For this post, Cloudinary developer advocate and Rebuild Black Business volunteer, Domitrius Clark sat down with RBB founder Justin Samuels to discuss how the site came to be, its mission, and what the future might hold when developers for good come together for the cause.
DC: Can you tell us about Rebuild Black Business; what led you to build the site and your mission with the project?
JS: I was watching the tragic events unfolding with George Floyd and began to wonder what I could do to help as a technologist, specifically a software engineer. Having just come off a 25-hour telethon I hosted called In Streaming Color and having to pivot our physical conference Render-Atlanta due to COVID, I was exhausted but knew that our communities would need our involvement to be more active more now than ever. As a person who was highly involved in mentoring and assisting small businesses, I wanted to build a platform that was for the curation and promotion of black-owned businesses to survive and thrive beyond the pandemic and recent events.
These kinds of projects often take a village, but between COVID and the world's impassioned response to the Black Lives Matter movement there was an urgency in building the site fast.
DC: Can you take us behind the scenes and share a bit about what it took to go live in less than two weeks?
JS: So to get everything running at scale, a big factor is and will always be communication. To assist in this regard we used Discord because it allowed us to provision channels and more by using their role system. Their role system allowed us to then separate rooms and plug-ins by who needed the information most, to help get information across to individuals in a quick and concise manner. Having been a big advocate in agile team workflows, we set up a Trello board with clear objectives and goals organized by team role and functionality on a 2-week sprint.
Trying to ensure we didn’t block key individuals from making rapid decisions we kept all passwords, API keys, and billing information in 1-password vault which enabled our teams to make the decisions they needed to in a timely manner w/o worry of leaking any sensitive information. Lastly, team morale was a big motivation to keep the “blood” of the project flowing. I knew that those participating in our efforts wanted to hear the stories of individuals on the front-line whom we were helping, so I would have daily updates (fireside chats) in our group channel with stories of those affected and how our product would help them. In essence, communication is very key to starting, finishing, and maintaining the vision.
JS: A few ways, they could go to our website to fill out our webform which will then add them to our database of over 14,000 black owned businesses after being verified as a black-owned business by one of our submission experts on our business team. If they would like to speak to someone before though, they can email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll gladly answer any questions they have before being listed on our platform.
JS: We need more designers, and business professionals with experience in marketing and long-term growth strategies. We’re wanting to take the platform to new heights by expanding to a physical presence of incorporating RBB within their storefront, and other points of purchase. Designers are especially needed because we have ideas of how we want our digital product to look and feel, but we need someone to illustrate the idea to life, so our engineers can then develop it. If anyone would like to learn more, they can email us at email@example.com or visit our Github repo at GitHub.rebuildblackbusiness.com.
JS: We’re super excited to announce that we’re launching a public API to allow everyone to build exciting concepts using our vast dataset of black-owned businesses. With this development, we believe that products such as black-owned web applications having seed data for their products and media outlets building data visualizations to show the impact of COVID on our communities will now become more inclusive through use of our api. You can learn more on using our api by visiting api.RebuildBlackBusiness.com.
The current sprint we’re in for version 1 will release on September 7, 2020, complete with new storefront profile pages for our listed businesses. These profiles will list their store hours, payment information, and even images of the businesses hosted within Cloudinary. We believe that we can become the first stop for a black-owned business’s digital presence by providing profiles for their data such as reviews and media to live on. We believe over time that our platform will evolve into incorporating physical features such as check-in’s and resources for our businesses to thrive within their respective communities.
To learn more about RBB’s founder Justin Samuels, visit ThugDebugger.dev and follow him across all social media via the username @ThugDebugger. Justin also publishes a monthly newsletter with updates on all his digital platforms (Render-Atlanta, In Streaming Color, Financial Tech) which you can sign-up for by visiting newsletter.ThugDebugger.dev.