Olivia Robinson: Making Local Black Businesses Known

Imagine an app comparable to Yelp that connects us to amazing and reliable businesses in our area that not only makes our lives easier, but also makes our lives better. When we are craving some delicious food, we can open it up and find a great restaurant. When we need a fresh fade for an interview tomorrow, we can also open it up and find a barbershop. Or when we need a fly new outfit, we can also open it up and find exactly what we’re looking for.

But what makes this app so very unlike others is that it connects us to Black-owned businesses. Not corporate franchises that are bound to take over every corner nationwide, but businesses that are run and managed by our immediate community. 

BlackDollar LLC is that app, connecting everyday consumers to locally owned Black businesses and works to uplift Black economic empowerment. But less than two years ago, this app was not even a concrete concept.

Olivia Robinson, the CEO of BlackDollar LLC, is from Palmdale, California and a noteworthy alumni from Pepperdine University. She graduated with a degree in Integrated Marketing Communication and Rhetoric and Leadership in 2020, and she is currently working at her alma mater as the Assistant Director of Community Engagement. 

On creating BlackDollar, Robinson noted that the idea came to her while she was still in college, but she pushed the idea back a few years due to the cost of developing an app – it wasn’t something she could do at the moment.

Fortunately, at the start of the pandemic, she found herself with a whole lot of free time and used it to her advantage. She stumbled upon a webinar on software development and said, “I am going to go for this.”

“I woke up one day, just not planning to do anything except studying for finals,” Robinson said. “I ended the day founding a business.”

BlackDollar LLC was created by Robinson to uplift Black businesses by literally putting them on the map – the map on her app, but BlackDollar goes far beyond. Robinson created a software that serves as a Black business directory, a hub for Black mobile businesses, and even a resource center for entrepreneurs and business owners all placed into one cohesive and efficient application. 

Yet, the purpose of BlackDollar is not to just support Black business. For Robinson, it goes far deeper. 

“You have to realize that economically, you want to impact the circulation rate within the Black community,” Robinson said. “A dollar within the Black community will last a week – if that long – whereas, in other places, it’ll last much longer.

“That impacts the schools that are able to be built; it impacts the hospitals that are able to be built. It impacts the resources that people have. I wanted something that drove people to Black businesses, but also affected the true economic standpoint because when you go back to liberation, liberation isn’t just within societal liberation, it’s not just within the mind. Economics is key to liberation in so many other spaces.”

BlackDollar launched in the summer of 2020 and has since seen a rapid increase in the amount of Black businesses the app uplifts. On BlackDollar, over 350 Black-owned businesses located around Los Angeles are logged, with about 250 businesses in the Bay Area. There are even over 250 businesses in cities like Atlanta, Washington D.C., and New York City.

This impressive feat has been made possible from data that was already made available to Robinson, which she was able to effectively go through. “What I did was I aggregated existing business data from cities that already had concentrations, which was super helpful.”

The businesses that are included on BlackDollar include restaurants, catering businesses, barbershops and hair stylists, artisans, and more; all of them Black-owned. You can even find Black people on the app doing other necessary services.

“That’s one thing that I was really excited about,” Robinson said. “Because people will be able to look for a Black architect or someone that does landscaping. A Black electrician even.”

On the app, you will find blue dots throughout the nation indicating a locally Black-owned business. Yet, in the Central Valley, there are none to be found.

In Fresno, there are a growing number of locally owned businesses and strong staples within the community that are Black-owned as well, such as Weekend Dreams (Ashlan and Blythe) and Tower Blendz (Tower District). Adding these businesses and more onto the software will connect them with consumers that are looking to support local. BlackDollar will further uplift these businesses and ensure economic liberation through the consistent consumerism within our Fresno community.

So, how can this be done? BlackDollar is available on the App Store and Google Play, and submitting these businesses can be easily done, whether you are a frequent customer or the business owner.

“Directly within the app, there is a section within our contact form,” Robinson said. “If you’re scrolling, you’ll see ‘connect with us’ or ‘get in touch with us’ – click on that. There’s an area where you can see a selection that says, ‘Submit your business to the app.’ That will take you to a form that you yourself as a business owner are able to put your information, or someone that is aware of your business is able to submit information, so you can be uploaded onto the app. You can access that directly from the app, or on our social media. There’s a Linktree that will lead you to the same form.

“When that form is submitted, it goes to an area that I’ll be able to see and gather the data and organize it in a specific place so that it can be recorded on the app,” she continued. “It happens in batches. When you submit the form, you won’t automatically see it on the app right away. It will go through with the next batch of uploads.”

This is an app worthy of uplifting the locally Black-owned businesses not only in Fresno, but the nation, therefore it is worth submitting a business you know of or your own.

Download BlackDollar LLC on the App Store and Google Play now.

*Watch Olivia Robinson lead a TEDx Talk where she discusses the power she has found in love in order to combat oppression; her moving speech can be found here.

Ivan Manriquez (he/him/his)

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