Imagine a marketplace where you can find EVERY product that is Black owned. Whether it be groceries, hair care products, apparel, and more. Well, you don't have to imagine any longer. Afrizar is that one stop market place for all Afro centric needs.
With everyone starting to shop online more, Afrizar was the perfect investment. I was intrigued by this online marketplace that I had to learn more. I recently chatted with the founder Olay Ceesay Jabbi. Check out the interview below.
Before we start talking about Afrizar, can you give the listeners and readers a brief background on who you are and where you grew up?
My name is Olay Ceesay Jabbi. I am originally from The Gambia a small country in West Africa (Kunta Kinteh (Roots) was from The Gambia)). I left Gambia after high school to come to America for College so I can say I spent most of my adult life in US. After graduating from College with a BS in Computer Science Engineering, I had work as a software QA Engineer and as a Senior IT Project Manager for Fortune 500 Companies. I am married with two girls and one boy.
What inspired you to start Afrizar?
It’s two-fold; my brother has always wanted to be an entrepreneur (he was also in IT) and we used to talk a lot about building a business that can help minority business owners. I always found a reason not to get started due to fear. In 2013, my brother Alhagie and his Friend Ebou (both U.S. citizens) decided to go back to The Gambia to start a business. They were kidnapped by the then president and his jungulars (group of soldiers assigned to president) Yaya Jammeh. For four years we didn’t know about their whereabouts. We were told they were alive.
During this time I visited DC and went to this place which is like a small African market. I realized that all the businesses where all own by non-Blacks but the products (dashikis, African fabrics) where all catered for us. This has always been the case with hair products also. I began to think that this may be an avenue that my brother and I can venture into; Help small minority business owners get their products in front of the world and be more competitive by listing their products all in one platform. However in March 2017 after the former president loss elections, we found out that they were killed within a couple of days from when they were kidnapped. I wanted to carry the dreams of my brother which we had talked about so much. I decided to put aside my fears of going into business to carry my brothers legacy.
Why is it important to have Black owned and African shops in the community?
As Black people we are the only ones that can help ourselves. Why can’t we create businesses that sells products we are using. To make sure the money stays within our communities. Why do we have to wait for someone else to control our destiny. We are smart, we are hard working, we can do it if we come together as one. Let’s solve our own problems. That is what the Afrizar platform is all about. We are woman and black owned.
What is the process like for someone to have their products listed on AFrizar?
It’s very easy to sign up. It takes less than five minutes to sign up and start listing products. Once a seller list their products we run some verification to verify identity of the seller and also to ensure the seller is a good fit. We helped the business owners with one on one guidance through the process. Whether the seller is Technology savvy or hardly uses a computer we are there every step of the way until they are completely comfortable. We have a few sellers that we even run their stores for, from listing to tracking and notifying when their products sells. All they do is just ship the products and get their money once the order is shipped.
What type of products do you guys currently carry in your store?
We currently have over 15 sellers already listing their products from Fresh African Fish, Nigerian traditionally Asooke, auto gele, African Art/Paintings(made in Senegal), Dashiki, African skirts, jewelry, Shea butter, Black soap, to real African silver bracelets (considered as form of protection), Moringa (considered as a super food. Which prevents a lot of diseases from Cancer, lowering cholesterol and diabetes). We have a new seller who will begin listing in mid-February. They sell custom necklaces with name engraved. The name is based on the name you would have had if you were born in Ghana on a certain day and if you are a male or female. Another new seller will be selling Baobab powder from Gambia which also has numerous health benefits. There are so many natural healthy organic food products only found in Africa. Many of them has a lot of health benefits and are now just being known by many western doctors but have been used in Africa for centuries. The Afrizar platform will be helping a lot of the sellers in Africa list these products for a wider audience.
Our goal is to make Afrizar the go to platform for any type of African products or products that we as black people uses. We are not just any platform but we help sellers (esp those that are not Technically savvy) through the process with listing their products, providing one on one personalized help until they are completely comfortable. We want to build a community. A percent of all profits will go to Victims of human rights abuse in different parts of Africa; in loving memory of my brother ❤️
What is your advice for young, Black entrepreneurs?
Don’t let your fears overcome your passion or dream. It’s all about perseverance. Don’t think that most of the success stories you read or hear about happens overnight. It probably took years. Try to find a support system as you will need it. Most of the businesses you are trying to get into, there is probably someone that has done something similar even if not the exact same idea. Try to find such people for guidance/mentor.
With more and more Black market places entreating into Cyber Space so you feel like it can be a start to rebuild ‘Black Wall Street’?
Absolutely, now with all the social media, I think we can control our destiny. We don’t have to wait for mainstream media or have a lot of money to build a business that benefits us. We can build a revolution! Let’s sell the products we use and need! Let’s control our destinies. Let us support each other and ensure all the great organic products from Africa continue to come from Africa. So history doesn’t repeat itself.
Sign up to be a seller on Afrizar or purchase something to help empower and support black business owners.