Friends support black business owners on Instagram

Jasmine Hudson and J’Aaron Merchant run the Black Owned NWA Instagram and Facebook pages. Photo courtesy of Jenn Terrell

An Instagram account spotlighting black business owners in NWA has taken off in recent years.

What is happening: Jasmine (Jazz) Hudson and J’Aaron (Jae) Merchant launched Black-Owned NWA on Instagram and Black Business Directory of Northwest Arkansas on Facebook in March 2019.

  • Over 11,000 people now follow the Instagram account, with about half as many followers on Facebook.

Driving the news: Black-owned businesses have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. One study reports that this is “in part because they were more likely to already be in a precarious position” and were more likely to be located in communities with poor business outcomes.

  • Black-owned businesses in the United States are estimated to have declined by 41% between February and April 2020, at the very start of the pandemic.

Fund: The duo, who have been friends since 2013, started collaborating on an Instagram account — @jazzyjaenwa — in 2018 featuring food, art and fun.

  • Followers started messaging them for information about black-owned businesses, Hudson told Axios.
  • Because there was no comprehensive roster and few resources, they launched the black-owned NWA.

What they say : The accounts gave black business owners in the region more exposure and helped them network, Hudson said.

  • Anecdotally, there is more visibility and connectivity between black homeowners and entrepreneurial lenders, like Kiva NWA or the FORGE Community Loan Fund, she told Axios.

Yes and: Hudson and Merchant are hosting the third annual Black-Owned Business Expo on Feb. 26 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will take place at the Apollo on Emma in Springdale.

  • It is free and open to the public and will be an opportunity for people to meet black business owners and buy products.
  • There will be music and food trucks. Hudson said it would be a “mini market party.”

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