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Local 5 - weareiowa.com | Des Moines Local News & Weather | Des Moines, Iowa

ISU grad launches 'Shop Black DSM' to promote Black-owned businesses in central Iowa

Shop Black DSM helps connect people to Black-owned businesses in Des Moines.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Ray Miller started his lawn care business with just one mower and singular mission

"If I can provide my service to help somebody else, why not?" said Miller, owner of Miller Way Lawn Care in Des Moines.

That was two years ago.  Now, the entrepreneur offers a range of handyman services.

"This is has been a dream of mine since I was a little kid," he said.

These days, Miller is his own boss and has 10 part-time employees.  But the journey to get here, he said, hasn't been easy.

"We start with nothing. We don't have money stacked in the bank. It starts with a vision, and we work our way up from the ground up," said Miller.

Last year, Miller got a called from Sekou Mtayari, and Iowa State University graduate and fellow entrepreneur.

"There's so many businesses here in Des Moines.  And they're not always at the forefront," said Sekou, co-founder of the online platform. Particularly, he said, Black-owned businesses.

So, he and his his partners created a website, ShopBlackDSM.com, to give those businesses a platform.

"If you're looking to support local, you're using our website.  If you're looking to support Black, you're using our website.  If you're looking to visit a business you have seen before or haven't heard before, visit our website.," he said.

While the answer may or may not be apparent, Local 5 asked the question: Why is a website focusing on Black-owned businesses needed or important?

"Blacks might only make up four percent of the population, but we're here and if we rise, the whole state rises, so when we're successful, the whole city is successful," said Dana James, founder of a publication called Black Iowa News.

Mtayari adds that shopping at one of the businesses could be the difference for a venture trying to survive.

"You don't have to patronize these businesses on a daily basis, but once or twice a week could change the life of a Black-owned business," he said.

Miller said he's gotten new customers because of the site and believes it's part of what will help his business and his community thrive. 

"My goal is to help other people win. I want to see everybody win.  Not just me. Everybody around me.  Everybody," Miller said.

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