Online directory connects Coloradans to local black-owned businesses

Mention a black-owned business and BJ Joyce’s eyes light up.

The Denverite native and East High School graduate is the CEO of Black Biz Colorado, a searchable online directory of black businesses based in the state. Joyce, who now lives in Aurora, has long believed that economic empowerment is integral to helping the black community overcome the many inequalities they face.

In 2020, Joyce came across the Black Biz Colorado Facebook page and immediately saw great potential. As social justice protests swept the country following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, interest in the page increased dramatically. Joyce saw that people were looking for ways to support black businesses.

By September 2021, Joyce had become a Facebook page administrator and he helped design and launch the Black Biz Colorado website. To date, the site has registered 900 businesses across Colorado and the Facebook page has nearly 19,000 members.

“This is an opportunity for black-owned businesses to be found by the masses throughout Colorado,” he said, noting the wide variety of businesses represented by the two directories. “From engineering to telephone and communications to food service and beauty products and everything in between.”

Marlon Wells, owner of Artistic Apparel, Graphics & Signs in Aurora, said getting his business listed in the directory has helped him attract new customers.

“Historically for us as black business owners, it’s been harder to get the support we need to thrive and continue doing business,” Wells said. “There were barriers in place that black businesses had to jump through.

Gaining visibility is one of the biggest challenges facing black businesses, Joyce said. This is especially true in Colorado, which has a smaller black population than many other states. He spends most of his time encouraging people to register their business and promoting the site to potential users.

The goal, Joyce said, is to make the directory the “go-to source” for those who want to support Black-owned businesses in Colorado. “Black businesses have a great opportunity to provide products and services across a wide range of industries, so everyone can participate and get quality products and services themselves,” he said.

After nationwide protests for social justice ended, Joyce said interest in supporting black-owned businesses waned, but he was working to build momentum. “We want to make sure people understand that support is continually needed,” he said. “For example, you don’t eat just once a day and never eat again; you are constantly eating to fuel the body. This is what needs to happen in the black business community; they constantly need an influx of people buying from them, their products, their services, to maintain themselves and survive.

Calvin W. Soper