The racial wealth gap is one of the most pressing issues in America. According to a study released by The New York Times, for every $100 in white family wealth, Black families hold a mere $5.04. The current state of economic inequality will impact the future of Black wealth. A recent report by Prosperity Now and the Institute for Policy Studies forecasted that the median wealth of African Americans will fall to zero by 2053 if the disparity continues to persist. Louisiana-bred entrepreneur Darren Walker is working to change the narrative surrounding wealth cultivation in the Black community through the creation of a social networking platform dubbed BEAN Now (Black Economic Advancement Network).
Launched in November 2019, BEAN was designed to promote economic advancement within urban communities through education, exposure, and empowerment; three elements that Walker believes are key to addressing racial economic inequities. While coming of age in New Orleans Walker—who worked in the financial service industry—noticed that the lack of accessibility to resources and information surrounding wealth building and ownership hindered individuals from economic advancement. “I couldn’t find the economic cohesion within our community. I was in the financial service industry and I was realizing that all of these other racial groups had access to so much more in terms of exposure, economics and wealth within their families. I started to wonder where is that for us?” he told NewsOne.
He initially created a platform called NOLA Black Pages that served as a directory for Black-owned businesses in his community. However, after realizing the national impact that the economic disparity had, he decided to elevate his concept and began laying the foundation for BEAN Now. When Walker launched the platform, he ran into hurdles surrounding funding and software development. He refused to let those obstacles hold him back from bringing BEAN Now to fruition. Walker is a serial entrepreneur. He was featured on the DIY Network show Louisiana Flip n Move with his wife Lucy Walker and founded the company Zoeys Queso which was just accepted into all of the Whole Foods stores in Louisiana. Walker saw the lack of diversity in the entrepreneurship circles that he was in and it was then that he knew his idea was viable and needed.
BEAN Now utilizes blockchain technology as an avenue to develop a Black economic empowerment ecosystem. The app gives users the ability to foster connections with entrepreneurs and business owners and support local Black-owned businesses. It also features an array of educational tools for individuals who want to learn more about financial literacy and ownership. The platform has rolled out a video series dubbed “I am BEAN” that highlights the journeys of Black entrepreneurs. As far as the platform’s functionalities, through the creation of custom “beans,” business owners can promote their establishments and consumers can create feeds for brand-specific content and deals and make purchases through the app. It also gives users the opportunity to track a company’s reciprocity to the Black community to make informed decisions about where they should spend their dollars. The app enables users to share their own content; an answer to the censorship of pro-Black content on mainstream social platforms.
“In the Black community because our culture has been hijacked, and we have a history of oppression, it’s fragmented. We’re just trying to reconcile all of that. It’s imperative that we make a shift when it comes to circulating dollars within our own community,” he said. “We need a practical solution that is ingrained in our daily life. I wanted to create a platform where we can shift the power because our data is worth dollars and is very powerful. Instead of being a subgroup on an existing network that is not owned by our community we have to start thinking about how we can own the whole thing and then, as a result, empower the entrepreneurs and businesses that are within that network. It’s about ownership. What you don’t own you can’t control.”
BEAN Now has an ever-growing community of 1,000 members. Walker, who currently lives in Columbia with his family, says that his global travels have shown him that economic inequality affects the entire African diaspora. He wants users to feel empowered and equipped to take charge of their financial destiny. “I want users to walk away with a greater sense of connection to our community and celebration of who we are, not just through words, but in actual transactions,” said Walker. “I want to focus on empowering people who look like me all over the world.”
The platform is currently doing an SEC-approved stock offering. Learn more about BEAN Now below.