The St. Pete Catalyst and Green Book of Tampa Bay want to see your Hustle. If you’re a Black business owner, we invite you to be featured in The Hustle. It’s a great way to promote your business to consumers across Pinellas County, and it’s free. To get started, click here.
It’s been a busy few months for Josh Bean and Hillary Van Dyke.
The founders of Green Book of Tampa Bay, an online guide to Black-owned businesses, continue to see more businesses join their digital directory. They’ve received a small business grant from the Pinellas County Foundation to help them build websites for Green Book businesses that don’t have them. They’re partnering with The Deuces Live. And they’re looking to expand outside the Tampa Bay area.
“We’re not in this to get wealthy,” said Bean, who considers himself and Van Dyke “socialpreneurs” who want to innovate while supporting small businesses. “We just want to bring equity to the Black community.”
The name “Green Book” pays homage to the Negro Motorist Green Book, which provided a guide to safe places for African Americans to visit or spend money while traveling through the South in the Jim Crow era. Green Book of Tampa Bay came into existence in early 2019 when Bean and Van Dyke, educators and close friends, realized that the best way to decrease violence was to increase economic prosperity in the Black community. By shining a spotlight on Black-owned businesses and encouraging people to put their “green into Black,” Bean and Van Dyke hope to start seeing positive changes.
At first, the site mainly focused on restaurants, but now has expanded to include everything from website design to chiropractic care. It’s easy for businesses to add themselves to the directory, which is searchable by name, location and service category.
In addition to the directory, Bean and Van Dyke have been doing promotions with the businesses they feature. They recently co-hosted a “cash mob,” where people assemble at a local business to make purchases, with a fitness studio in Wesley Chapel. They plan to do more of these events in the future to help drive traffic to their businesses.
The feedback they’ve received has been “overwhelmingly positive,” Van Dyke said, and is even starting to foster collaboration between businesses. They frequently hear consumers tell them that if it weren’t for Green Book, they would never have found their favorite new restaurant or the event hall to host their wedding.
While online traffic has increased since the tragic death of George Floyd in late May, Bean and Van Dyke stress they aren’t trying to capitalize on the moment. They’re simply thankful they have a platform available to help support Black-owned businesses, especially now.
“It all came together at the right time,” Bean said.