BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2023: These 3 tech CEOs are improving the Black experience with their apps

By and , 1010 WINS

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) —When Anthony Edwards, Marvin Johnson and Lawrence Phillips met through a group called the Gentlemen’s Factory, a platform that brings together Black professionals, they connected through their desire to build tech solutions to solve different issues.

"It's an organization where people are just trying to help each other without wanting something in return," Johnson told 1010 WINS. "So it's not like a tit for tat, 'I give you this and I get this return.' It's about offering assistance and help and in the end of the day, we all we all grow faster and larger than we otherwise grow on our own."

The companies the three men founded all address different issues, especially within the Black community — building a customer base for small businesses, finding Black-owned businesses in different cities and guides for Black travelers.

With prior experience as a tech founder, Johnson started his company, Dashible, because his business-owner friends would share their frustrations with him about other platforms. From there, Johnson created an all-inclusive digital space for business owners.

Marvin Johnson
Marvin Johnson, CEO of Dashible Photo credit Marvin Johnson

“Any business that's a bricks-and-mortar business throughout New York City, they can go to our platform, and they have a suite of tools they can use to find new customers that keep them coming back,” Johnson said. “They can run deals, promotions, launch loyalty programs, do SMS marketing soon, email marketing. So it's a big platform of services and tools that a small business can use just to find new customers that don't know about them.”

Johnson’s experience led him to become a mentor with the Gentlemen’s Factor where he took Edwards under his wing as he got his company—EatOkra—off the ground.

EatOkra was started in 2016 by Edwards and his wife as a solution to find and support Black-owned businesses in Brooklyn.

“But it turns out, there's a lot of people in a lot of places that need to know where to find Black-owned businesses,” Edwards told 1010 WINS. “And so over the last six years, we've had about 500,000 people, half a million people have downloaded our app to support businesses in a local city while traveling, or in their local area, finding new restaurants that they didn't even know about.”

Anthony Edwards
Anthony Edwards, CEO of EatOkra Photo credit Anthony Edwards

Finding and supporting local businesses while traveling was also part of the reason Phillips started his company, Global Green Book, in 2015. Based on the Jim Crow-era concept of a Green Book for Black travelers to safely explore new places, Phillips’ modern version includes recommendations, reviews and crowd-sourced ratings.

“Destinations have a score for traveling while Black specifically that's crowdsourced,” Phillips told 1010 WINS. “So it's not my opinion. It's thousands of Black travelers from all over the world that talk about their experiences traveling while Black. But on top of that, they say what's there for adventure, what’s there for relaxation. So you kind of get the best of both worlds in figuring out what people who look like you think about a destination.”

Lawrence Phillips, CEO of Global Green Book
Lawrence Phillips, CEO of Global Green Book Photo credit Lawrence Phillips

Last summer, the men teamed up to kick off an initiative in Harlem, a neighborhood that all of them have a personal connection to. They used the recognition of Black Business Month in August to launch their campaign to highlight Black-owned restaurants in the neighborhood.

“It took a great deal of time, especially for Lawrence, Lawrence did all a lot of heavy lifting,” Johnson said of planning for the next campaign. “So we're looking at trying to do it in other places, but make it a little more streamlined. So it doesn't take as much time. You learn from what you did, and optimize it the next time so you can do more quicker, faster, more efficiently.”

Planning more uplifting campaigns is just one of the things the trio is looking forward to in the future for their companies. From Johnson aiding small businesses at the height of the pandemic to Edwards helping consumers support Black-owned businesses all over the country to Phillips inspiring users to experience new adventures.

“I think it's just having that safe space to say, Hey, this is for us and by us,” Phillips explained. “I think it's been pretty impactful.”

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Featured Image Photo Credit: 1010 WINS