Silicon Onyx is our new column featuring stories about New York City’s black technology community.
hen I walked into Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse at Grand Central station, Janine Hausif and Eric Hamilton, co-founders of Around the Way app were waiting patiently for me by the bar, engaged in a warm conversation about their most recent technological creation. They smiled enthusiastically as I approached, then pointed out to me a red dot on what appeared to be a Google map. “We’re here!” Hamilton shared excitedly, letting me know that they had decided to meet with me at a location that they had found using their app.
Around the Way is a mobile app that helps connects black-owned businesses with African-American consumers. The only app of its kind, Around the Way aims to empower the black community by encouraging African-American shoppers to support their own people. With 17,000 current listings and counting of black-owned businesses from Brooklyn to Anchorage, Around the Way revolutionizes the idea of economic unity and the age-old concept of
umoja ujamaa, or cooperative economics. The app is expected to hard launch for both iPhone and Android users by January or February 2013, just in time for Black History Month. But a beta version of it is already available and has been downloaded by 1,000 people since November 6, when they launched it in the iPhone app market.
In an interview for Dominion of New York, I sat down with the co-founders to find out more about their service.
DoNY: How did you get the idea to create Around the Way?
Janine Hausif: When I was younger, I told my mother when I have a wedding I wanted everything to be black-owned. I have always had this thing about ‘community’ and that stuck with me for years. In 2010, I was walking past a store Crown Heights and it had “black-owned business” on it in large orange letters on the window. I was intrigued by it and thought that I wouldn’t normally shop there but now that I knew it was black-owned I would probably come back and support. I got the idea to sell decals to black-owned business so everyone that walked down the street would know they were black-owned and support them. Then I thought, if everyone has a sticker, how will they be able to find the next place with a sticker? I turned the decal idea into an online directory for a stint and then fast forward to the app. It finds your location and the black owned business around you.
DoNY: You decided to get rid of the online directory?
Hausif: Yes. The online directory was an antiquated idea. Everyone uses search engines now and no one uses directories anymore. It’s so old-fashioned. Directories were more useful when people actually used the Yellow Pages.
DoNY: How do you know people are going to use this app?
Eric Hamilton: It goes above and beyond being a little app. It’s really about empowering black business. If you think about other ethnicities and cultures, they’ve been doing this for thousands of years. We were at one point and time doing the same thing in this country up until the time of civil rights. But subsequently, after the 60s, we