Green Book of Tampa Bay black business directory has quadrupled since its launch in late 2019

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Livy O’s Catering & Events, a black-owned business based in Brandon, Florida, is one of many businesses listed in Tampa Bay’s Green Book.

While it’s easy to sit back and complain about the injustices that occur in the current turbulent racial climate we live in, it takes a dedicated and concerned bystander, or bystanders in this case, to take action and do something. something to right the wrongs they witness on a daily basis.

In this case, Hillary Van Dyke and Josh Bean, two professionals who each hold full-time positions at Pinellas County schools, decided to step up and do their part to shine a light on minority-owned businesses in the Tampa Bay area which have suffered greatly from closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In particular, Van Dyke and Bean have taken the initiative to bring visibility to black-owned businesses in an effort to boost their visibility in the local market.

This pair of local activists put their collective efforts and ideas to work and started a business called Green Book of Tampa Bay. The title was inspired by the green book that black people used as a tool during the Jim Crow era south; the people who used this green book traveled across the country and needed a resource for businesses and places of commerce that would openly welcome them without the threat of segregation or racism. Eating out, staying in a motel, or filling a car’s gas tank are all necessary on a road trip, but the prospect of not having these services due to the color of your skin was a reality in this country not so long ago.

“In 2020, it’s more about continuing to support Black-owned businesses,” Van Dyke said in a conversation with Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. Although the possibility of being denied service is less likely to occur these days, it’s still a valid idea and an information service, both her and Bean, is incredibly valuable and useful in the America today.

“We really wanted to find a way to invest in the community and we found a way to do that. We wanted to increase traffic from black-owned businesses and help move the black dollar into the black community,” Bean added eagerly.

To date, since the idea went from a dream on paper to a reality in the winter of 2019, the time and dedication the couple have put into the business has paid off. Originally conceived as a blog, the concept has blossomed into the setup of an easy-to-navigate online directory that encourages users to contribute to its growth and success by listing their own businesses themselves, which gives the project a real sense of community and collaboration. .

“It’s exciting to see business owners meeting and collaborating. A photographer can find a wedding planner who then finds an event planner and they can all plan an event together,” Van Dyke added with an undeniable sense of pride in his voice. “It’s really, really great to see.”

Early in its incarnation, Green Book of Tampa Bay had nearly 200 individual business listings; this number has nearly quadrupled as more people hear about this invaluable service.

“We really wanted people to go to a website themselves, bookmark it, and have the ability to search for things themselves,” Bean continued while explaining the ease and convenience of having this type of resource available in the community. “Users can add listings, and then we approve them. The directory is made up of companies but we also have lists of associations, African-American artists, painters, photographers, musicians. We try to cover the full range.

When the topic of the senseless deaths of George Floyd and other black Americans came up, Van Dyke was very clear. “When it comes to ‘Black Lives Matter’, we want it to be more of a lifestyle and not just a hashtag or a trend. His death made people realize that they somehow had to watch over each other.

A true testament to the effort Van Dyke and Bean put into the business is the time and dedication they both selflessly gave to it.

“Oh my God. It’s legit. It’s a different job!” Van Dyke joked about the amount of time she invests in the project outside of her 40-hour work week.

When asked about their hopes for the creation and continued success of Green Book of Tampa Bay, its two creators shared the same idea: “We’re just trying to grow and get more businesses represented. “, they jointly expressed.

Bringing this business from proposal stage to a real and thriving operation is entirely due to the dedication and hard work of these two admirable and concerned citizens who made the choice to create a vehicle that would give local residents more educated options. when they spend their time hard-earned dollars.

“It takes a whole village to raise a child” according to an old African proverb. Hillary Van Dyke and Josh Bean are living proof that sometimes all it takes is two knowledgeable and enlightened citizens to bring about positive change in that same local village.

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