Green Book of Tampa Bay grant builds free websites for area Black-owned businesses

GBTB founders Joshua Bean and Hillary Van Dyke

BY J.A. JONES, Staff Writer

TAMPA BAY – Green Book of Tampa Bay (GBTB) is an online resource that offers its readers information on Black-owned businesses, entrepreneurs and cultural experiences.

Recently, GBTB has expanded its goal of “Helping you put your green into Black” by enabling more businesses to promote themselves through their own website – for free.

Through a $25,000 grant from the Pinellas Community Foundation’s Venture Philanthropy Fund (VPF), GBTB is on track to have completed 30 free websites for Black-owned businesses by the end of the year.

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Recent data points out that having a web presence is more vital than ever. Surveys reveal that 55 percent of people state they will search online for reviews and recommendations to help them find outlets and make purchases. Nearly half of those reviewed will visit the company’s website before purchasing.

But according to reports, 35 percent of small businesses feel they are too small to have a website and opt not to have one. Just over a quarter of small businesses without a website list cost as the key reason for choosing to function without one.

GBTB founders Hillary Van Dyke and Joshua Bean decided this was an area they wanted to help bridge the gap. They were able to secure the VPF grant through a partnership with the nonprofit Deuces Live, Inc., a certified Florida Main Street organization. With the primary goal of encouraging the revitalization of the historic Black business district on 22nd Street South, Deuces Live director Veatrice Farrell supported the project, with Deuces Live acting as the grant’s fiscal sponsor.

“In March, we rebooted our website, and in the process of moving the information over to the new directory, we saw a lot of businesses did not have a website,” Van Dyke shared.  “We decided to apply for a grant to help business owners get a website, and with that money, we were able to pair business owners with Black web developers who created their sites.”

Van Dyke said that in some cases, owners were paired with graphic designers to create logos for their business or photographers to supply photos for their new sites.

Noting that statistics reveal that 30 percent of people would rather return to a website they’ve purchased from in the past, Van Dyke added, “I would say that if we can help have that sort of an impact on people’s businesses, then we feel successful.”

She also acknowledged that the project offered GBTB valuable lessons in grant management and keeping themselves and their grantee businesses on schedule and meeting deadlines.

“The first few sites moved along slowly, but the projects move much quicker now,” she offered.

Van Dyke said the organization hopes to continue providing websites for Black-owned businesses.

“We hope to get a grant that will allow us to provide tech support so that these sites stay functional for three years.”

To reach J.A. Jones, email jjones@theweeklychallenger.com

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