Business directory

Ryerson student creates directory of black-owned businesses, app to launch next month

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By Aaliyah Dasoo

In 2018, Halima Jibril was wandering around Toronto looking for black-owned businesses that she could add to the directory she was preparing, something similar to a yellow pages book. Local businesses and services in his community were often discovered through word of mouth, mostly without an online presence, so Jibril decided to create a more accessible way to share them.

Venturing into areas such as the western end of Lawrence Avenue, Jibril gathered the contact details and addresses of black-owned businesses she had seen to create what she described as a manuscript. She completed this project in 2019 and titled it The little blue book.

After that, Jibril would create a social media posting for each business, with things like their name, location, website, app, or any relevant information they could find.

“These are amazing businesses that everyone in my community uses a lot,” she said. “I thought maybe other cultures might like these companies. I know they would.

What began as a repertoire reconstructed by Jibril herself has now become Blvck Bundoo, an online business directory specifically for black-owned businesses in the Greater Toronto Area, with plans to launch an app as early as the first week of February.

Jibril is the founder and creator of Blvck Bundoo, and is in her final year of biomedical studies at Ryerson. She said she created Blvck Bundoo because she wanted black-owned businesses in her community to receive the exposure they felt they deserved, while also providing consumers with greater access to businesses, products and services owned by companies. Black. “They have so much potential. “

It was last year that Jibril decided to change brands. “[The Little Blue Book] was a little too wordy, ”she said. “Blvck Bundoo, when it came to me, I was like, ‘Oh perfect.’ “I just knew that was it. The word Bundoo (pronounced boon-doh), comes from the Somali word for bridge,” said Jibril, who comes from a Somali background.

“I chose this word because a bridge represents a means of crossing a ditch. In this case, bridge the gap between people, cultures and differences.

Blvck Bundoo is largely run by Jibril herself, from adding new listings on the website’s directory to coordinating social media across three different channels, though she said she often checks her peers for advice or to discuss business strategies.

” Since a long time, [my goal] was to create an app, but I wasn’t there, ”Jibril said. It was important for her to lay the foundation for the business first, she said, by setting up the website and social media accounts. “Now I am able to do it. “

Currently Jibril is working on the app for Blvck Bundoo with a team of programmers and developers from USA. The beta of the app will be ready on January 19 and will be similar to the Yelp app, where users can leave reviews and ratings for businesses as well as link to Google Maps.

However, one of the things that Jibril says makes Blvck Bundoo different is the fact that it supports ecommerce-based business models because it didn’t want to “discriminate” against businesses on the basis of e-commerce. because they may not have a physical location. . According to Toronto Real Estate Board, the average office rental rate (per square foot) increased 46.6% from last year.

Businesses can also create their own ads on the website, which will simultaneously appear available on the app.

She acknowledges that there are already many directories of black-owned businesses. “To be honest, I wasn’t doing this to stand out or be different. I was doing it because it was necessary. Similar accounts like @ and @black_ownedcanada on Instagram have 65,400 and 74,800 followers respectively.

Jibril admits that it took a little while to gain more followers, having only about 100 followers between 2019 and 2020. Today, the Instagram account Blvck Bundoo has nearly 7,000 subscribers.

She said it wasn’t until last summer that Blvck Bundoo saw a surge in follower numbers.

“I think it has a lot to do with different factors,” she said, referring to how the murder of George Floyd led to increased support and interest in black-owned businesses, as well as the impact of the pandemic on small businesses. The eye has previously explained why conscious consumerism has become increasingly important to Ryerson students and Gen Z since the summer.

“These two factors played a major role in increasing my level of support among my subscribers. I really think we came together as Canadians. And it makes me proud to know that.”

Jibril says that with or without the pandemic, she would still have created the app, because it has always been something she had in mind. “But it’s great to know that support is here now.”

From now on, the app will only be available through iOS, but Jibril is hoping to get more funding and eventually access Google Play and other platforms. Blvck Bundoo operates on a not-for-profit model, so Jibril looked at grants as a funding option.

She said one of the most difficult parts of applying for funding is the demographic diversity of applicants and that she “would love to see” more specific grants for black businesses.

“Then hopefully projects like Blvck Bundoo could get started and help more people than they already have.”

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