Tanya Van Court – Goalsetter
What it does: It’s a financial literacy app for kid that gives them the tools to build wealth.
What made you come up with this idea for the app? My 8-year-old daughter said, Mommy, for my ninth birthday, I only want 2 things: enough money to save for an investment account and a bike. In that moment, I knew that if I could get every Black child to say that, I could change the world for our community. My daughter constantly tells me that she owns 1% of the company because it was her idea – not mine.”
How do you see your app impacting Black culture and the Black community? We are trying to create the next generation of savers, investors, and financially educated adults. Our culture is in jeopardy or economic extinction – by 2053, African-Americans are projected to have a negative net worth. Seventy percent of middle class African-Americans are projected to have a child who falls out of the middle class.
We offer kids their first savings account, and teens and tweens their first debit cards. We attached our financial literacy quizzes to our debit cards with a rule called “Learn Before You Burn,” which can automatically freeze your kid’s card if they haven’t taken their financial literacy quiz for the week yet.
What fuels your passion about this project and what words of inspiration do you have for others who want to do the same? America starves Black entrepreneurs and continues to feed the same entrepreneurial archetype, making it almost impossible for us to bring products to market that will truly serve our kids. But if I don’t stand in my shoes and persevere on this journey, our kids will not get the financial education, the savings habits, and the game-based, culturally-relevant content that they deserve.
Mbye Njie – Legal Equalizer
What it does: Records video in real time of law enforcement interactions.
What made you come up with this idea for the app? I was first inspired to take action after the killing of Michael Brown – at the hands of a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri back in 2014. I couldn’t help but think how things might have been different if someone had been recording the incident. Fast forward a few months and I found myself being pulled over by the cops, not once, but three times in a span of two weeks. On the third occasion, I was told that there was a warrant out for my arrest. I questioned the officer because there was no mention of a warrant the first few times I was pulled over.
At that point, I was held against my will for nearly 30 minutes before I was told the warrant was invalid. When I went to make a complaint, I learned that nothing the officer did was against the law. It was at this point that I thought about developing an app that would record video in real time so that if a case were to go to court, there would never be a “he said, she said” situation.
How do you see your app impacting Black culture and the Black community? “I see the app helping the Black community by being proactive in keeping more people out of the justice system. I hate seeing our community mourn and be enraged, and hopefully this is a way to prevent a lot of these senseless beatings or murders. I hope that we can change Black culture by letting more Black people know their rights and how to properly assert their rights.
What fuels your passion about this project and what words of inspiration do you have for others who want to do the same?
The death of Sandra Bland haunts me to this day. I truly believe that she would be alive had she had my app at the time.. Trayvon Martin could have let his father know that he was in trouble and given his location, and possibly gotten him on video when George Zimmerman attacked him. I can give you so many more examples in which we lost so much promise and potential.
I tell people don’t be afraid to tell others what your ideas are because you never know who might support it. If you are truly passionate about something, follow that passion, and don’t be afraid to fail. Mistakes are a part of the journey, but stay grounded and stay focused on your purpose.
Sofia Ongele – ReDawn
What it does: It provides resources and confidential advice to victims of sexual assault.
What made you come up with this idea for the app? I came up with the idea of developing ReDawn during my freshman year of college. I was taking my first gender studies course where I learned about how gender based discrimination and violence have been handled and neglected under the law, and a friend of mine fell victim to sexual violence. More than anything I was really angry that the systems we’ve been conditioned to believe that should function in our favor do not. So I got to work.
How do you see your app impacting Black culture and the Black community? I really hope that my app is able to give a support system to a group so often left out of our systems and minds altogether. Black women are more likely to be survivors of rape. These are important conversations to be had and I hope that with apps like mine we can break down barriers and oppressive mindsets with education and access to local resources.
What fuels your passion about this project and what words of inspiration do you have for others who want to do the same? I feel as though there’s this perception that tech is supposed to generate capital or be the next Facebook. I really want to change people’s perception of what’s possible with technology and use it to spark genuine social change at either a major or minor scale. The greatest feeling is being able to wholeheartedly do what I love while helping others – I think that’s the dream.
For anyone who yearns to do the same, I challenge you to remain dissatisfied with the status quo. The next time you take notice of raging inequality, think, is there any way that I can creatively apply my skills – whether in tech, marketing, fine art, anything really – to make a change here?
Marah Lidey and Naomi Hirabayashi – Shine
What it does: It is a meditation app that changes the face of wellness by centering Black and Brown voices.
What made you come up with this idea for the app? My co-founder Naomi Hirabayashi and I started Shine because we didn’t see ourselves—as a Black woman and a half-Japanese woman—and our experiences represented in mainstream “wellness.” We both struggled to see those issues addressed in an inclusive way, across books, online media—even meditation apps. Everything “wellness” felt like it was created with one archetype in mind. And that wasn’t us.
Later, through the power of the relationship we were able to cultivate— seeing ourselves in one another, and providing peer-based daily emotional support—we were able to see a big impact on our own mental health. We often heard from folks in our community, ‘I wish I had that. I wish someone was checking in on me on a daily basis, that helped me feel less alone.’
How do you see your app impacting Black culture and the Black community? Most areas of our society still lack adequate representation—especially mental health. When we started Shine in 2016, we looked at all of the available meditation apps in the App Store and couldn’t find one that adequately represented or centered Black and Brown voices.
What fuels your passion about this project and what words of inspiration do you have for others who want to do the same? Thinking about how much I could have used Shine earlier in my life and to think about all of the people who leave reviews in the App Store saying things like “Finally” or “I feel seen” or “I didn’t know how much it would mean to hear a voice like mine” after using the app. I also get so excited thinking about the potential Shine has to transform workplaces. We recently began offering Shine at Work so that companies can support their employees’ mental health with the most inclusive and representative self-care app.
For people who are interested in starting their own side-hustle or business, my best advice is to know your power. There is something that you’re uniquely qualified to speak to or work on, and nothing in this industry would work without creators who are solving problems they’ve experienced.
James Chapman – Plain Sight
What it does: It gives all entrepreneurs an equal seat at the networking table. For far too long, Black people disproportionately failed to attract investors and land capital because of unconscious bias. With Plain Sight, you get access to the space, only using your biographical information and other professional credentials – never your profile photo or real name.
What made you come up with this idea for the app? I’ve spent the bulk of my career creating spaces for ambitious people to thrive. In 2015, I started and ran an evening coworking space for side-hustlers. The idea for the platform came from them. I wanted to solve their problems and the problems of many others who struggle with growing their business and lifestyle networks.”
How do you see your app impacting Black culture and the Black community? We’ve built the Plain Sight Community with intentionality at the core and forefront. We want everyone to have a seat at the table, with equal access to human capital. There’s a reason why we ask you to select an avatar on the profile page instead of asking for your profile picture. It’s because we’re trying to combat unconscious bias while still equipping our community with the necessary tools to make new, meaningful connections with other like-minded people.
What fuels your passion about this project and what words of inspiration do you have for others who want to do the same? I believe this work is my purpose. I believe my team and I can help shift the way networking is done. I believe that humans are more alike than they are different, and for that reason we at Plain Sight will foster many serendipitous collaborations between like-minded people. My advice to anyone pursuing their passion is be disciplined and consistent in your pursuit. Keep showing up for the fight.
Tanisha Friday and Carl Smith – Blex
What it does: It helps couples get to the root of their sexual intimacy issues to get their groove back. Through anonymous relationship coaching, Blex is the virtual relationship coach out to educate Black couples and save Black relationships.
What made you come up with this idea for the app? My fiancé [Carl Smith, who is also co-founder] and I were looking for a solution like Blex but could not find it. We were struggling with intimacy and wanted to find a solution to help save our relationship. After doing research and hitting a dead end, we created Blex. We knew what we wanted from a coach but conducted further benchmarking with other couples to ensure this would be a viable solution.
Users can visit the app to speak confidentially and anonymously with a sex and relationship coach, and there is a myriad of educational blog content with resources and tips, as well as a message board section that allows users to ask anonymous questions to the blexCommunity.
How do you see your app impacting Black culture and the Black community? In our research, what we found was African Americans are having the most sex out of any other race in the U.S. yet statistics show us that we have high rates in divorce, pregnancies and low rates in a lot of things and it all goes back to systemic racism and the lack of sexual education offered in school. This app was developed to give Black people an opportunity to build what’s lacking in their relationships.
What fuels your passion about this project and what words of inspiration do you have for others who want to do the same? I want Black people to thrive. It’s about time. I believe that we need to build our own, create our own, and own our own. That’s what drives me and Carl. To all my side-hustle entrepreneurs like me who work a 9-5 and then grind on the side, stay positive, stay humble, and stay balanced.”
Kaya Thomas – We Read Too
What it does: It makes it easier for Black readers to find stories whose characters reflect them. It also provides a boost to Black authors to get more recognition.
What made you come up with this idea for the app? I came up with the idea for We Read Too when I was in high school, after feeling frustrated and underrepresented by the books I was reading in school, seeing in my library and bookstores. I thought if there was one resource that aggregated books for young people that had diverse characters it could help kids who experienced the same frustration or lack of representation that I felt, but I didn’t know how to create something like that then. A few years later after starting college and stumbling upon computer science I learned how to code and started to build We Read Too.
How do you see your app impacting Black culture and the Black community? I see We Read Too impacting the Black community through providing a space for Black authors to be celebrated and showcased and being a resource to Black teachers, parents and caregivers where they can find stories for Black children where they’re represented and the main protagonists. It’s also an opportunity to expose Black children to stories with Indigenous, Asian and Latinx characters so they can learn about other underrepresented experiences.”
What fuels your passion about this project and what words of inspiration do you have for others who want to do the same? I believe that books and storytelling are incredibly important to helping shape a kid’s world and open up their imagination to what’s possible. If children of color are only exposed to books with non-PoC characters, it limits the possibilities they’re able to imagine for themselves and can make them feel invisible. I felt that when I was younger and I want to contribute to trying to make sure no kid has to feel that way and they can develop a love for reading without feeling erased.
For others who may want to create an app or technology that can help positively impact folks, I would say start one step at a time and work with the people you are building for to try to make something simple that could benefit their lives. Once you launch something simple you can always build upon it and it can have a reach you never imagined.
Anthony Edwards, Janique Edwards – Eat Okra
What made you come up with this idea for the app? When we moved to Brooklyn in 2016, neither of us knew much about the borough. We had to venture out to find places to eat. At the time, we were searching for Black-owned businesses to support just to get a sense of the community but there was no central place to go that we could use as a reliable resource. I made the suggestion that he create a directory app. We thought about it a bit more and decided to make the app food focused.
How do you see your app impacting Black culture and the Black community? Purely from a tech perspective, when you think about digital marketing tools, EatOkra is the first app that even centered the Black community in this specific space, exclusively. Also, there are the business owners themselves, who are some of the most talented entrepreneurs in the world. EatOkra gives not only their businesses, but also their supporters, a digital home to live in that has never existed before.”
What fuels your passion about this project and what words of inspiration do you have for others who want to do the same? We have a one year old daughter, so of course we’re motivated by our desires to provide a better life for her, but also we want to show her what it takes to build something from nothing, especially when it’s something that supports your community, because that’s more fulfilling and impactful than building something for yourself and your family.
For others who want to do the same, we would say, you can’t do it alone. If you want to build a community or build something for your community, you have to acknowledge that within yourself first and foremost. “I can’t do this alone. I need a network.”
Teddy ‘Stat’ Philips – For The Culture
What it does: For The Culture is a charades-based game designed to teach people about Black history and pop culture.
What made you come up with this idea for the app? I wanted to develop a game based on Black culture due to the lack of diversity in the gaming industry. I didn’t see a lot of Black developers creating games for the community and I wanted to leverage my tech skills to change that. It’s been a blessing to release and provide a representation in the mobile app gaming space.”
How do you see your app impacting Black culture and the Black community? “The impact of this game still gives me chills. We had a gentleman propose to his fiancé using the game and I mentor countless future game makers to increase the landscape of Black games. We need many more people of color creating our games. I recently spoke to a group of kids about being a game developer and some of the kids already have played it with their families. I was truly humbled.”
What fuels your passion about this project and what words of inspiration do you have for others who want to do the same? I’m passionate about creating experiences and memories while celebrating being Black. It’s often that we are left out or an afterthought when it comes to game making. In the past, we would have one token character that we would have to play with or we will have one category that is focused on our entire life experience. However, now we have the power to place ourselves at the center of the gaming and create our own experiences for ourselves. I want to be an example and inspire others to do the same.
Aurelia Edwards – Nailstry
What made you come up with this idea for the app? In 2018, I was getting ready for a wedding when I realized that I was missing a press-on nail size for two of my fingers. I quickly stopped at the drugstore on the way to the wedding to pick up a box of nails to complete my manicure. I realized what was available in my local stores had very limited variety. I created Nailstry as a tool to simplify the overall press-on nail purchasing process.
How do you see your app impacting Black culture and the Black community? Black c reatives have always played a pivotal role in influencing style icons, fashion trends and beautyinnovations; and art on nails is a medium uniquely championed by black artists and nail techs. Nailstry is providing a safe space for black artists and nail techs to promote their art while making it easier for consumers to search and discover their products.
What fuels your passion about this project and what words of inspiration do you have for others who want to do the same? Creating Nailstry was a labor of sheer enjoyment fueled by the need to have a space that celebrated nail art and the culture that surrounded it. I wanted to assist in-salon nail techs who desired to build a brand but didn’t quite know how to start, and design a measurement tool that decreased environmental waste from unused nails while increasing productivity and profitability for the artist. I believe the future of Nailstry is limitless, and as I continue to imagine its possibilities, I get more and more excited about this project everyday.
Evan Leaphart – Kiddie Kredit
What made you come up with this idea for the app? I saw firsthand how poor credit can make things difficult. Credit plays a large part in our lives and poor credit is one of the reasons the racial wealth gap continues to widen. Knowing that credit isn’t taught at an early age, I wanted to fundamentally change that and do it in a preventative rather than corrective way – teaching about credit before it’s an issue.”
How do you see your app impacting Black culture and the Black community? Specifically for our community, it’s the one thing we can do to narrow the wealth gap. Credit, if it’s used properly, can be a tool to generate wealth. For example, the average monthly income gap between an 18-year-old to 30-year-old in a wealthy versus poor zip code isn’t that wide. But that difference widens over time due to poor credit scores and the rising interest rates that result from those poor credit scores. If we address credit early on, we can really begin to narrow the racial wealth gap.
What fuels your passion about this project and what words of inspiration do you have for others who want to do the same? I really believe in the future and in our youth. I don’t want people to have to go through what I went through; I want them to start strong and hit the ground running. I spend a lot of my time mentoring youth; if it’s not about credit, it’s about entrepreneurship and taking control of your future. I just want the generation after me to have every tool in their tool kit to create the best possible future for themselves. That’s what drives me every day.
Khalil Hutchinson – Indexed
What made you come up with this idea for the app? My friends and I have that ‘everybody eats’ mentality. Whenever I come across someone looking for a service that one of my friends specializes in, I’d give that person my friend’s contact information. As I began to meet more talented people, the idea expanded into giving anyone a way to offer their skill sets.
How do you see your app impacting Black culture and the Black community? Word of mouth and support have been some of the only ways we’ve been able to get to where we are today. Indexed takes that concept and levels the playing field and provides a platform for black entrepreneurs, freelancers, and dreamers to create their own opportunities.
What fuels your passion about this project and what words of inspiration do you have for others who want to do the same? My passion for this project comes from the feeling of walking in my purpose. I’ve always believed in the power of community and with Indexed, I’ve found a way to combine my beliefs with my talent. I encourage anyone looking to do the same to find the things they’re passionate about and to pursue them relentlessly.