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Home Entrepreneurship Black Business Relief Fund Awardee #9: MahoganyBooks

Black Business Relief Fund Awardee #9: MahoganyBooks

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We Buy Black and SheaMoisture have teamed up to bring the culture the Black Business Relief Fund. After reviewing 3588 applications carefully, we have settled on 20 awardees, each who’ve been awarded a $5,000 grant. The ninth business is MahoganyBooks, an excellent business that is totally worthy of this honor.

MahoganyBooks was founded in 2007 by husband and wife duo, Derrick and Ramunda Young, as an online bookstore specializing in books written for, by, or about people of the African diaspora. For 10 years MahoganyBooks operated as the premier Black owned online bookstore, featuring the deepest inventory of books for Black people. Additionally, as the founder of the Black Books Matter movement, MahoganyBooks has been at the forefront advocating for the publication, purchase and use of diverse books, in a variety of settings. In 2017, MahoganyBooks opened a brick-and-mortar bookstore in Southeast Washington, DC, becoming the first to operate in the majority-Black ward in over 20 years.

There are over 40 bookstores in Washington but Ward 8– Black population over 90%– has but one, MahoganyBooks. The business has become a destination for both local residents and tourists visiting DC. The company’s curation of books, in-person events, and social media platform has helped readers see locally-owned, independent bookstores, in a fresh way: as both a gathering space and an essential business in every community. MahoganyBooks has hosted authors ranging from Congressman John Lewis to Misty Copeland, April Ryan, Donna Brazille, and Michael Eric Dyson, to stalwart writers like Jaqueline Woodson, Terry McMillan, Imani Perry, Jason Reynolds, and Elizabeth Acevedo. MahoganyBooks believes deeply in social entrepreneurship; their Books for the Block giveback program and #BlackBooksMatter advocacy work netted the company an appearance on the Steve Harvey Show to discuss their mission.

Roughly 75% of the revenue MahoganyBooks generates is through their physical bookstore in Washington. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the company to close the store and also, cancel or postpone a number of high profile author events. Although the company is able to make some revenue through online sales, they simply aren’t positioned to compete with an Amazon, for example. Without the communal space and the revenue attached to it, there is no clear path forward, for MahoganyBooks. The prospect of MahoganyBooks failing is not only devastating to the owners but, in fact, an entire community that looks to this one store as its intellectual and cultural hub.

Thanks to We Buy Black and SheaMoisture, MahoganyBooks has a new lease on life. The $5,000 grant they are receiving will help to cover the payroll so that they can support their booksellers, as well as cover some of the fixed costs the bookstore is still incurring, even as it is shutdown. MahoganyBooks is much more than just a bookstore, it is a neighborhood institution that must be saved.

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D'Juan Hopewell
I care about Black Power. Period. Currently working on creating jobs and funding new startups on the South Side of Chicago and writing here and there at HopewellThought.com. Follow me @HopewellThought.
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