By Camisha Jones
On Thursday, June 7th, Urban Views Weekly will expand its online business directory, ShopBlackBusiness.com, to include a new media format. “Urban Views Weekly presents ShopBlackBusiness.com” is a 30 minute talk show that will air on WUPV – CW at 5:30 a.m. on Thursdays each week.
The show will be hosted by Gwen Williams Dandridge who is a former co-anchor of Good Morning Richmond and has 22 years experience in broadcast news. Dandridge received a Broadcasters Emmy Award in 2005. “Gwen brings great presence to it,” says Ervin Clarke, publisher for Urban Views Weekly.
Clarke believes Shop Black Business is a natural way to build upon Urban Views Weekly’s mission of showcasing the positive aspects of the African American community. Shop Black Business for him has always been more than a website. It’s a movement designed to strengthen the economic well-being of the Black community by actively promoting businesses listed on the directory, making it easier for people to find businesses to patronize and engaging people in conversations related to the Black business community.
“A crucial and integral part of what we are…doing is having a dialogue with the consumer,” states Clarke. The television show will focus on subjects such as the benefits of “shopping Black” and the reasons people choose to or choose not to patronize Black businesses. A topic Clarke particularly wants to explore is the perceptions of the quality of service provided by Black businesses. He plans for the show to offer examples of businesses that offer outstanding service as a way to provide tips to businesses that want to improve in that area. He also hopes to open a conversation about the role of stereotyping in regard to Black businesses. “(We)…as a people have to realize that we don’t get 5 star service at every business that we go in– whether they’re Black owned or not Black owned,” states Clarke. “There’s no one that I know of that’s saying, ‘I’m never going to go into a White business again because service was bad.’… (What) I say…is that I didn’t get good service at that store. I never say…I didn’t get good service at White businesses so we need to…have that discussion….(about the) extra burdens that we as consumers put on Black businesses.”
The show will provide a platform to highlight businesses on ShopBlackBusiness.com. Information on businesses listed on the directory will scroll along the bottom of the screen during the show. Guests of the show will represent businesses on ShopBlackBusiness.com as well. In fact, the show itself has been produced by Zenn Filmz, one of the 69 businesses currently listed on the directory.
The first show on June 7th will feature Diana Ruffin, owner of the Velvet Ribbon consignment store in Petersburg. The store sells men’s and women’s clothing and accessories and specializes in brands like Talbot’s, Jones New York, Ellen Tracy, and Ralph Lauren. Ruffin has already found it helpful to be listed on ShopBlackBusiness.com. After listing her store on the site, Ruffin received a message from a friend who wasn’t aware that she had a store until reading about it on the online directory. The friend told her she’d be coming to the store soon.
Another guest on the first show is Jack W. Gravely who has a popular radio talk show on WLEE 990AM that airs daily from 9 a.m. until noon and covers topics such as politics, the economy, and racism. With over 15 years experience as a broadcaster, Gravely has been guest on popular television shows like the Today Show, Nightline and Tony Brown’s Journal. He has also held many leadership positions with the NAACP including state director, board chair and special assistant to Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks.
“Jack talked about (how)…we should be doing business with each other and how (it) can…benefit the community,” states Clarke. He elaborates by offering some of his own thoughts on the subject: “If we look at the amount of money that’s in the marketplace being spent by African Americans: $15.5 billion. If we can just shift about 5% of that to doing work with Black businesses, that’s like $777 million that we can have going over into our community….(We’re) already spending the money. It’s not a matter of going to find new money.”
Clarke believes one of the biggest obstacles to such a shift in resources is the difficulty of locating Black businesses to patronize. “I know that I would do business with Black businesses in many cases with purchases that I make but sometimes you just don’t know who they are,” he shares. Having experienced this challenge first hand, he describes one search saying, “It’s a struggle finding a Black mortgage broker. I have done so but it took too darn much time to do it.” Imagining the impact of making the process easier, he mentions discovering recently that there is a Black-owned cupcake bakery in Carytown named Baby Cakes, commenting: “Who knew they were there? We could very well be making certain just through our regular purchases that that business (is) succeeding.”
Clarke hopes Shop Black Business – the directory, the show as well as the capability of posting clips of the show online – will help make Black businesses more visible to consumers. As he considers the extra exposure the show’s launch will offer to businesses, he says simply, “I’m excited about it.”
Tune in to WUPV-CW this Thursday at 5:30 a.m. or set your recorder to watch “Urban Views Weekly presents ShopBlackBusiness.com.”