The Utah Black Chamber announced Wednesday it has launched the state’s first website to connect customers with Black-owned businesses.
The founder and head of the 200-member chamber said it partnered with Podium, the Lehi-based customer-management software firm, to build and publish Utah Black Pages, a digital business directory designed to boost their visibility and community support.
The site, at Utahblackpages.com, lists a wide range of businesses as well as social, faith and political organizations associated with members of Utah’s 50,000-strong Black community.
James Jackson III, the Utah Black Chamber’s founder and executive director, said the portal combines company listings and other resources previously maintained on its website with an online roster published by the civil-rights advocacy group Black Lives Matter Utah.
That effort, Jackson said in an interview, has been brought into sharper focus with the societal outcry and recent demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd on May 25 while in the custody of Minneapolis police.
“We’ve had plans to expand those pages, but the social-justice movement we’re experiencing definitely pushed us to get it up faster,” he said.
The new site, Jackson said, will help Utahns find Black-owned businesses and support them, as well as encourage business owners to connect and network — at a time, he said, when community members are seeking these businesses out to offer their backing.
“People have been looking now more than ever at how to become consumers of Black-owned businesses,” he said. “The primary focus is to give these businesses added visibility so that they and the Black community can help improve Utah’s overall economy.”
Lex Scott, founder of Black Lives Matter Utah, said in a statement “it is crucial to support Black-owned businesses” and that the expanded database would help them “gain new opportunities, as well as potential increases in revenue.”
The CEO of Podium, a privately held company, said the firm was enthusiastic “in helping however we can to bring real change.”
The Utah Black Chamber has also recently partnered with three other organizations to offer grants and mentoring programs for Black female-owned businesses.
The program, dubbed New Pattern Utah, seeks to promote economic growth and investment for companies with Black female founders, according Rose Maizner, co-founder of Womenpreneurs, who announced the initiative along with the chamber, the business-mentoring firm Beta Boom and the charitable group Sorensen Impact Center.
New Pattern Utah will offer eligible businesses grants of up to $10,000 along with formal mentoring on fundraising and other business skills. The approach, Maizner said, is aimed at countering the effects of a history of systematic oppression and discrimination and a persistent wage gap for Blacks in Utah, in part by helping Black women starting businesses to connect with early-stage investors.
“While the New Pattern Utah grant will not solve the systemic issues that still need to be addressed,” she said in a statement, “the initiative is one small step in our commitment to continue supporting Black female founders.”