s my fire. That’s what keeps me going."

Follow Erin E. Evans on Twitter: @heyerinevans 

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(Photo: Hamid Saahir/PurchaseBlack)

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