African-American women have a long history of needing to fight to be seen or given the same chances as their male counterparts and/or colleagues of another race. This month, we tip our hats to those before us; Zora Neale Hurston, Lorraine Hansberry, Rosa Parks and Michelle Obama, just to name a few. Stephanie Caudle is a black women who is paving the way for her sisters to get a shot.
Caudle, a Public Relations professional in the heating and air industry, had a strange dream that would change her life for the better, after getting let go from her job in November 2016. “In my dream, I saw the words black girl group and I had no idea what it meant,” Caudle said. “So, the next morning I wrote it down.”
Not knowing what those words would mean in the future, Caudle said the next night she had another dream but this time it was a vision of a website layout.
Introducing BlackGirlGroup.com, a freelance marketplace for women of color to seek opportunities in the industry of their choice. Using sites like Upwork.com as a freelancer in her college days, the North Carolina A&T State University graduate had an issue where she felt she wasn’t getting hired by some corporations once identified as a black woman. “I wanted to create opportunities for black women specifically to be able to connect with some of these companies,” Caudle said. “Today there are a lot of companies really struggling to get in front of the African-American audience and they need black women like us to create content for them.”
She is right in that fact. According to a study conducted by the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth, Black Americans’ buying power is on track to increase from $1.2 trillion to $1.4 trillion by 2020, citing that non-minority owned companies and brands can’t afford to ignore ethnic populations or advertise one-size-fits-all products and services. Caudle’s idea is helping to bridge that gap and bring awareness that there are black freelancers who can produce valuable content.
Here is how it works: the free site allows freelancers to build a profile highlighting their skillset and background. Networking with certain companies currently using the site, Caudle then connects freelancers who match the clients’ needs. Once that part is done, most freelancers are hired on a contract-only basis, however, many have stayed with the company full-time. In less than a year, BlackGirlGroup.com has over 500 freelancers within the online portal and it is rising by the day.
The startup makes money two ways. “If a company comes to us and desires to hire freelancers, but opts not to hire after we have vetted clients, we charge them for every hour it took us to identify clients. If they choose to work with us, we tag on a 20 percent commission. We mainly do this so people don’t try to hire a freelancer on the site, then disappear and enter into a solo contract,” Caudle explained.
With networks primarily catering to freelancers in industries such as digital content production, web design, copywriting and others, Caudle said she wants to bridge the gap for all those in a creative space. “I had someone reach out in need of a virtual assistant, which was different,” Caudle said. “Before I said no, I looked through my network to see who may be available and there were a few. I don’t want to limit anyone of the opportunity.”
Caudle won the 2017 Small Business Pitch Competition hosted by Black Enterprise magazine. As a part of her win, she was flown out to the tech mecca of the world, Silicon Valley, where she was granted the opportunity to meet with an investor at Google Ventures to advise her on how to build in the freelance empire and what to do next. Caudle is also in talks with some major key companies to set up “watch parties” and freelance fairs in 2018.
“I want to make sure more than anything that I am not losing an audience just by catering to online users,” Caudle said.
If you are a member of the creative world and looking for freelance opportunities, make sure to follow Stephanie Caudle and BlackGirlGroup.com on Twitter: @blackgirlgroup.