Feb 11, 2022 - Business

Friends bolster Black business owners on Instagram

Jasmine Hudson and J'Aaron Merchant run the Black Owned NWA Instagram and Facebook pages. Courtesy photo: Jenn Terrell
Jasmine Hudson and J'Aaron Merchant run the Black Owned NWA Instagram and Facebook pages. Photo courtesy of Jenn Terrell

An Instagram account spotlighting NWA's Black business owners has taken off in recent years.

What's happening: Jasmine (Jazz) Hudson and J'Aaron (Jae) Merchant started Black-Owned NWA on Instagram and Black Business Directory of Northwest Arkansas on Facebook in March 2019.

  • More than 11,000 people now follow the Instagram account, with about half as many followers on Facebook.

Driving the news: Black-owned businesses have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. One study reports that's "partly because they were more likely to already be in a precarious position," and they were more likely to be located in communities with poor business outcomes.

  • It's estimated that Black-owned businesses in the U.S. decreased by 41% between February and April of 2020, the very beginning of the pandemic.

Background: The duo, who've been friends since 2013, began collaborating on an Instagram account — @jazzyjaenwa — in 2018 featuring food, art and fun.

  • Followers began to message them for info on Black-owned businesses, Hudson told Axios.
  • Because there was no comprehensive list and few resources, they launched Black-Owned NWA.

What they're saying: The accounts have given Black business owners in the area more visibility and helped them network with one another, Hudson said.

  • Anecdotally, there's more visibility and connectivity between Black owners and entrepreneurial lenders, like Kiva NWA or the FORGE Community Loan Fund, she told Axios.

Yes, and: Hudson and Merchant are hosting the third annual Black-Owned Business Expo on Feb. 26 from 11am–4pm. It will be held at the Apollo on Emma in Springdale.

  • It's free and open to the public and will be an opportunity for people to meet Black business owners and buy products.
  • There will be music and food trucks. Hudson said it will be a "market slash mini-party."
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