Blapp: This app will help you find Black-owned businesses across the United States

BY Preta Peace Namasaba February 19, 2024 6:50 AM EDT

According to McKinsey, the collective economic power of Black people is set to reach $1.7 trillion by 2030, nearly doubling from an estimated $910 billion before the pandemic. Economic empowerment means stronger Black communities with more lucrative job opportunities and thriving commerce. However Black customers and entrepreneurs still struggle with consumer deserts and limited access to funding, respectively.

However, New York-based comedian Jon Laster has come up with a solution to grow the Black dollar. With over 60,000 diverse businesses, his app Blapp helps find and promote Black-owned businesses. It allows Black merchants ranging from florists, moving companies, lawyers, plumbers, doctors, and mechanics to accountants to directly sell products on the platform. The majority of the current business listings are brick-and-mortar stores with a growing number of online-only businesses.

“We essentially have the most accurate database in the world of Black-owned businesses and I think we’re one of the only geo-located apps that’ll also tell you where they are according to wherever you may be in the world,” Laster said about the capabilities of Blapp.

Blapp operates through its web-scraping technology to provide a consolidated and current repository of information from across the internet. The information is then filtered in the app and organized into categories for easier navigation. Its optimized search engine then allows shoppers to find Black-owned businesses both locally and online.

Laster plans on expanding the variety of listings to include podcasts, fitness classes, and entertainment and to make the Blapp more travel-friendly. With Blapp, the intention to support Black-owned businesses can be actualized anywhere. Over 75000 people have used the platform in the year it has been promoted.

Blapp was born out of frustration. Laster was marching in the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 when he decided to do something that would have a wider impact on the Black community. As a comedian traveling from gig to gig, he was always looking for Black businesses to support. The pandemic made this endeavor harder and Laster decided it was time to take things to the next step.

“I did all of the marching and things like that, but while I was out on Eastern Parkway marching it dawned on me that marching isn’t always sustainable. I’m not knocking people for marching because it does do a good job of highlighting a problem, but I just knew I wanted to do more,” Laster said about what inspired him to create Blapp.

He went back to his college education in economics, with a specific focus on poverty and realized that many of the problems that Black people face are due to a lack of money. He reached out to a friend with ties to Silicon Valley who connected him to a software engineer. Within a month, Laster had secured at least $100,000 in seed funding. He then teamed up with the successful development firm Toptal to build the product.

Laster has personally used the app to find Black-owned businesses across the United States. He is proud of Blapp and looks forward to a time when it is vital in the decision-making of the majority of the populace.

“My goal for the future of Blapp is that it will be part of the thought process of the consumer. If people consider checking Blapp in the future, then Black-owned businesses will do better than ever before in the history of this country,” Laster said.