Black Dollar Corp. founder and CEO is leading the charge to promote Black entrepreneurship across Triangle

RALEIGH – A few years ago, Johnny Hackett worked as a process architect for Wells Fargo. Fast forward to today: the 38-year-old Raleigh local is the founder and CEO of Black Dollar Corp., a Black-owned business directory and retail shop that is all about maximizing Black entrepreneurship.

This weekend, it will host two Juneteenth festivals in the Triangle, showcasing Black-owned businesses while commemorating the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States.

It comes on the heels of launching The Factory, a coworking hub in Raleigh’s Glenwood South neighborhood, in April. The space, funded by grants from Walmart and the nonprofit SEED Spot, aims to be the “go-to” place for Black entrepreneurs. Hackett is also the creator of #BlackDollarNC last year – an online “rolodex” of more than 400 black-owned or operated businesses across the state – and the Black Friday Market in downtown Raleigh. It provides a storefront for dozens of Black-owned retailers.

Juneteenth festivals across Triangle spotlight Black entrepreneurs, community coming together

Indeed, Black entrepreneurship is on the rise. The number of Black business owners grew 40 percent from pre-pandemic figures, reaching 1.5 million by August 2021.

WRAL TechWire’s Chantal Allam recently had the chance to speak with Hackett to get an update on all these projects. Here’s what he had to say:

  • First off, you’re hosting the Juneteenth Shoppers’ Block Festival this weekend. Tell us about that, and what we should expect.

Hackett: Juneteenth makes for a busy weekend for us. We kick off our 2nd Annual 3-Month Shopper’s Block Series on Saturday with the first festival taking place at the corner of Blount and Cabarrus Street. These events were very well attended last year, and we’re looking for that again because our main goal is to make sure our small business vendors do well at these events. On Sunday, June 19, we’ve collaborated with NC Courage and North Carolina FC to hold a Juneteenth Festival right before the Courage take on the Houston Dash. Our very own Jae Flagler (chief operations officer for Black Friday Market) will be singing the National Anthem! We’d like to invite everyone to come out to these events to continue to support our local business owners and our own women’s soccer team.

  • Let’s now backtrack a bit. You launched The Factory in April. Talk us through the launch, and why you saw a need in the community to set up an entrepreneurial hub specifically catering to Black entrepreneurs.

Hackett: The Factory is Raleigh’s first co-operating space where business owners can access and utilize shared equipment to manufacture their products. The 9,000-plus square foot facility offers heat press machines for clothing, bags and accessories, hats and cups / mugs, as well as a laser engraving machine, electric heaters (for health and beauty, candle making), high-definition printers for art and photography, and a photography / videography studio. The multi-floor facility also has enough space to meet and collaborate with other business owners, as well as host any event. African American business owners need a place to physically create their products, to meet, and to have a base in operations that allows each owner to establish the appropriate headquarters for their business.

  • What differentiates The Factory to other coworking spaces like RaleighFounded and American Underground?

Hackett: RaleighFounded and American Understand are each great spaces and unique in their own right. The Factory differs because of the equipment on hand and what is included in our memberships. We do not offer dedicated space like other coworking spaces. However, our space dedicated for equipment use has been viewed very positively. And our memberships are more than just access to the space or facility; we have plans that include graphic design / flyer creation for small business owners, photoshoot (head shots or branded products), advertisements across our platforms, and discount cards to Black Friday Market and others. Essentially, we want to work for our community members, and that’s where The Factory aims to be different. We currently have 22 members. We launched on April 15.

  • Before launching The Factory, you launched #BlackDollarNC last year – an online “rolodex” of more than 400 black-owned or operated businesses across the state – in 2019, and also the Black Friday Market in downtown Raleigh. How’s that going? Give us an update.

Hackett: Our directory #BlackDollarNC is doing well, continuously growing but still confined mostly to the Triangle Area. I would like to see more growth in Charlotte, then back east to cover more areas in the Triad. However, that growth is something we have not been able to realize just yet. The store, Black Friday Market, has taken up a lot of that travel time needed. The focus on Raleigh and Durham has also been a plus because Black Friday Market is doing well. We just finished up a huge re-design of the inside of the Raleigh store, and so far it’s been well-received. Our total number of business owners currently in the store is at 65, and I expect the number to be closer to 100 once the holiday Black Friday rolls around. Our Durham projects are going very well. We hope to open with at least 50 business owners in those locations.

From left: Nick Holliday, Jaden Servania, Johnny Hackett, Jorian Baucom, and Brianna Pinto.

  • The pandemic hit Black entrepreneurs hard. At the same time, a lot of new Black-owned businesses sprouted during that time. We’re also heading into some financial uncertainly with rising costs and inflation. What should Black entrepreneurs be aware of? How can the community at large help Black businesses at this time?

Hackett: Because of The Factory, when thinking about what to do with rising costs and inflation, my mind has shifted to “production” needs for small business owners. We’re thinking of ways to help them continue to produce products without having to increase prices. This is early for me, so I do not have a full answer just yet, but I started by trying to get a very intimate understanding of their production needs. Inventory needs. Materials, supplies, suppliers, etc. It varies, but there are some major groupings. Next, we’ll have to put together a plan that focuses on supporting aspects of the supply chain for retail business owners, or we’ll have to figure out a way to at least lower the cost a business owner has to pay to sell their products in various online or in-person outlets (“pay to play” costs). This is outside of the normal “support them by shopping / doing business with them.” Supporting Black, women, minority business owners should already be a norm right now.

Juneteenth festivals across Triangle spotlight Black entrepreneurs, community coming together

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