After working stints in marketing for Essence magazine, sales for Turner Broadcast, and social media at MTV, Michelle Dalzon decided to do something about the lack of what she felt like was a central place where conscious-minded shoppers could support Black-owned brands. Enter theBOM (Black-owned market), an Instagram-based pop-up concept Dalzon created in 2016 with the purpose “to support and grown Black-owned businesses by connecting them with their intended consumers.” Its mission, plain and simple, is to “increase the circulation of the Black dollar by creating a destination where people can shop conveniently with Black brands they love.”
Dalzon curates the brands on theBOM’s Instagram and then offers her followers the chance to shop IRL at pop-ups throughout the year. “A directory isn’t tangible, you can’t interact with it," Dalzon tells Refinery29. “I wanted to create an experience that you walk away from feeling nourished. It really inspires people,” she explains. “I read alarming stats about Black commerce in general; for instance, Black people have over 1.2 trillion dollars in buying power but only two cents of every dollar goes back into Black-owned businesses. I wanted to makes sure these business got their due as well as their coin.”
Social media is, of course, a huge part of her company's DNA. “I follow a lot of the brands and I’ve found [that] birds of the small business vendor community tend to flock together, so I’ll get recommendations for other vendors as well. My base is primarily things I have already shopped and can vouch for their quality,” she explains. “I feel like, a lot of times with Black-owned brands, there are these myths about them — they’re low on quality, they don’t exist, or they’re too expensive, and I wanted to be sure that I dispelled those myths at theBOM by having a variety of different price ranges but also quality products that actually told a story.”
And Dalzon is just the person to bring this vision to life. As she tells Refinery29, “every position I’ve had up until this point has lead me to this point and being a brand marketer, I know what it takes to make something look visually appealing but also telling a really good story for Black-owned brands on a platform that is outside of the norm.” Once Dalzon moves the experience “offline” to the pop-up space, theBOM creates an individualized booth for each brand within the space.
“It’s very important for me to build community. I think that’s why this year, I’m stepping back from doing so many pop-ups to focus on the consumer, the shopper, and the vendor. Those are my clients, and I really want to serve them to the best of my ability. We are social media-first because that's where the community is.”
This story was originally published January 2, 2018.