When Kyley Coleman started an Instagram page at the end of May to promote Pittsburgh’s Black-owned businesses, she thought she might collect a few thousand followers. But a little more than a month later, her curated posts on @BlackOwned.PGH reach 14,000 Instagram users.
She said the page was created to connect people who want to support Black-owned businesses with the businesses themselves.
“A lot of people want to support Black businesses but don’t know where to find them or how to find them,” she said.
Coleman said she has had to take some time off from her day job as an Amazon shopper for Whole Foods in order to manage the account and plan a pop-up market for Blackout Day at The Shop in Homewood. The national social media campaign asks people to only spend money at Black-owned businesses July 7.
But with spiking COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County, gatherings of more than 25 people have been banned and Coleman decided to postpone the event.
But she said she's still encouraging people to patronize the businesses who had planned on participating; she'll post a list of them on Tuesday.
“Just because we’re not having that big event doesn’t mean that these businesses aren’t there,” said Zuly Inirio, a local voice coach. “We’re still here.”
Inirio was previously the soprano soloist for the Verdi Requiem in Munich, Germany at Allerheiligenkirche under the baton of Massimiliano Murrali. She moved to Swissvale in January after her husband got a job with the University of Pittsburgh, and started offering voice lessons from her home. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit and she had to reimagine voice lessons with video calls.
Several new students came to Inirio from her feature on Coleman’s page. She said it’s also grown the following her personal page has and created a Pittsburgh community for the opera singer.
“For someone like me who just got here … It really did give me a boost,” she said.
“BlackOwnedPGH has given exposure to small Black-owned businesses that your everyday consumer might not expect to be Black-owned,” said Brett Gilliam, owner of Live Fresh Juicery in Homestead. His business serves fresh cold-pressed juices, smoothies and açaí bowls.
“For us, this exposure has come at the perfect time, as we just celebrated our one year anniversary,” he said.
India Staton is the owner of Crowned by Reign, a company that sells lace-front wigs and hair bundles. In the time since her business was featured on BlackOwned.PGH, she noticed an uptick in web traffic.
“I’ll get more views on my website,” she said. “I’ll notice more people clicking on the links and checking out the different stuff that I provide.”
Coleman is a 19-year-old University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg student studying Biology and Psychology, but she said this experience might have inspired her to study marketing.
“I think the Instagram page has actually helped me discover my ‘Why?’ in life,” she said. “I think my purpose is to help Black businesses across the nation.”
The market event will take place eventually, according to Coleman. But until more people can gather in person, she said she’ll stick to encouraging people online to use the power of their wallets to support these businesses. A rescheduled date is forthcoming.