‘There’s an App for That’

Connect2Black app brings tourists and local businesses together

Illustration by Tony Healey

Jennifer Gibson Schecter was once a tourist in New Orleans herself and is now proud to call NOLA home. She also writes the Wednesday Tourism Blog on BizNewOrleans.com.


 

One of the biggest challenges travelers can face is gaining access to information. Sure, Google is a verb and in the palm of nearly everyone’s hands, but real-time, location-specific information can still be a struggle, especially when trying to find local businesses at an unfamiliar destination.

New Orleans publisher, marketer and entrepreneur Lawrence Martin saw this need and created a new smartphone app called Connect2Black. The app is a multiplatform resource for tourists, particularly those looking to support black-owned businesses while visiting New Orleans.

The app is far from Martin’s first venture. He publishes Boulevard Magazine, a quarterly publication that covers issues impacting African American residents in the New Orleans region, and founded NOLA.TV, an internet-based news network that tells the story of the African American community. To recognize the contributions of African American New Orleanians, he also created the Asante Foundation, which has been honoring community members since 2008.

The Connect2Black app launched in the New Orleans market with eight primary business categories. Beyond the tourist attractions, restaurants and nightclubs, the app was designed to meet the variety of services a traveler may need — from hair services to church services. The app is currently being redeveloped for growth.

“Categories are going to be comprehensive and include everything under the sun,” said Martin. “A platform that can have millions of names and listings is just a matter of how robust we build up and build out.”

Martin says the app is also being redeveloped to create a holistic interaction for the user. Capabilities such as video and push notifications, and the ability to connect to social media and geofencing are being fine-tuned. Beyond improvements to the technology itself, Martin is also looking to scale beyond the New Orleans tourism market.

“Connect2Black’s primary goal is to have a national and international presence,” he said. “That’s what we’re shooting for. Out of 23 major tourist destinations for African Americans, 12 to 13 of them are in the South, and regardless of the destination, those travelers are having the same problem. In nine to 18 months, we’ll scale beyond New Orleans.

“Everyone has an appreciation of their own community,” he added. “The African American community has the same problem with not being able to find where those businesses are. We seek to be successful in New Orleans and the southern region, but also to cater to all of those national and international destinations.”

Connect2Black is also a tool for business-to-business (B2B) transactions. Martin said many of the app’s users are conventioneers — such as with the Urban League or National Conference of Black Lawyers — who are looking to procure black business services or products in a B2B exchange for conventions and events geared toward African American participants.

To reach those businesses, Connect2Black is using several marketing strategies. Martin is contacting the leadership of several national organizations and asking them to promote Connect2Black to their thousands of members. He is also working with social media influencers to get the app in front of their audiences and noted he has a robust marketing budget that will include traditional media buys in television, radio, bus signs and billboards.

“I’m happy and thrilled and excited about seeing this happen for the African American community,” said Martin. “We have an opportunity to put value on our own experiences and our own companies. It will also provide a comprehensive data resource for African American businesses.”

Martin cites data that the consumer dollar only stays in the black community for six hours, and sees a vast disparity between the dollar retention in the African American business community and other communities.

“Success will look like that dollar being retained in our community for even one day longer,” said Martin. “A major goal is to create generational wealth within the African American community so businesses can sustain themselves.”

Connect2Black is free for businesses to create a listing, and free for users to download. Apple, Android and Windows support the app and it can be downloaded at connect2black.com.

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