Dr. Dionne Mahaffey remembers a story her father, a jeweler, once told her about a friend who often went miles out of his way to shop at a grocery store that catered to the Asian community.
There were large grocery chains much closer to his home. It didn’t matter.
What mattered to her father’s friend, who was Korean, was helping Asian business owners.
Taking a cue from that story, Mahaffey developed an mobile app called “WhereU Came From.”
The app — which even has its own nickname, WhereU — helps users locate and refer black-owned businesses across the United States. Mahaffey has an estimated 70,000 businesses on the app.
“Over the last 30 years, I made it my business to seek out businesses and services across the (African) Diaspora,” said Mahaffey, 46, who lives in Sandy Springs but runs her business on Auburn Avenue, once the heartbeat of Atlanta’s black business community. Her father’s story “was a life-changing moment. It showed me that community does not just mean where you live. For us, as a minority, it means where your people are.”
And Mahaffey, a graduate of Auburn University, wants to bring black consumers to the doors of the estimated 2.6 million or so black-owned businesses.
So far, the free app, which she launched in February, has about 30,000 downloads, said Mahaffey, who plans to make some updates soon and develop a website, which will provide extended features and service beyond the app itself. The app is available for Apple and Android devices.
It’s a huge undertaking.
“It gets the dialogue going among consumers who share common interest in supporting black-owned businesses,” said Ken Smikle, president of Target Market News, a Chicago-based firm that tracks African-American consumers. “Of course, the challenge will be in marketing the app to drive sufficient traffic to participate.”
Mahaffey, a business psychologist, author and entrepreneur, said businesses get a basic listing at no cost. Other services will be revenue-generating, including coaching services and the extended listings on the website.
Next on her list of markets are Canada, France and the United Kingdom.
One of the businesses that can be found on the app is Julian’s Cosmetics + Skincare on Town Boulevard in Brookhaven.
Owner Julian Reynolds opened the store about four years ago. Lately, he’s noticed a bump in traffic, which may be due in part to inclusion on the app.
“A lot of people don’t know we’re black-owned,” said Reynolds. “It brings awareness to the store. People come in and say, ‘I saw you on the app. I didn’t know you were here.’”