This woman has launched a discount card specifically to promote black-owned businesses
Written by Natalie Morris
First Published 30 Jan 2019
A young entrepreneur has launched a discount card that aims to help support black British businesses. Khalia Ismain launched Jamii with the goal of showcasing the very best of black-owned businesses in the UK, and encouraging customers to engage with them. It works just like a Time Out card. You sign up, buy a card for £14.95, and you get a year of discounts from a wide range of black businesses. Khalia is passionate about supporting black-owned ventures, and she hopes Jamii will prove a vital resource for promoting widespread growth and development.
Khalia has always been politically-minded. She vividly remembers the summer of 2015 when the Black Lives Matter campaign captivated the UK. But she was left wondering – what’s the next move for black activism? ‘I specifically remember in Oxford street there were massive protests, people were swinging off bus-stops – it was really powerful,’ Khalia tells Metro.co.uk. ‘But I just kept thinking, when people go home – then what? We have been fighting these issues for decades, and we’re still in a similar position, the placards still look the same. ‘I think the problem is resources. We can’t rely on black people just being angry – there has to be something more sustainable, something that can back up these arguments.’ That’s where Jamii comes in.
Khalia believes that by championing black-owned businesses, she can help create the infrastructure for real, lasting change. ‘We need organsations and businesses that are really fighting our corner, even when we don’t have the energy or the anger to do so ourselves. ‘It has to be long-lasting, and more sustainable than a singular protest or movement.’ Khalia says that traditional methods of supporting black businesses don’t work. We can’t rely on people’s sense of moral obligation – there needs to be a real incentive.
‘What normally happens when people say they want to support black businesses is that they choose a black-owned business at random, they will go there once, they may or may not have a great experience, and then that’s kind of it. ‘And when people don’t have good experiences, it just reinforces negative stereotypes and is actually really damaging. ‘What I wanted to do was create something that showcases the brilliant, positive black-owned businesses that do exist, and help people find them and engage with them. ‘The ones who are ambitious, they really care and they are doing some really amazing things. ‘I also wanted to encourage people to use them.
You can’t just rely on good intentions for people to support. ‘With Jamii, I’m trying to tap in to more self-interested motivations for people. If they know they will get a discount, they are much more likely to go back – rather than if they just feel like they should. ‘The whole point is to make it easier for people to find businesses that are black-owned, and actually worthy of your support, and then provide a real, tangible incentive.’
At just 25, Khalia already knows her way around a business. And what started as a side-hustle, now has the makings of a major money-making venture. ‘I launched Jamii in August 2016, and I was working on it mostly in the evenings and weekends, until this year when I decided to go full-time,’ explains Khalia. ‘After I left uni I got involved in start-ups, and I have always had a social conscience about the work that I do. I used to want to be Prime Minister, and I wanted to change the world, I just didn’t always know how. ‘I spent time in Kenya after I graduated, and I was working in micro-businesses there.
Jamii is actually the Swahili word for “community”, so that’s really where the inspiration for the whole concept came from.’ And when it comes to the black community, there are plenty of innovative black-owned businesses that could thrive in the right circumstances. Khalia sees Jamii as the catalyst to kick-start the growth. ‘It works online and offline, so on the website you can see all of the online discounts, and lists of where it will work in store,’ says Khalia. ‘All you have to do is create and account, buy the card and then you can start using your discounts – and your membership will last for a year.’ ‘There are beauty brands, clothing brands, hair care suppliers, street food markets – loads of different areas where your discounts will apply.
‘The end-game is to bring new, bigger brands on board. What I really want to see is businesses turning in to big businesses – I just want to see the growth, and I’m hoping that Jamii can help black-owned businesses to achieve that.’ As well as providing dscounts for consumers and helping to drive sales, Jamii will also be an invaluable tool for business owners. ‘I want to ultimately make Jamii a resource for people to help build their business – whether that’s connecting them with investors, structural tips, helping people understand the numbers,’ Khalia tells us.
‘The aim is to contribute to and help create a really successful, black entrepreneurial class. ‘There are so many reasons why it’s important to support black businesses. First of all, from a role-model perspective. ‘We need more black role models – when I was growing up I wanted to be Beyonce, basically because there was no one else.
I think it’s vital to have black role models in business, so that people can see just how many different things are open to us. ‘Also, a lot of black businesses have a strong social conscience, they want to do good for their communities – it’s not just about making money – it’s about taking profits and using them to really give back. ‘So the more that we support black businesses, the more we are really supporting ourselves.
If black businesses continue to grow then we will really feel it, and our kids will feel it and our parents will feel it.’ You can get your Jamii card on the website, and once you’re a member you will also receive newsletters with the latest deals and brands.
For more information visit https://www.lovejamii.com/