The concept for ShopBlackCT.com came from Founder and Co-Contributor Sarah Thompson, who wanted to do something proactive in response to the racial injustice amplifying in 2020. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Sarah, who is also Senior Director for Marketing Communications at The Village for Families & Children and Yvette Young, Team Lead at ShopBlackCT and Associate Vice President of Programs and Advocacy at The Village for Families & Children about the website’s importance and impact.
NAN PRICE: Tell us a little bit about when and why ShopBlackCT was created and how it’s evolved.
SARAH THOMPSON: The idea for ShopBlackCT was prompted in response to what was happening after the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The economic inequalities that exist in our country have been magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic, too. When the site launched in July, about 41% of Black-owned businesses had closed across the country.
I wanted to do something more tangible than sharing information—but I also didn’t want to do something that wasn’t helpful or wasn’t necessarily in my lane. I thought: I’m in marketing and communications, I can put together a website and I know how to market it, but this would never survive as a one person kind of idea.
I reached out to friends and colleagues, including Yvette, who I knew does a lot of program and advocacy work. We talked about how we can move from empathy to action and how can we each leverage our skills to create a free, interactive platform.
We formed a small team to begin with and launched ShopBlackCT.com in July 2020 with 175 businesses listed from a handful of cities and towns in Connecticut. Since then, the volunteer team has grown to more than 30 and we have more than 1,200 Black-owned businesses listed on the site.
NAN: Where do you see the future for ShopBlackCT?
SARAH: Our goal is to have every Black-owned business that exists in Connecticut represented on the site—whether they’ve been in business for years or they’re just starting out. Also, post-COVID-19, we want to have in-person gatherings and events. Until then, we plan to host more virtual events.
YVETTE YOUNG: Our whole 2021 focus is: How do we continue to get the message out there? How do we continue to drive consumers to these businesses so they get the financial support they need to stay viable in this really tough economic time?
For continued growth, we’re focusing on outreach. Stories like this are essential to our marketing. I always say any promotion for ShopBlackCT.com is a promotion for the businesses on the site.
NAN: How can people become involved with ShopBlackCT.com?
YVETTE: Sarah and I have been talking about building additional partnerships to help sustain our mission. In addition, we’re looking to enhance our network of supporters and identify champions—people who can have an impact and can help propel our mission forward—so it’s not solely dependent on a small group of volunteers.
We encourage those interested in partnership or willing to help support these small businesses to connect through our resource link on our site. Right now, we’re providing a lot of marketing and promotional support for many of these small businesses, but we know they have other needs our volunteers may not be addressing and we’re excited to expand our mission.