AFRICANGLOBE – A new effort was launched recently to engage more Black businesses in Jacksonville to network with each other and grow their businesses.
“I Like Black Business” is a new African American business directory on the Internet, complete with smart-phone applications. The business-development and advocacy effort is led by FirstThursday Jacksonville, founded by Larry Williams.
Williams founded the for-profit organization in Seattle in 2004. He moved to Jacksonville in October with the intent of patterning a First Coast Black business directory after what he already established in Seattle.
“We want to be the straw that stirs the drink, if you will,” Williams said.
The website, firstthursdsayjacksonville.org, offers guidance on how to create, embolden and network among African American communities with the purpose of providing more web presence for those small businesses. Williams said his research estimates about 10,000 African American-owned businesses in Duval County, but 67 percent of those have no web presence at all.
Williams said FirstThursday requires a $50 membership fee that will pay for the business listing, marketing advice and training. There will be additional services such as virtual coupons, he said.
FirstThursday is an effort to fight apathy and cynicism in the African American community multiple unfulfilled promises of assistance, Williams said.
The Jacksonville Urban League, where the launch was announced Thursday, is a partner in the program. Urban League President Richard Danford said FirstThursday can provide an uplifting alternative to African American business owners.
“I think it’s very encouraging simply because there have been so many disappointments over the years,” Danford said.
Jacksonville District 14 City Councilman Jim Love already is a member of FirstThursday in Jacksonville and said the organization can help turn around a segment of the community.
“His [Williams] energy is what captured my attention. He’s talking about entrepreneurs not depending on the government for everything and starting your own business. I just love that,” Love said. “I think it’s a way to bring up a segment of Jacksonville that has not necessarily been ignored, but needs help.”
By: Drew Dixon