Tampa Bay area nonprofit aims to give Black-owned businesses a boost

Green Book of Tampa Bay founders Joshua Bean and Hillary Van Dyke

In May, the death of George Floyd sparked protests across the country as racial disparity in America came into a renewed focus.

Along with the Black Lives Matter movement, a greater emphasis on supporting Black communities has taken hold throughout the nation.

But one nonprofit was already working to promote Black-owned business in Tampa Bay.

Green Book of Tampa Bay, an online directory of Black-owned businesses, was launched in March 2019.

Creators Joshua Bean and Hillary Van Dyke, who consider themselves “social-preneurs” are Tampa Bay educators who wanted to highlight Black businesses throughout the area.

“We serve as an online director for Black-owned businesses, cultural sites, artists and nonprofits,” said Bean, who works as a social worker with the Pinellas County School District.

“This isn’t a white savior thing,” Bean stressed. “It’s a way to help people support Black-owned business. This is an easy way to identify and support these businesses.”

We are looking for a way to create equity in spending,” Van Dyke said.

The website allows Black business owners to create a listing, which includes an image gallery and social media tags. There are three price tiers from which to choose, including the free, basic and premium.

When Green Book Tampa Bay was first launched, it had about 200 businesses listed, said Van Dyke.

Within the last few months, that number has doubled.

Earlier this year, Bean and Van Dyke partnered with In this Together, a comprehensive system of support for the Black community, which has suffered devastating effects due to COVID-19.

Green Book Tampa Bay’s social media presence increased dramatically, jumping from 500 Instagram followers to 4,000.

After the death of Floyd, Van Dyke said the website blew up.

“There were a lot of racial awakenings happening,” she said.

Bean and VanDyke, who run the website by themselves, are hoping to expand their brand, and move into Manatee, Sarasota and Pasco counties.

Van Dyke said the reaction from the Black community has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We’ve received very little negative feedback. Business owners are collaborating, and reaching out to one another,” she said. “It’s been great.”