Stories of modern business.

Khalia Ismain from Jamii

Khalia Ismain from Jamii

Courier Weekly

We spoke to Khalia for the Courier podcast. Listen above or read the story below.

Q.  Why did you create Jamii?

‘When I first started Jamii, the dream was that we'd be able to facilitate really easy access to black-owned businesses and people could shop just like they shop anywhere else – like at Tesco, Boots or Starbucks. I've always been optimistic that people want to shop from [Black-owned businesses], that they want to make their money go further, that they want to be conscious consumers. It's just about making it as easy as possible. The last few weeks have shown that, when people realise why it's so important, when it's really brought to the fore, they're more than willing.’

Q. You had a great Instagram post with five reasons why people should shop with black-owned businesses. What were they?

‘The first was that black-owned businesses strengthen local and black communities. When you buy from a business, you're not just purchasing a product – you're investing in that business, in their ethos and everything they do. And when you're buying from a black-owned business, you're supporting the wider community because they’re much more likely to invest in projects and initiatives that support the community, more likely to hire black employees, paying them fair wages and supporting black families and other business owners as well. 

They're also more likely to use black suppliers. An ecosystem will start to spring up which centres black business owners, which starts to tear down some of the structural inequalities. It’s well known that when it comes to access to funding, through banks and through investors, black entrepreneurs are much, much more likely to be declined. We're at the point now where people aren't even applying anymore. They’re bypassing the banks completely and not even bothering with investors because of how much they just get ignored – sometimes not even sometimes declined, just ignored.’

Q. And you’re talking about small businesses – shop owners looking for $20,000 bank loans – not biotech companies pitching for VC money.

‘Yes. Barbershops, mom and pop shops, food shops. People aren't interested. For a long time it was because people didn't think that any business that served the black community could make money – there was a sense that black people don't spend money, which is crazy because the strength of the black pound and the black dollar is huge! And then there was a lack of trust, an assumption that there would be problems.

Back to the jobs point – black businesses are much more likely to hire from the community, which counteracts a lot of the issues faced when applying for jobs, but also the problems just being at work. There have been so many Instagram and Twitter accounts talking about the micro-aggressions that black people face at work – once you've got the job, the problems don't end there. 

It also means, importantly, holding other companies accountable. A couple of weeks ago, we saw so many businesses posting their black squares, standing in solidarity. But what are they going to be doing two, three months down the line. Or next year?’

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