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Mandy Bowman is the Founder and CEO of Official Black Wall Street, a digital platform and app that helps connect consumers with Black-owned businesses.
Bowman was recently recognized as PayPal Maggie Lena Walker Award Winner named in honor of the first Black woman to charter a bank and serve as its president. The award celebrates the achievements of women from underrepresented groups in the U.S. who are economically empowering those in their community and creating a more inclusive world.
She was also chosen to present her business pitch to a panel of celebrity entrepreneur judges on BET’s series ‘Queen Boss.’
The Black Wall Street Times spoke with Bowman to find out what’s in store at the Official Black Wall Street (OBWS).
Through OBWS, Bowman has helped steer $1.7 million into Black-owned businesses and according to her — they’re just getting started. “We just relaunched this year, and it’s been a work in progress for a long time but so I’m happy for it to be out,” she said.
During her professional career Mandy has worked in social media and digital marketing at Atlantic Records, Complex Magazine, and Essence Magazine. She had the idea for OBWS in 2014 and has since watched it blossom to “where I’m doing this full time and there’s so much more I want to do with OBWS.”
While admittedly not a born-techie, Bowman analogizes developing the app as a rollercoaster ride. “It’s been very rewarding, but very challenging. It’s probably the most insane thing I’ve ever decided to do.”
As a former entrepreneur college major, she has pragmatic advice for up-and-coming business owners, saying, “take it one step at a time.” Bowman added, “when I started out I didn’t say ‘I’m going to create a tech company’ being a non-tech person, but I wanted to create a resource so I found a name, a domain, a trademark, compiled a list of businesses to highlight, etc. It makes it less nerve-racking when you break things down into actionable steps.”
Inspired by the legacy of the Greenwood District, Bowman remembers, “I read a book called ‘Riot and Remembrance’ about the Tulsa Race Massacre. I was in my early twenties at the time and it really inspired me. I’ve wanted to be an entrepreneur since I was in middle school so reading about their neighborhood of entrepreneurs who looked like me was a source of inspiration.”
Whether watching Atlanta and listening to Ari Lennox, Brooklyn born Bowman is firmly rooted in the culture and gives back to those equally invested in our collective elevation. “I’ve always been into having social impact. It feels good to do good things for people. When I talk to business owners on the platform and talk with business owners that are excited about what comes with the app, it means a lot to me.”
She continued, “For our business owners, we don’t just have a platform for people to find them, but we also provide them with different resources and opportunities to amplify their business. For example, we have a partnership with a global law firm that provide our members with free legal services which is a huge help especially to small business owners.”
In 2017 Mandy was invited to the first TED event held at an HBCU, to give a TED talk on ownership and long-term wealth in the Black community. She recalls the event, “I was terrified [about public speaking], there was a lot of doubts about whether I would be able to do it, but that opportunity led to many others so I’m glad I did it.”
Unafraid of overcoming fears and embracing new opportunities, the award-winning Bowman admits it’s never easy, but always worth it.”Being an entrepreneur is not easy by far. And it can be very lonely. Most of the time we have our head down doing the work so it’s nice to pick your head up every once in a while and get some flowers,” says Bowman.
Awardees such as Bowman will receive a cash award of up to $50,000 and access to resources and mentorship from the PayPal community to further their impact and vision along with a unique piece of artwork commissioned by PayPal for the award by Washington, DC-based artist Jamilla Okubo.