Online directory connects Coloradans with local black-owned businesses.

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Mention a black-owned business and BJ Joyce’s eyes light up.

The Denver native and East High School graduate is CEO of Black Biz Colorado, a searchable online directory of black businesses based in the state. Joyce, who now lives in Aurora, has long believed that economic empowerment is an integral part of helping the black community overcome the many injustices it faces.

In the year In 2020, Joyce stumbled upon the Black Biz Colorado Facebook page and immediately saw great potential. As social justice protests erupted across the country following the killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, interest in the page increased dramatically. Joyce saw that people were looking for ways to support black businesses.

In September 2021, Joyce became the Facebook page administrator, and helped design and launch the Black Biz Colorado website. To date, the site has listed 900 businesses in Colorado, and its Facebook page has nearly 19,000 members.

“This is an opportunity for black-owned businesses to be more visible in Colorado,” he said, referring to the variety of businesses represented in both directories. “From engineering to telephone and communications to food service and beauty supplies and everything in between.”

Marlon Wells, owner of Artistic Apparel, Graphics and Signs in Aurora, said listing his company in the directory has helped attract new customers.

“Historically for us as black business owners, it’s been harder to get the support and keep the business going,” Wells said. “There were obstacles for black businesses to run into.”

Gaining exposure is one of the challenges black businesses face, Joyce said. This is especially true in Colorado, which has a smaller black population than many other states. He spends most of his time encouraging people to register their business and promoting the site to users.

Joyce said the goal is to grow the directory into a “go-to resource” for those looking to support black-owned businesses in Colorado. “Black businesses have a great opportunity to provide products and services in a variety of industries so that any and all can participate and have access to quality products and services,” he said.

After the death of social justice protests nationwide, Joyce said interest in supporting black-owned businesses has waned, but he’s working to regain momentum. “We want people to understand that the support is still important,” he said. “For example, you don’t eat just once a day and never eat again. They eat continuously to keep the body warm. This is how it should be in the black business community; They need more people to buy from them, their products, their services to sustain and survive.

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