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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

From Facebook group to LLC, Black Dolla Indy — the epicenter of Black networking

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Carl Gordon opened Gordon’s Milkshake Bar on Massachusetts Avenue in December 2019. He was excited to see how much his business would grow with spring and summer on its way. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, leaving him to question if there was a future for his business.

Then came Black Dolla Indy.

After Gordon joined Black Dolla Indy, he noticed the line to get into his milkshake bar getting longer and saw customers waiting outside before the store opened. He also saw steady business all the way until he had to close shop for the day.

“I owe them,” Gordon said. “They were a new day for me. They really changed the dynamic of having a business in the pandemic. As a Black person, they really did it for me.”

Carmen Davenport founded the Black Dolla Indy Facebook group June 6, 2020, and the group now has over 37,000 members. Members can look for suggestions for hair care, household projects, therapists, nail technicians and even bounce house services that are all Black owned.

“It’s a consumer page with Black businesses at the forefront,” Davenport said. “If you’re looking for plumbing, in no time you’re gonna have over 10 referrals. Black Dolla is the one-stop shop for everything.”

Davenport started Black Dolla Indy after she realized how disconnected she was with other Black businesses and uses the page to showcase those businesses all year around.

Prior to being admitted into the Facebook group, users must read the group rules and answer questions. Davenport said there could easily be half a million members if everyone took the time to read the rules and answer the questions.

Of the thousands of requests to join, she and the other group admins have only accepted around a third of the requests they receive.

Wednesdays and Saturdays are “Black Dolla Days,” which are days set aside for advertising and promoting products and different local events. The other days are for customers to browse, shop and review different businesses.

“We have received 90% of our customer base from Black Dolla,” said Brittani Buford-Towner, owner of Maxx Beauty Supply. “If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know how we would’ve gotten the word out so fast.”

Buford-Towner said whenever someone is looking for places with hair care products or offers spa treatments, her business is always tagged. She also said customers will post a review in Black Dolla which keeps the word around her business going.

Brianna Membres, founder and CEO of SheEdits LLC, helps future and current college students find a full range of scholarships through workshops and master classes on how to write scholarship essays and complete applications.

Membres said if it was not for Black Dolla Indy she wouldn’t have found one of her biggest clients, who won an $11,000 scholarship renewable for up to four years.

What started as a Facebook group is now a limited liability company (LLC) made up of a team of nine members. This transition to a formal business gives the group a bigger platform to help more Black-owned businesses be successful.

“It almost brings tears to my eyes,” Davenport said after reflecting on how much Black Dolla Indy has grown in only a year. “That type of impact is why I’m here.”

Black Dolla Indy has created events that range from “Black Dolla Dining Days” to highlight local Black-owned restaurants that don’t have the opportunity to be featured during Devour Indy, to “Dollas in the Details” which focus on Black businesses that detail and wash cars.

“That kind of encouragement will make all the difference,” Davenport said.

Davenport said she still needs resources to help create a program for Black startups to be ready to run and maintain their business and plans on having a 5K walk next year to raise money for these programs.

Contact staff writer Terrence Lambert at 317-924-5243. Follow him on Twitter @_TerrenceL_.

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