ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Starting a small business is not an easy venture, and for Musa Zwana, he wanted to help provide a marketing resource for black-owned businesses with his website, 518 Blacklist, and Imprint Universe. Zwana grew up in the Capital District and says his parents inspired him since they were always involved in the community.
“I’ve always just grown up in the African American community in support of the black community,” he said.
After launching his graphic design business, he noticed it took a lot of work to locate black-owned businesses in the area. That’s when he created the site to help small business owners get their brands and services out to the public.
Zwana says that with his businesses, he celebrates black history month- every month. But makes sure to acknowledge the commemoration.
“I guess this is a time for us to try and share this with other people to try to bring in other people in support of our black community and black businesses,” Zwana said.
That is the main reason why the Albany Black Chamber of Commerce and Social Club decided to open its doors on Martin Luther King Junior’s birthday this year. Deshanna Wiggins is the organization’s CEO and says it was strategically planned.
“We wanted to empower our people to let them know that our history is not going anywhere,” she said.
The organization wants not only to help educate small business owners of all backgrounds but also to help educate the next generation.
“In order to really involve the community, especially in the African American community,” she said. “We have to invest in young professionals.”
Wiggins says that even though Albany has a lot of colleges, the retention rate is very low. She also says that many of her peers have left the area and have no plans to return. And she wants to change that.
“I want to make sure that we meet them right where they are by offering programs from our membership, to be able to give them apprenticeships to set them up with internships- see them daily, and set them up by graduation are already shoed-in. To ensure we meet those needs to retain talent right here in the Capital Region,” she said.
For Musa Zwana, it’s all about the community supporting each other throughout the year.
“We all gotta support each other in whatever circles we’re in. And we have different circles at different times,” he said. “So just because I support black-owned businesses …that doesn’t mean I don’t go to an Italian pizza shop every week. It’s an opportunity for other people to be like, ‘hey…this is a way I can support…’”