Frederick Douglass is quoted as saying, “Who you give your money to is who you give your power to.” Mariah Madison knows that well, which is why she created Buy Black Chambana earlier this year. Madison, who majored in Business Administration at Eastern Illinois University and was just nominated Vice President of the Champaign County Black Chamber of Commerce, says she wants her website and social media presence to highlight positivity and bring hope to the black business community.
Image from Buy Black Chambana Facebook page
Buy Black Chambana has more than 120 businesses in its directory, and Madison knows of more she’d like to have included. “Some of them may not know about us or our service or they may not have an internet page, and some may not want to be labeled,” she said. “It feels like we’ve lost hope as a people, and maybe I just have to take time and prove to them that I have their best interests at heart.”
Businesses can join the list for free, but Madison always encourages them to choose the premium version which is $25 to join for the year. That allows you add additional information like a phone number, websites, social media links, or call to action button.
Madison was inspired to create this in order to make social change locally for black-owned businesses, but she’s realized she’s not the first to have this idea. “I’m learning that historically there have been lists like this dating back to [the Civil Rights Era] that I never knew about. There was also a website called eblack.net which had minority listings on there and the history of black culture here from segregation.”
“In the short-term my goal is to get all the businesses into Buy Black Chambana so we can have a communication channel, and listen to them for what needs to be done.” In the long-term she’s always percolating new ideas. “I’m looking to start a market...for those black-owned businesses that don’t have a brick and mortar. That would allow them to set up shop, get customers, and potentially save so they could get a brick and mortar.”
Madison keeps the community updated on these black-owned businesses through her social media platforms as Adventure Girl. “Adventure Girl is giving you a peek into Buy Black Chambana, showing what these businesses have to offer, setting the tone, making you feel comfortable going there to see what your options are. I’ve highlighted black businesses on Adventure Girl, gone to events to show what’s going on.”
Madison is from Chicago, where the rest of her family still lives. She came to Central Illinois on a full-ride scholarship to play basketball at EIU. There she met her boyfriend, who played on the football team. They moved to Champaign in 2016.
“Champaign has been pretty good for me. My boyfriend had a bit of a rough patch. He’s from the South, he’s darker, has dreads, so at times I have felt tension in the air. I’ve had a few experiences at businesses where I felt like I wasn’t welcome, so that’s part of the reason why we had to make a change.”
She said her lighter skin and friendly smile helps her to not experience the reactions her boyfriend gets, but that’s not fair. “Not everyone should be forced to be in a positive mood all the time, just so you don’t have to seem like the angry black dude. That’s why I do Adventure Girl, so you see this strong black guy, but when I go up and talk with him he’s friendly, he’s telling you why he’s doing this work in the community...changing the perceptions of our people and our culture is what I want to do.”
One black business in her directory is Nannyville, LLC, a local babysitting service founded by Madison herself. “Nannyville started in May 2018 and Buy Black Chambana started May 2019. I get a lot of creative ideas in May. I was always business-savvy; creating businesses was on my mind. I thought I’d do a Harold’s remake in Charleston but I can’t even cook so I don’t know why I thought that was an idea.”
When she ended her basketball career at EIU she relied on nannying skills. She started working for a family at 60 hours per week and saw more need in the community. “I realized I can’t work that hard, but I can find individuals just like me and provide care just like me and turn it into a service. That’s how Nannyville started.”
“More families were asking me if I could watch their kids, and honestly I really enjoy taking care of kids and being a mentor to them. Seeing them grow and helping them develop is really rewarding to me. I know that the service I provide to families is rewarding as well, and I want to increase the success of nanny-family relationships.”
Nannyville finds nannies for a minimum of two hours per week, up to full-time nanny services. “Sitters come to your home with Nannyville so it fits with your schedule. We background check the sitters for you and we do all the interviewing for you.” You can find out more about Nannyville here.
Stay tuned for the next big idea from Madison, because she is clearly non-stop. She’s currently looking for a venue for Champaign County Black Chamber of Commerce’s Black Expo in April 2020. She encourages everyone in Champaign-Urbana to support black-owned businesses in the best way you can. And if you have any ideas for her directory, she wants to hear. “If there’s any way any of you think you can change this for the better or enhance this, please reach out and let me know.”
Top photo from Adventure Girl Facebook page