Directory highlights black-owned companies

The endorsement of prominent figures like presidential candidate Barack Obama and talk show host Tavis Smily boosted the popularity of the Black Pages, a directory of black businesses in the black community.

Black Pages provides access to over 70,000 black businesses, malls, organizations, associations and churches.

The directory’s roots began in Mississippi over 30 years ago, when a local entrepreneur decided to catalog all the black businesses in the local area into a compact directory.

This idea was repeated in Atlanta, Chicago, the Caribbean Islands and some parts of Canada. All of these directories were locally based.

Aaron Rollins, founder of the Black Pages, came up with the concept to make a global black business directory that was not limited to a local community 10 years ago. The concept has already been featured in papers across the country.

The directory got its start with; a “black myspace,” said James Menefer, national sales director for Black Pages.

The Web site is an online community that allows black businesses to communicate and network with the black community.

“The idea was so obvious I’m surprised that no one tried it before,” Rollins said. “The most probable reasoning behind its late arrival is the lack of communication between black businesses.”

Rollins expects that the income of the directory will be in the trillions in a few years.

Rollins said the numbers are great, but only four percent of the income will be profited back to the black community due to expenses and fees, which include exposure, distribution and advertising.

“It is up to the black community itself to support the businesses within the directory in order for its purpose to be realized. Keeping money between black businesses and black consumers,” Menefer said.

Rollins said the directory should help these businesses develop.

“There are anywhere from 3 to 4 million black businesses in America that have [the] potential to become huge franchises that are struggling because of the lack of exposure that they have,” Rollins said.

The Black Pages are also easier for smaller, struggling businesses to afford. The average rate for an entire page in a major business directory ranges from $60,000 to $100,000.

An entire advertising page in the Black Pages is only roughly $12,000.

“This is my first advertisement in a directory and I am very confident with my advertisement in the Black Pages because of its international recognition,” said Marla Derosa, owner of Sacha, a cosmetic line for women of color that is used by Ms. Universe pageant winner Riyo Mori.

Nigiel Kelly, 18, a first-year business administration student from Gainesville, said that the directory will be “a great opportunity for people to help support black businesses and will provide excellent opportunity for aspiring African-American businessmen to come into contact with companies and organizations looking to take fresh business students under their wing.”

The directory will not be distributed at bookstores or major retailers but in select distribution points across the country.

The points have been concentrated to 35 key states.

More than 84,000 black churches and most historically black college campuses will distrbute the publication.

Directories may be obtained by going to