Internet Services Startup Launched By Three HBCUpreneurs – Who Have Never Met

“Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” – Steve Jobs

It is a business story worthy of Hollywood. Mainly because it seems to be a storyline that you only find in movies. However, the story is very real and very powerful. Not only because of its potential, but also because of the possibilities that it presents. Three HBCUpreneurs from three different HBCUs start a business, but have never actually met each other in person. The power of the internet, the power of Twitter and most importantly, the power of the HBCU community.

The company, HBCU Real Estate, is an internet services company that seeks to help the HBCU community (but not limited too) find and use HBCU real estate service providers. Everything from real estate agents, mortgage brokers, interior designers, and more. The founders hope that it will even lead to business creation in the spaces of real estate that the HBCU community may have little to no presence. HBCU Money is aware of only one title company* owned by an HBCU alumnus. HBCU Real Estate’s mission is to help facilitate circulation of the HBCU community’s dollars and keep them in the HBCU community. If successful, it could potentially keep tens of billions of dollars within the HBCU community. The fact that none of the founders have ever met in person makes what they are trying to accomplish even more astounding.

For two years it sat on the proverbial shelf according to organizer, cofounder, and HBCU Real Estate’s Director of Product Development, William A. Foster, IV, a Livingstone College, Virginia State University, and Prairie View A&M University alumnus. “I am a multipreneur and have learned that more hands and brains on deck is almost always a good thing. I needed to meet and find the right people who could understand, compliment, add value, and who could see the potential just as much as I could. Also, I promised myself no more solo projects. When you are involved in as many businesses and organizations as I am, being able to spread the load is vital to success – and sanity.”

Enter Christen Turner, Spelman College and Southern University alumnus, and Marcus King, an alumnus of Prairie View A&M University, both HBCUpreneurs themselves. Ms. Turner, HBCU Real Estate’s Chief Technology Officer, also owns Janelle T. Designs, a graphic designs firm, as well as Forever Femme, an accessories company. Mr. King, HBCU Real Estate’s Chief Marketing Officer, owns Hardly Home, a clothing line that is catered towards travel that was featured on HBCU Money’s The HBCUpreneur Corner in 2015. What does it say to you (King) about the potential of collaboration for HBCUpreneurs that 5 different HBCUs are represented among the 3 cofounders? King answered, “The motto at my alma maters is that “PV produces productive people” and I think that can be said about HBCUs across the board. For years HBCUs have been producing top talent and should continue to do so as we seek to move forward and provide solutions to the problems our community faces.”

The three have followed each other on Twitter for years, although no one can remember for how long. It was towards the end of 2020 that Foster said he approached Turner and King about doing a collaboration or tweeted at them rather. “I sent out a tweet and tagged both of them saying that I need to cofound something with the two of them. Having watched them over the years I knew we would click and have the same kind of work ethic. I just needed to find out if they thought the idea had any legs. If it was not this, it was going to be something else.” The work ethic was confirmed when he said he got an email from Turner on Thanksgiving while he himself was working. Turner further drove the point home of the potential of the moment, “This business will be successful because of two reasons, respect and trust. Despite not having met in an ‘official’ capacity, our partnership seems to have a natural fit to it; almost like pieces of a puzzle. With William’s intuition, he was able to unknowingly add the right people to his team who would each be able to add something different. Whether from a professional standpoint or specific personality traits, we all came in with an immediate respect for each other’s talents and skills. This is why the business will be successful. There’s no questioning; there’s only action, openness, and honesty.” Usually in Hollywood the movie ends with and they lived happily ever after – The End, but in this case it is clear that this is just The Beginning.

For more information, visit http://www.hbcurealestate.com

$25 Billion In Rental Assistance Is Coming To All 50 States – How To Apply

CNBC today released an article highlighting ways for people to go about gaining rental assistance as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. Wealth Management reports that currently there is $70 billion outstanding in multifamily rents alone, not including single family rentals and others.

Some highlights from the CNBC article:

By one estimate, 14 million Americans are behind on their rent during the crisis.

To qualify for the assistance, at least one member of your household has to have lost income or incurred significant expenses due to the pandemic, or be eligible for unemployment benefits.

States will have the funds by Jan. 26.

“Renters should contact local housing groups, their representatives or the local 211/311 lines to identify programs and learn how to apply,” she added.

Renters can get help with up to 12 months of back rent and utility bills, and potentially another three months of support if there’s still money available. In some cases, you can get funds to cover future rent payments, but only if there’s a plan to address any debts first.

Last, if your landlord ignores any of these rules, as some are doing, get a lawyer. You can find low-cost or free legal help with an eviction in your state at Lawhelp.org.

It goes without saying that African Americans are disproportionately suffering during this pandemic economically. African Americans comprise 28 percent of the 14 million renters who are facing rental hardship despite only being 12 percent of the U.S. population. There should be close monitoring of rental assistance to the African American community after many African American business owners were largely left out of the PPP programs and funds. HBCUs both urban and rural should be using any and all means at their disposal to assist in helping stabilize African American families in their sphere and beyond if possible. A work study program specifically designed to help families apply for assistance could be created in the short-term with a call to alumni to raise the funds to both paying for students work study as well as provide some community assistance to African American families as well.

5 Things African Americans Have To STOP Saying About Black Businesses

“Negro banks, as a rule, have failed because the people, taught that their own pioneers in business cannot function in this sphere, withdrew their deposits.” – Carter G. Woodson

African American businesses face a lot of hurdles in their ability to get started, grow, and survive. They come from everything from a lack of access to capital, predatory behavior by other communities, and a plethora of other variables that make being an African American entrepreneur not something for weak of heart. However, one of the most formidable adversaries to African American entrepreneurs is the African American community’s perception and attitude towards the very businesses trying to spur economic development in and for the community. 

The HBCU Money staff put together a list of five things they would like to see the community’s behavior and attitude towards African American businesses improve.

5. Can I get the “hookup”?

The goal of a business is to pay for its expenses, pay its workers, and hopefully after all is said and done leave enough money for its owners to have a living. Yet, family, friends, and sometimes strangers seem to think for the African American small business owner or entrepreneur we are the exception to that rule. The “hookup” has been the downfall of many African American businesses. Instead, this is a great opportunity to say how can I hook this business up with more word of mouth advertising so that they can grow and bring jobs and wealth to our community? 

4. Black businesses have bad customer service.

Has an African American store ever followed you around the store? Accused you of stealing before you walk in? Redlined your whole community? The list could go on and on. Yet, you rarely hear us as loud and vocal about customer service from other communities as you do the trope about African American businesses’ customer service. Is there bad customer service? Yes. Is there good customer service? Yes. Like all other communities we run the gambit, but the bad ones whilst a minority tend to get the lion’s share of the perception. Do African American businesses take customer service seriously enough? That is a different question all together, but what is definitely not true is that African American customer service is far worse than the predatory behavior we experience in other community’s businesses. Perspective.

3. Black businesses charge too much.

African American businesses are often accused of charging too much for their product or service. There are a number of factors to this misconception. More times than not African American businesses are in line with the market pricing. However, when they do tend to be higher than the industry, it is because their business is heavily reliant upon an African American consumer or they lack the ability to scale. Being heavily reliant on an African American consumer base is fundamentally economically challenging. We are the group with the lowest median income and wealth, which means we have the least disposable income to be consumers in the mainstream sense. Whereas a consumer in another community maybe able to purchase a product every week, we maybe only able to purchase it every month. For an African American business this forces them to try to capture more sale at once because of how rare the sales will be. We also rarely have the resources to scale our businesses which allows for driving down costs, but again this in large part is because of factors like African American small businesses having less access to capital, businesses too highly focused on African American consumers who have little disposable income, and a concentration in businesses that are often very difficult by their very nature to scale (i.e. restaurants, barber/beauty shops, clothing lines). 

2. Products are inferior.

Outside of food, hair, and entertainment there seems to be a pervasive belief that African American businesses tend to offer subpar products and services. To Dr. Woodson’s aforementioned point, it is often in areas where our own community believes we are incapable of competing and doing well in the space that this is so acute. African American businesses tend to try to produce a product that is superior in many cases because they are fighting this perception. However, it should be noted that there is often a disconnect of what should be quality and should not be. Also, if a consumer is buying a knockoff or counterfeit product which is popular in the community, then the expectation needs to be aligned as such. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. 

1. Need to do more for the community.

Before African American businesses can often become profitable they are being asked to give away their products and/or services to the community. A common misconception often that because you own a business, then you must be making money. It can take an average of two to three years for most conventional businesses to become profitable and even that is a tricky statement. Being profitable simply means that your business revenue is greater than your business expense. So for instance, if your businesses expenses are $2,000 and your business earned $2,001, then you are profitable. However, nobody would assume that that businesses is making enough money for its owner to live on let alone even take a salary. In most instances, especially for African American businesses those early years are spent plowing every dollar of revenue back into the business because usually there was little in the way of startup capital provided. It is usually many years before a business can actually support its owner(s) financially. Does this mean African American business owners should do nothing for their community? Absolutely not. In reality many do even when they can not afford to do so, but we are saying that our community needs to be slower to criticize just how much a business should be doing before they have even had a chance to get our their proverbial feet.

At the end of the day, our businesses are trying to compete against sometimes what feels like insurmountable odds. Those odds do not need to be exacerbated by our own community. Holding African American small businesses and companies accountable is one thing, but continuously treating them in a nihilistic manner is a recipe for economic disaster. Economic development strategy has a myriad of components to it and our behavior and attitudes toward our own institutions goes a long way in our ability to become economically empowered.

African America’s December 2020 Jobs Report – 9.9%

OVERALL UNEMPLOYMENT: 6.7% (6.7%)

AFRICAN AMERICAN: 9.9% (10.3%)

LATINO AMERICAN: 9.3% (8.4%)

EUROPEAN AMERICAN: 6.0% (5.9%)

ASIAN AMERICAN: 5.9% (6.7%)

Previous month in parentheses.

Analysis: Asian Americans saw a 80 basis point decline to lead all groups. Latinos had the worst increase among all groups with an increase in 90 basis points. Marginal movements of 40 basis points decrease by African America and 10 basis point increase for European America.

AFRICAN AMERICAN UNEMPLOYMENT RATE BY GENDER & AGE

AFRICAN AMERICAN MEN: 10.4% (11.2%)

AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN: 8.4% (9.0%)

AFRICAN AMERICAN TEENAGE: 25.2% (17.4%)

AFRICAN AMERICAN PARTICIPATION BY GENDER & AGE

AFRICAN AMERICAN MEN: 65.2% (65.2%)

AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN: 59.5% (60.4%)

AFRICAN AMERICAN TEENAGE: 31.0% (29.3%)

Analysis: African American Men and Women groups saw declines in their unemployment rate, led by the African American Men group declining by 80 basis points. African American Teenage Group saw an acute spike of 780 basis points. Participation rates for Teenage Group increased by 170 basis points, African American Men went unchanged, and African American Women saw a substantive 90 basis point drop.

African American Men-Women Job Gap: African American women currently have 973,000 more jobs than African American men in December. This is a decrease from 1,062,000 in November.

CONCLUSION: The overall economy lost 140,000 million jobs in December. African America lost 26,000 jobs in December or 18.5 percent of the overall jobs lost. From Yahoo Finance, “And of course, a lack of job opportunities—as there are nearly 10 million fewer jobs today than back in February— has also contributed to millions of workers remaining on the sidelines of the labor market,” economist Jay Bryson said.

African America’s November 2020 Jobs Report – 10.3%

OVERALL UNEMPLOYMENT: 6.7% (6.9%)

AFRICAN AMERICAN: 10.3% (10.8%)

LATINO AMERICAN: 8.4% (8.8%)

EUROPEAN AMERICAN: 5.9% (6.0%)

ASIAN AMERICAN: 6.7% (7.6%)

Previous month in parentheses.

Analysis: For a second straight month all groups saw drops in their unemployment rates, led by Asian America’s 90 basis point decrease. European Americans had second smallest decrease, with unemployment dropping 10 basis points.

AFRICAN AMERICAN UNEMPLOYMENT RATE BY GENDER & AGE

AFRICAN AMERICAN MEN: 11.2% (11.5%)

AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN: 9.0% (9.2%)

AFRICAN AMERICAN TEENAGE: 17.4% (23.6%)

AFRICAN AMERICAN PARTICIPATION BY GENDER & AGE

AFRICAN AMERICAN MEN: 65.2% (65.4%)

AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN: 60.6% (60.1%)

AFRICAN AMERICAN TEENAGE: 29.0% (30.3%)

Analysis: All three African American groups saw declines in their unemployment rate, led by a major movement by the African American Teenage group declining by 590 basis points. Participation rates for Men and Teenage both decreased, but the Teenage group saw a 430 basis point decline which represents a five-month low. African American Women saw a participation rate improvement of 50 basis points in November.

African American Men-Women Job Gap: African American women currently have 1,062,000 more jobs than African American men in November. This is a decrease from 1,075,000 in October.

CONCLUSION: The overall economy added 245,000 million jobs in November. African America added 136,000 jobs in November or 55.5 percent of the overall jobs. From Yahoo Finance, “The U.S. economy still has a ways to go before fully making up for the drop in payrolls induced by the pandemic. Even with a seventh straight month of net job gains, the economy remains about 9.8 million jobs short of its pre-pandemic level in February. The U.S. economy lost more than 22 million jobs between March and April.”