A successful business career hinges on three things being right: timing, relationships and opportunity.
For Reggie Gray, those three elements are coming together with Black Privilege.
Gray is the executive director of the nonprofit, which launched its app in the Kansas City market three months ago. Gray said via email the Black Privilege app is “basically a mixture of Yelp, Facebook and LinkedIn but for black-owned businesses and the community.”
“The reality is out of the $1.2 trillion in black spending power, only 2 percent of this gets reinvested back into our business and communities,” he said. “While other ethnicities continue to build generational wealth, African Americans are at the ‘bottom of the pack’ when it comes to saving, investing and leaving inheritances to the future generations.”
The app has been operational for about three months, with 6,000 downloads and 3,000 active users. Owners can set up their own profiles and communicate with customers and other businesses. The app also has a resources section on 12 categories like education, mental health and homelessness.
Gray is hopeful the data taken about the businesses performing well and those who need help will help the nonprofit be more strategic in its spending power and in its ability to identify gaps within the market. As of now, approximately 600 black-owned business and nearly 100 resource partners have signed up on the app.
Black Privilege is the brainchild of Morris Young, a Los Angeles-based real estate investor, who was looking for a way to empower, educate and connect African-American businesses and the community. Gray has maintained a 20-year friendship with Young that started when Gray moved to Kansas City to manage Young’s real estate properties in 2004.
Before Black Privilege, Gray partnered with Roy Scott to build H3 (Health Hip Hop) Productions, an ed-tech company. That led to the potential of great things, including a “Shark Tank” appearance that was canceled due to the Walt Disney Company’s uneasiness with their product.
Gray said H3 was an “amazing journey” but also a reminder of Murphy’s Law: What can go wrong, will go wrong.
“What I learned through Healthy Hip Hop is the importance of being able to create consistent content; that technology is a necessity, although it doesn’t guarantee success; and that timing is everything,” he said.
When Young decided to make Kansas City the first place to try the Black Privilege app in February, Gray resigned from H3 Productions to become the executive director.
Building a movement
While the technology is front and center, Gray said the goal of Black Privilege is to build a movement.
“What we’re trying to do is change the way African Americans collectively spend their money while increasing financial literacy for all ages, especially our youth,” Gray said.
He said Black Privilege aims to “prove the concept” here in Kansas City, with the hopes of going national next year.
Gray emphasizes that Black Privilege isn’t an “only buy black” idea. The nonprofit is particularly excited that about 10 percent of the users aren’t African-American.
“Our goal has always been to be welcoming to all people, and Kansas City is proving to have pockets of non-black people who ‘get it’ and believe in the movement,” Gray said.