Podium and the Utah Black Chamber announced a partnership Wednesday to create Utah’s first directory intended to find and connect consumers with local Black-owned businesses.
Utah-native James Jackson founded the Utah Black Chamber of Commerce in September of 2009 with no experience owning and operating a nonprofit or business at the time. New to the business world but willing to learn, Jackson launched the Utah Black Chamber to help build Black-owned businesses across the state.
“This is my home, this is my passion,” he said. “I never expected it to grow as big as it is right now.”
Over the years, Jackson has worked to bring in business mentors and dynamic leaders with substantial experience to offer guidance to Black entrepreneurs in Utah.
The Utah Black Chamber has supported minority-owned businesses for over 10 years through education and increasing accessibility to resources.
Now, Jackson said he has shifted his focus to put more energy into increasing visibility of Black-owned businesses and Black professionals.
“As a chamber, our goal is to build Black-owned businesses, but in order to support these businesses, you first have to find them,” he said.
The chamber announced its partnership with Podium, a Lehi-based company that connects businesses with customers through a multitool suite, to create an all-encompassing directory for Black-owned businesses that connects consumers with businesses and professionals.
The new site, utahblackpages.com, went live Wednesday and includes as many Black-owned businesses and professionals as the Utah Black Chamber could find, whether they are a member of the chamber or not.
The idea of a directory had been on Jackson’s mind for some time, he said, but the Utah Black Chamber didn’t have the resources — mainly the bandwidth — to make such an ambitious concept a reality.
Entering into a partnership with Podium allowed the chamber to not only have the resources for a directory of their members but rather an all-encompassing directory of every Black-owned business and Black professional in the state.
Podium CEO Eric Rea said the Utah Valley company had used the past two months to reflect on how they could make a difference in the name of equality and opportunity for local communities.
The company’s Black, Indigenous and People of Color Employee Resource group, which already had a relationship with the Utah Black Chamber of Commerce, suggested creating a user-friendly database for Utah residents to find and support Black businesses and professionals.
“This is the kind of thing that helps build the kind of community we all want to live in, one that is inclusive and supportive of everyone in it,” Rea said in a statement. “We have a unique opportunity in this window of time to make real change. In order to make that happen, it is going to take all of us finding an area we can own and lift.”
Podium was more than happy to lend its resources to the Utah Black Chamber in an effort to amplify Black voices, strengthen local Black-owned businesses and continue economic development for Utah residents, he said.
Black-owned businesses, in many instances, serve as the foundation of healthy and diverse communities, Rea said, and it is imperative that Utah residents continue to actively support these businesses.
“In order for everyone to feel comfortable and at home in Utah, this part of the local economy needs to be supported,” Rea said. “More than that, providing opportunities for Black entrepreneurs helps contribute to the closing of the wealth-gap and provide more equitable opportunities for prosperity.”
While there has been a meaningful amount of support, Jackson said even in its infancy, the site has received significant criticism. When the website was launched, several people attacked the chamber for being racist and segregating business owners.
Jackson said the directory is in no way meant as a malicious attack on other business owners.
“We haven’t had the same opportunities as the majority has had since the beginning of this nation, and because of that, we have had to create programs in order to continuously elevate to an equitable level, and we’re still not there,” he said. “Black Pages is about, not so much as segregating, but mores integrate us into the communities so we can have the same representation, visibility and resources as the rest of the community has.”
Dozens of businesses are already available on the Utah Black Pages. If any businesses have been missed, the owners can request to be added to the directory online.