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Meet Trailblazer Jamie Gray

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jamie Gray.

Jamie, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I grew up north of Chicago in Waukegan, IL. We had a good number of Black people, but I always heard whispers of why people did not want to support Black businesses, and the only Black-owned businesses that I was ever aware of were hair salons and barbershops. That completely changed when I came to Atlanta for undergrad at Spelman. Although I was not consciously “buying Black,” I saw so many more types of Black people with so many different experiences. It opened my eyes to what is possible and set me up for my graduate school experience in St. Louis.

I was in St. Louis when Mike Brown was murdered, and I was deeply affected––not only by his death and the ensuing protests seen around the world but also by my school’s lack of response. Recognizing that I am not a protester in the traditional sense (and celebrating those who are), I struggled to find something that I felt made a difference until I saw a social media call to #BlackoutBlackFriday, which encouraged consumers to either boycott shopping altogether or only buy from Black-owned businesses on Black Friday. That is when I started consciously buying Black. It didn’t take long for my friends to start coming to me asking where they could find a Black-owned company for whatever they were looking for. That was the very beginning of Black Girl Buying.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has definitely not been a smooth road. For one, I did not see Black Girl Buying ever being what it has become, so I am constantly battling my own mind––my fear, my doubt, my insecurities. I have had to make some shifts in my life, like saying no to parties and eating out less, so that I have funds to invest in my brand. I have had to make tough decisions, like no longer relying on the kindness of friends and actually hiring people and services to ensure things get done in a timely manner. And all of it has been worth it.

For the women who are starting, it is so important for you to have a solid support system. These are the people who will push you further than you ever thought you could go, who will let you cry when your plans fall apart, and who will cheer for every single victory no matter how small it may seem. It is also important to know that nothing is ever going to be perfect, but it does not have to be. If you are authentic and put forth your best effort, people will respond to that.

We’d love to hear more about Black Girl Buying.
Black Girl Buying is a space that I created to share my journey of supporting Black-owned businesses in hopes that I would inspire others to also seek out and support Black-owned businesses. I work to connect Black businesses and their customers through sharing my personal experiences and providing services that allow business owners to focus on the work that they love.

I love helping people discover new Black businesses that they can incorporate into their lives. I think that the fact that I share my personal experiences helps to remove much of the stigma surrounding Black-owned businesses I heard about when I was growing up. Through my experiences, people can see the good quality, great customer service, and feasibility of supporting Black businesses in their everyday lives. I’m most proud of the fact that that is actually happening. People are reaching out to me sharing how they have fallen in love with a Black business that I shared or how they found a Black-owned business and they want to hear my thoughts on it. It is incredibly humbling and makes me so happy.

Finding a mentor and building a network are often cited in studies as a major factor impacting one’s success. Do you have any advice or lessons to share regarding finding a mentor or networking in general?
Speak up. It seems super simple, but this is what I have found to be the best key to networking. To be honest, this is something that I really struggle with because I am very shy in new spaces with new faces. But I have found that when I push aside my fear and just say hi, everything else flows kind of naturally. I also have learned that the worst thing that can happen is that someone says no––and that wouldn’t be the end of the world––so it really does not hurt to ask.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Ashley Hill, DrPH

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1 Comment

  1. Lauren Barclay

    January 7, 2020 at 3:12 pm

    Jamie is a trailblazer and it is so gratifying to see her get recognized for her hard work!

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