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HOW BRIAN WILLIAMS IS TURNING PASSION AND PURPOSE INTO PROFITS

Business is a two-way street. In order for businesses to be successful, they must have customers. Without a consistent stream of paying customers, you won’t last long. On the flip side of the coin, customers need businesses to patronize. However, for those customers seeking to support Black owned businesses, finding one can become a task in and of itself.

Brian Williams seems to have found a solution to both sides of the problematic coin. He is the Founder and CEO of PurchaseBlack.com (PurchaseBlack). PurchaseBlack is an online selling platform geared towards African American vendors and those who want to patronize them. He enlisted his education and experience to strategically fill a need by creating the site. Moreover, for Williams, the idea of starting a profitable business was based on both passion and purpose.

Identify a Need

The idea for creating PurchaseBlack came to Williams in the midst of his MBA studies at the University of Texas. Williams had been given special permission to forgo six of the program’s normal credit hours in order to research Black business success.

Of his experience he shares, “I noticed a gap between Black businesses, customers and our buying power.” Indeed there is a gap. Black owned businesses generate more than $137 billion dollars in revenues each year. However, Black consumers spend more than $1 trillion dollars each year  (2007 Economic Census). Granted in today’s global economy, it is not necessarily expected that Black consumers would spend all of their hard earned dollars with just Black owned businesses, but even taking that into consideration, one might still find those numbers to be terribly disproportionate. It’s no wonder the dollar barely cycles one time within the Black community.

The numbers definitely bothered Williams. He wondered why Black consumers weren’t spending more with Black businesses. Surely, there was an easy and convenient way for consumers to find Black owned businesses. To his research and immediate dismay, there was not. Thus, he decided he would create one and PurchaseBlack was born.

Find Your Purpose

For Williams, PurchaseBlack pushes past his own desires. “I grew up in very tough circumstances–not much money, holes in my shoes–but I was fortunate to receive a great education,” shares Williams. In order to pursue his entrepreneurial dreams and to take PurchaseBlack to the next level, he left a very well-paying corporate job. However, many that know him have questioned why he even bothered with creating a platform such as PurchaseBlack, while forgoing the much more comfortable lifestyle that his corporate career provided him. His answer? Put simply, “Because I need to be doing this.”

“The best and most sustaining way to make a change in the community is to make a strong economic change in the community,” declares Williams. It is his hope to do what so many pontificate: “empower the Black community to buy within itself.” Creating PurchaseBlack was more than a shrewd business decision for Williams. It was his purpose in life. As he shares, “My hope is that through the success of my business, we can improve neighborhoods and communities across the country.”

Know What You’re Good At  (And What You’re Not)

Knowing what you’re good at will serve you well when it comes to starting and running your business. If you’re not sure, enlist the help of those around you to discover your strengths. Between his education and experience, it is safe to assume that Williams has the acumen that it takes to build a successful business. Being in tune with himself, he also cites his ability to build relationships with people as being one of his stronger suits that has definitely attributed to the quick success of PurchaseBlack.

On the other hand, to be successful with any venture, it is also a good idea to recognize the things that you’re not so good at and resist the urge to want to do everything. “I’m a jack of all trades, but not necessarily an expert at many things,” admits Williams. Business owners are notorious for trying to do it all.  To their credit, that type of tenacity and “by any means necessary” attitude is what it takes– especially in the beginning–if the business is to make it off the ground, let alone succeed. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, that becomes the entrepreneur’s mantra. They forget that doing it all was a necessity in the beginning, but not the smartest strategy once the business is established. Knowing what he knows now, Williams says that he definitely would have hired more specialists, much earlier on. “I may know something up to a seven, but you know it up to a level 10; pull experts in earlier,” he suggests.

Understand Your Customer

Do you know who your customers are? Williams does. When he began planning the strategy for PurchaseBlack, he realized that he had two customers:  people who will ultimately sell on the website (business customers) and those who will buy products from the site (end users). The trick was attracting both. “Business customers won’t come if there are no [purchasing] customers and purching customers won’t come if there are no products,” he shares. So William’s strategy was to address their needs directly and overtly– keeping in mind the initial goal of providing a market place where customers could support Black owned businesses.

He enlisted the use of an official badge on the site, which certified Black owned businesses. Every PurchaseBlack vendor must go through a rigorous application process, legally certifying whether or not they are Black owned (legally, he cannot prevent  vendors from selling on the site, because of their race). This allows business customers to showcase their heritage, while reassuring purchasers that they are truly supporting Black owned businesses.

Understand Business

Many aspiring business owners start with a great idea, but no real understanding of what it takes to turn that great idea into a successful business. As Williams suggests, “Being good at a core value [or skill] does not mean the business will just grow; [you must] be prepared for growth in the back end.” Budget constraints prevent many business owners from initially hiring an entire team of experts. However, that is no excuse to not learn business; seek as much help and advice as possible.

Of course these are just a few points to address if you want a successful business. As Williams has exemplified, having the answers to these points and applying them to your endeavors can make for early success. Though it has only been two years since he founded the company, he also seems to be on track for long-lasting success.

To learn more about Brian Williams and PurchaseBlack.com visit the website.

To learn how PurchaseBlack.com works, check out their video:

 

 

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Louiseza Sanderson

Louiseza Sanderson

Louiseza Sanderson is a business consultant, writer and the founder of www.MindYourBlackBusiness.com. She is also a veteran of the United States Air Force. It was during her time in the military that she learned the value of hard work, community and serving the needs of others. Following her military service she earned a bachelor's degree in business and an MBA in business communications.

She began consulting with the explicit goal of providing affordable business consultation and guidance to those who might not otherwise have access. "I started consulting by 'inherent accident'. I've spent my whole life gathering information, in hopes that it would benefit someone," says Sanderson. When it comes to working with her clients, she believes that the key is to find the human factor. By doing so, she helps her clients to find the best solution for their business, by first figuring out what is best for the person. Her hope is to help such entrepreneurs, small businesses and non-profits who share her vision of giving back-- be it through job creation, innovation or a cause.

As a consultant and business owner herself, Sanderson came to realize that while there are many resources for small business owners, there were very few that provided a platform for micro and small Black owned businesses, as well as the information germane to them. These are the mom and pops, solo-preneurs and other businesses and organizations that are really the heart and soul of the local (Black) community. She shares, "The vision of Mind Your Black Business is the culmination of what I am most passionate about and what I do best--helping others to achieve their dreams and helping small businesses grow."

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