Black Business Spotlight:

Courtesy of Tephanie Delaney Tephanie Delaney

The murder of George Floyd and ensuing protests moved Minnesota entrepreneur Tephanie Delaney to start a whole new business venture in response—but not for the reason one might think.

Delaney launched the online marketplace after receiving frantic calls in the middle of the night in the wake of the Floyd’s murder. “It was the hands-down, the rioting, looting and burning of the businesses that moved me to do this,” Delaney told the MSR. “I was getting calls in the middle of the night from people crying because their business just went up in smoke.”

Delaney also worked in business development as an advisor, and these were her desperate clients calling to seek answers. Most of them could not count on insurance covering their losses because the insurance was for property owners. But these business owners rented space in order to sell their wares. Further, starting over was not a realistic option for many of these entrepreneurs.

“Many of them,” Delaney explained, “had run their business for years to where they really didn’t know anything else. So going back in the workforce seemed almost impossible, especially during COVID.” These are the people who inspired

Delaney was born and raised in Jennings, Missouri, adjacent to Ferguson, but came to Minneapolis as a wide-eyed 19-year-old looking for a more tolerant and diverse community. “I wanted more opportunity, more freedom,” said Delaney, “things we didn’t get in more segregated places like Ferguson. I felt like I could do what I wanted because I wouldn’t be judged by the color of my skin.” Minneapolis seemed to fit the bill.

She realized later she was seeing Minneapolis through rose-colored glasses to an extent, especially after having her daughter. “When you look at the percentages in terms of home ownership and education, when you learn the racial gaps that aren’t so apparent when you first get here. There is also the glass ceiling in these jobs which is very real. I left my job in corporate America because of that glass ceiling.”

Still, Delaney said she loves doing business in Minneapolis because, “Your customers can come from anywhere and the dollar isn’t as tight here as in other places and people really want to support small businesses.”

Delaney reveals she’s been an entrepreneur her entire life even when she also held regular corporate jobs. “My parents were entrepreneurs so I had that spirit about me.” She has owned a shoe store, been a silent partner in a number of ventures, worked in real estate, been an event planner and is co-founder of the Twin Cities Natural Hair and Beauty Expo, which would have celebrated its fourth year this year but for the COVID-19 shutdown.

Registration is free and any business at least 51%  Black-owned can join BlackBuyBlack. Other fees associated with sales are “pay as you go.” Delaney explained, “When you sell a product, our platform retains .99 per product. There’s also a  PayPal transaction fee, because they’re our payment processor.”

Roughly 25 businesses have already signed up and Delaney offers training for those who may not understand the mechanics of e-commerce; from uploading images to SEO optimization. BlackBuyBlack is currently on Facebook and Twitter and Delaney is working with another staff member. She’s seeking help in marketing the site. “If someone else is in the forefront pushing the marketing forward, I would love that right now.”

Even with some of the challenges of starting it up, Delaney confesses she has had an almost immediate payoff. “The feeling is amazing. I can’t even explain the feeling I get when a vendor sends me an email that they’ve made sales or they can’t believe someone in New York bought their product when they are based in Missouri for instance. It’s amazing!”

Delaney in the long run explained she’d like to get a warehouse in Minneapolis from which products can be shipped, making the process more expedient and allowing consumers to receive purchases faster.

She said that she would be open, if it benefited the vendors, to selling the site to a larger entity such as Amazon in the future. “If it allowed 100 different business owners to become millionaires, I wouldn’t want to deny anyone that opportunity. It’s about what is in their best interest.”

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