Jack Standokes was tired of the negative talk about the black community. He watched video clips of police brutality and read the hateful comments on social media. He heard the claims over and over again: His community doesn’t support one another; they only kill each other.
Instead of grabbing a protest sign, the 38-year-old Standokes decided to start a network, one that connected businesses within the black community. He wanted to offer the support that he says he felt his community so desperately needed, one that built bridges between black-owned business and consumers. He calls his network, the Black Owned Business Portal.
“The policy brutality and the hateful comments inspired me to bring the black community together to be more supportive of each other and keep the dollar in the black community for more than six hours,” he says.
Standokes claims the typical dollar spent in black communities stays there recirculating only briefly, compared with the white community, where he says it circulates for 18 days, or 10 days in Hispanic communities.
“But the black community is the worst about spending money on our businesses,” he says.
Standokes didn’t grow up in the black community of southeast Dallas. He moved to Dallas when he was 19 years old from Texarkana. When he moved to Dallas, he began to notice the bad poverty and homelessness affecting his new home. “My heart was torn to see how people seemed not to care about them,” he says.
When a black man gunned down five Dallas police officers after a July 7 protest in downtown Dallas, Standokes realized he needed to take action to combat the hate, he says, and change the perception of the black community.
“I wanted more people to realize that anyone can become a business owner because this would also decrease crime in our communities.” he says.
Standokes says he had a vision to offer black-owned businesses the spotlight and raise awareness about where they are located and the products they're offering to their communities. He calls it “building our communities from the inside out.”
He created the Black Owned Business Portal the day after the five Dallas police officers lost their lives.
Five months later, the portal has grown to include more than 200,000 members on Facebook and is operating in 27 cities across the nation. Members, he says, are a mix of large and small business owners, politicians and journalists.
Standokes will travel to businesses to check out their products or services before he decides to spotlight them on the portal. “It’s kind of like I’m a secret shopper,” he says. “If the restaurant doesn’t have the type of service or the food isn’t good, I won’t spotlight them in the group.”
Standokes not only showcases black-owned businesses on the portal's website but also promotes and holds events that educate business owners. He plans to start hosting networking mixers twice a month at places such as the French Toast in Dallas and the Brickhouse in Desoto and Arlington.
“So many of them don’t know how to run a business,” he says. “They don’t know how to move into a building and have a structure in place so they can keep the business afloat. The black community is really good at starting businesses but the number one to have a business fail.”
Kevin Goff was one of those business owners who struggled to build a clientele with his mobile car detail business since he didn’t have a product to sell. Then one of his Facebook friends sent him a link to the Black Owned Business Portal not long after Standokes created the page in early July.
Goff claims using the portal and networking with other members taught him how to be more professional and more customer service oriented. “Unfortunately, growing up in the black community, we don’t support each other like we should,” he says. “Some business owners didn’t treat you nice, or they wouldn’t show up on time. A lot of different things like that.”
Other black business owners agree.
Darien Moore owns a small home and body fragrance company called Fatbaby. She offers homemade products such as triple-scented candles, air freshener sprays, home fragrance oils and wax melts. Fatbaby also offers body/massage candles, body lotion and oils and body mists and washes.
Moore says she’s been building Fatbaby for about a year but struggled to grow her clientele. She experimented with Facebook ads and social media pages/profiles and attended vendor events, trying to identify avenues to reach consumers.
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A few friends introduced her to the Black Owned Business Portal, and she quickly realized the opportunity it offered her to connect not only with consumers who want to support the community but also with other black business owners.
The Black Owned Business Portal also helps nonprofit groups such as Dominique Alexander’s Next Generation Action Network, a civil rights group. Alexander says he uses the portal as a way to network with other black business owners to raise money. It’s also helped to grow the Next Generation’s membership, he says.
Standokes hopes to boost his own membership to three million black business owners, and plans to host more events. His next, “Christmas Blackout,” takes place on Dec. 17 in Desoto. Thirty-five vendors will be offering products for consumers.
“There is power in the unity that we must have to motivate each other while displaying integrity and providing our support for all,” he says.