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A cashback website for Black-owned businesses. Why don’t we call it CashBLACK?

In September 2023, we held the first ever Hustle+Heels business festival - HustleFest! One exciting part of HustleFest was the Live Pitch Battle, where business owners had the chance to share their start up stories and pitch in front of Dragons' Den investment winners, March Muses, the BBC's The Apprentice runner up, Rochelle Anthony and a live audience. The pitch battle runner up, Matthew Addai, shares why he created a cashback app for Black-owned businesses in this blog below.

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Cashblack - out of adversity, the brand was born (4 min read)


While much of the world spent the summer of 2020 learning about how racism exists and how racism is bad, I had already spent the previous 18 months on a sabbatical teaching myself about how this – and many other sociological issues – have shaped the world in which we live. I was on a break from my last job as a senior trader at a hedge fund to go on a journey of self-discovery and autodidacticism to find something entrepreneurial to pursue and to give myself a better understanding of how the world works. But halfway through 2020 with the global pandemic, global recession, and a global anti-racism movement, I felt like we all developed a better understanding of “how the world works”. This was especially true for me with regard to racism and its socioeconomic impact on the 2 million Black people in the United Kingdom. And how their issues directly correlate with those of the Black-owned businesses in this country who contribute over £25 billion a year to the British economy. One of the most startling statistics I discovered was that the 2 million Black people in the UK have a spending power of over £300 billion pounds. But I wondered to myself, “How much of that is going to Black-owned businesses?”.


I already knew from personal experience that it wasn’t always cost-effective to shop with them or they’re difficult to find. Plus, the research I had undertaken had shown me that these businesses felt underrepresented and disconnected from consumers due to various structural barriers. So my two co-founders (or “brothers” as our mum likes to call us) and I concluded that the best way to fix these issues would be to create a way to incentivise patronage in Black-owned businesses by having the Black-owned businesses re-invest back into the patrons.


“How about a cashback website?” We thought.


“A cashback website for Black-owned businesses. Why don’t we call it Cashblack?”


A name that cool (if I do say so myself) had to be trademarked immediately. Then, with the business registered and the exorbitantly expensive domain name purchased, we got to work on building our project. Pretty soon, we realised that this wasn’t a simple Shopify e-commerce website, so we went from us, as Development Team 1, to a white label cashback solution for Development Team 2. After a few months of testing a half-finished product, the radio silence from Development Team 2 was deafening, so we took up the chance to work with Development Team 3 - a friend of a friend - who claimed they could build the project from scratch for us.


A set of life savings later, the product eventually delivered to us by this friend of a friend was so bad that I was now minus one set of life savings and one friend. So, with the benefit of a grant win and Start-Up loan that resulted in a new set of life savings, we went for a fully custom-built solution with Development Team 4. Our website, mobile apps, and



what would become our Cashblack A.F.R.O.B.O.T – our “Algorithm For Redirection Of Black-Owned Traffic”. In essence, an AI-powered browser extension that intuitively redirects you from your usual big-name brand retailers to our Black-owned retail partners for similar goods and services for you to earn cashback on your purchases. Everything with Development Team 4 was going so well that when requested, as a favour, we paid for the total amount owed ahead of schedule, despite the work not being complete.


As you can probably surmise from the pattern thus far, a few months beyond this, after a period of radio silence had ensued, we were told that they had “run out of resources” and would be “handing over our project” so it could be completed by associates of theirs who would become Development Team 5. What was supposed to be a 2-month “finishing off” project for Development Team 5 has, from October 2022 to October 2023, taken a year. In that time, and from even before then, we’ve had to build up relationships with Black-owned businesses at events around the country, meet various multinational brands such as Amazon, Just Eat, and Etsy to secure strategic partnerships, complete various accelerator and incubator programmes, and just maintain our sanity as we grew to discover that entrepreneurship is infinitely harder than all the disclaimers claim it to be.



All this being said, after 3 years, 1 month, and 29 days since we actually registered the business, we were finally able to launch on the 1st day of Black History Month 2023:


Cashblack – our platform that rewards members with cashback when they shop online with Black-owned businesses and Afrofiliate – our affiliate network that connects Black-owned businesses with content creators, media houses, and enables retailers to convert their loyal customers into economically incentivised brand ambassadors.



Most of this might read as the usual occupational hazards of a tech founder. This is intentional because anything deeper and more personal than surface-level satirical musings on company formation would be as uncomfortable to read as it would be for me to share. So blogging about getting screwed over by developers and losing multiple sets of total net worth is almost cathartic relative to talking about the actual real-life nightmare we’ve had to endure to live out our entrepreneurial dream of paying people to support Black people.


And that’s very much where we are now. Now that we’ve launched, no more collecting plaudits on how hard we’ve worked, how much we’ve spent to get here, how many miles across the country we’ve travelled, how many Black-owned business leaders’ hands we’ve shaken, or how many people we’ve blown away with our pitch or demo of our product. The past 3 years are now, somewhat, immaterial. We’ve very much done our bit for the people and now, it’s up to the people to keep that same energy that we’ve kept from 2020. Incentivising community patronage in Black-owned businesses by having the Black-owned businesses re-invest back into the community.



 


Thanks to Matthew for sharing his business journey with us. You can also catch Jen and Matthew's IG Live session replay below 🎥✨








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