By Kiarra Solomon
The African American Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the Urban League of Philadelphia to create the Minority Business Empowerment Directory, a searchable and comprehensive web-based directory for local minority business. The Empowerment Directory was officially launched on July 16th, just a few days before the National Urban League conference comes to Philadelphia.
And in just under a week of being active, there are already over one hundred business listed on the directory.
The Empowerment Directory is currently open to all small businesses in Philadelphia, including the one man shops and mom and pop stores, and comes with a free 90 day trial. You don’t have to be a member of either the Urban League or the African American Chamber of Commerce to be listed, but members of those organizations will receive special perks once the free trial ends. While there will be nominal fees for companies to continue to be listed on the directory after the free trial, businesses who are members of the African American Chamber of Commerce and/or the Urban League, will most likely receive discounted rates.
The goal of the Empowerment Directory is to create visibility for minority business in Philadelphia. Both the African American Chamber of Commerce and the Urban League of Philadelphia are hoping that the Minority Business Empowerment Directory will become the go to place for those visiting the city looking to patronize minority businesses, as well as city residents looking for a searching for a particular type of business.
The Empowerment Directory creates an opportunity for more exposure for businesses. For businesses who don’t have a website being listed on the directory creates a web presence for them. It also allows users to search for businesses by category. The directory will also inform users which businesses are members of either the African American Chamber of Commerce and/or the Urban League.
“The African-American Chamber of Commerce understands that visibility for African-American business owners is key,” said Steven Scott Bradley, Chairman of the AACC. “Launching this directory, during the 2013 National Urban League Conference, will not only provide businesses with local visibility, but also national visibility.”
The African American Chamber of Commerce, now celebrating its 20th year of service, is one of the leading advocates for African American business owners in Philadelphia. Surprisingly, the UL and the AACC have partnered on very few projects prior to the Empowerment Directory, and none on quite as large a scale. However, both organizations are hoping that this directory will transform the visibility of African American and other minority businesses in the city.
The Empowerment Directory was developed by 215 Media Solutions, recipients of the 2012 African American Chamber of Commerce’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
“One of the issues for minority businesses is getting business”, said Bradley. “So, when we began to talk about developing the directory with the Urban League we decided to use one of our members. 215 Media had a track record, and we had a relationship with them.”
“At the Chamber, understand our businesses, we understand our community, and we understand the start-ups”, said Shalimar Blakely, Executive Director of the AACC. “One thing we work to get away from is the idea that when a small business makes a mistake that we’re never going to use them again. The Chamber is here to do help our business through their mistakes so that they can develop stronger and better.”
Both Bradley and Blakely boast of each other, declaring that the strong leadership of the other, with a stronger than ever Board of Directors, has greatly impacted the advancements that the Chamber has been making. And it’s clear the AACC continues to be one of the strongest advocates for African Americans and minority businesses in the area through its various programs and initiatives that support, advocate, and provide opportunities for its members.
Later this month the AACC will launch its Entrepreneur Academy in partnership with the Reintegration Services for Ex-Offenders (R.I.S.E.) program for ex-offenders seeking to start their own business.
Additionally, the AACC has a Young Professional Network, which provides mentoring, networking and support for young professionals under 30. This support includes networking events with corporate level executives that provide support and advice for young people seeking to advance their careers and/or build their businesses.
There is also the STEM program for high school students, in partnership with area charter schools, that exposes high school students to various opportunities in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
And the PECO Power Lunches with Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown.
And the resurrection of the African American Chamber of Commerce’s Foundation, which has already received sizable contributions to help fund various projects and programs for entrepreneurs and minority business owners in the city.
“Being a member of the Chamber provided exposure for us”, said Dewain Johnson, President of 215 Media Solutions. “The Chamber provided support, exposure, and gave us a platform to grow our network and our business”.
Membership for the AACC starts at just $100.
“As members of the Chamber we are able to not just make the connections but build the relationships. And those relationships provide us with examples of how to grow from a young professional into a seasoned and successful professionals”, said VP of 215 Media Solutions, Isaiah Nathaniel.
The NUL conference kicks off in Philadelphia on July 24th. For a complete schedule of all the conference activities visit www.nul.org
For more information about the African American Chamber of Commerce visit www.aachamber.org