New App to Be Unveiled on Feb. 10 Will Highlight Milwaukee’s Black Businesses

Rick Banks (pictured) and Paul Wellington have launched a new MKE Black app, designed to highlight black business, cultural sites, calendars and networking. (Photo: Rick Wood / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

When Rick Banks and Paul Wellington met each other in middle school, they became fast friends while building a model city on Mars for a school project.

Now they’ve built something else: An app that will highlight Milwaukee’s black businesses, important cultural sites and venue spaces, as well as an events calendar.

They’re calling it MKE Black.

Banks, the political director for Black Leaders Organizing for Communities, and Wellington, a librarian and the author of Black Built, started working on the app about five months ago.

“Originally, we were quoted by a professional app developer and told it would cost $18-20,000,” Banks recalled.

So Wellington started fiddling with Buildfire, a mobile app builder, and soon, the idea began to materialize.

The learning curve, Wellington said, was steep. But the price point was much better: $60 a month.

The idea of the app came to the co-founders at different times. Five or six years ago, Banks — struggling to support local black businesses — had wondered why there were no apps identifying black businesses.

Wellington said the idea also came to him spontaneously.

“I was in the shower one day and I was like why don’t we have an app for African American businesses?”

When he set out to create one, Wellington admitted the research process was challenging, sometimes requiring him to go in-person to verify if a business was black-owned.

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SOURCE: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel