Saturday, January 31, 2009


How many of you have seen at least ten 'dollar stores' in the average Black neighborhood? Wow, look at all the hands go up! How many of you have shopped at one? Whoooah, a buncha hands again! Boy, lots of dollar stores, lots of consumers, lots of revenue and sales. [Average Family Dollar store brings in 1.1 million] Next question. How much of that money contributes to the local economy, the economic stability and growth of that Black neighborhood? Yeah, I see more hands - and shoulders too - because most of you are like me. You are shrugging because, like me, you don't know. Well, I know now, and that's the subject of today's blog entry.

I thought finding a low-price general merchandise/ household goods outlet would be easy. Last year, I'd go to Walmart or a dollar store to fulfill those basic needs. Real hard to substitute Walmart's selection, but I figured I could get some of those items at a Black-owned dollar store, and I assumed there were tons of Black-owned dollar stores. I have been doing this for a month and have not been able to find one in all of metropolitan Chicago. I used all the Black business directories online - "No results found". I called around to local Chambers of Commerce - nothing. I actually spent 10 hours going through 12 different phone books and called each one individually. Many were Hispanic-owned and owned by folks of Middle-eastern descent. Many times, I actually asked for the owners' names. Then I would Google them. None. None lived in those Black communities where their stores were located. And since these businesses were family-owned and operated, that meant that most of the money generated left the Black neighborhood it did business in.

Now, here's the real sad part. When I found a dollar store situated at an address in a part of town that I was certain was 100% Black, I thought I might get lucky. But most of the time, the number was disconnected. Disconnected. So it might have been Black-owned but it had gone out of business. I heard that deafening disconnected beep at least 25 times.

So those are the results of my month-long research endeavor. Most of the big dollar store chains don't even franchise! [Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Dollar General do not. They are the big 3. MyDollar Store, Inc. does. My Dollar Store has only 100 stores though, only 50 franchises, and is privately held. It is owned by an Indian businessman.] And while we are grateful for the jobs they create, and the benefits the few salaried employees get, the dollar store phenomenon is the most blatant example of the 'leakage' you'll hear me lament about all the time.

For every $100 dollar that comes into an underserved Black community, $84 dollars leave. Our community suffers from this alarming ratio, which happens to be the most accepted indicator of economic health. That leakage is the dollar store money, and unless they proactively re-invest it, it's gone. Disconnected.

So the real money goes back to corporate, the original owners, and the bonuses that go to the corporate employees. [Dollar General made $9.5 billion in 2007. Average store brings in $1.2 million a year. They do not franchise, so all that money goes to corporate.] Secondly, they were not contributing those hundreds and hundreds of millions in profits to charities and programs that serve those communities that keep them in business. [From the Family Dollar corporate website's "Giving Back" page: "We believe our contributions should be consistent with both our commitment to our communities and our commitment to our shareholders. Consequently, our budget for charitable contributions is reallocated each fiscal year and will be reviewed quarterly against the Company’s financial performance. While we encourage organizations to submit a request based on their needs, our typical grant is $250 or less. This enables us to maximize our support of local programs in the neighborhoods in which we operate...To maximize the impact of our charitable giving within our budgetary limits, we will limit our contributions to one grant per organization per fiscal year (September - August), and we will not provide repetitive annual grants or continuing support for organizations or programs...Our contribution efforts will be focused in the neighborhoods in which we operate. Consequently, Family Dollar will limit our support of national organizations (e.g. United Way, March of Dimes, Alzheimer’s Association) to chapters within the Charlotte, NC, area and to chapters that operate in areas supported by one of our nine distribution centers."] And thirdly, none of their top executives were Black.


I am going to keep looking. I am going to keep hoping that these thriving multi-billon companies dollar re-invest more in underserved minority communities than their websites indicate. I'm going to pray that there are some Black entrepreneurs who own dollar stores that have not been run out of business because we are not supporting them.

I know there are some Black-owned web-based outlets that sell general merchandise. Gonna check them out. I'll let you know how that goes. In the meantime, if any of you know of ANY Black-owned dollar stores ANYWHERE, go back to website at and register them.

One thing is for certain. This will change. It just has to. While I am flattered that so many groups and corporate enterprises have seen and cherish the value of the Black consumer dollar, and I would never denigrate their success, since as a daughter of Cuban immigrants, I celebrate all manifestations of The American Dream... I am frustrated that all this Black buying power has rendered us utterly powerless. We need a more respectable share of the Black consumer dollar. That's all I'm saying. But for now, there is no connection between Black buying power and Black economic health. At least not in this industry. Disconnected.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Been a month now. Time to get excited and get busy! What are you gonna do?

Hello All,

I appreciate all of you contributing to the discussion about The Ebony Experiment. I don't expect all of you to have wonderful things to say about what my family is doing, but I do hope we can just keep talking and that you'd check in with us from time to time. And for those of you who do “get it” and see the potential for positive change we can stimulate in our community by making little sacrifices, please read on.

Even if you don't "get it", just keep reading. Maybe you'll change your view!

Let me just take a second to share what The Ebony Experiment has been like. I am the new authority on Buying Black. Trust me. We’ve been doing this for almost a month now. Our lives have changed forever; and I have compromised NOTHING in terms of quality of goods and services for my family. If anything, it’s been a blessing, because I’ve encountered so many wonderful entrepreneurs and their families. They have been so grateful and willing to listen to my criticisms and earn my support. Best part of this is that I am confident that my money is going towards resolving the problems my community faces (by creating Black jobs, improving the economy in poverty-stricken neighborhoods, converting tax-burdens into tax-payers, etc.). You just can’t get that feeling shopping at Walmart all the time, even though they may do a lot of wonderful things for minority communities. It is not enough. We have not done our part. You cannot get that feeling when you keep putting your money in a large bank conglomerate, that has no minority owners. There are many Black-owned community banks. As long as they are FDIC insured, and they ALL are, why not at least have a checking account with them? You can do virtually all your banking online. They are part of large ATM networks. What’s the excuse? Why isn’t this the norm for us by now? Why are we making sure our money goes toward giving another banking executive a six-figure bonus, so he can buy his own jet and send his great-grand kids to fancy boarding schools? Chances are that executive is not contributing millions to UNCF or building schools in South Africa. What about gas stations? There are many black-owned gas stations. Not enough, but some. Why not buy gas cards from them? That’s what we did. We can get our gas wherever we want with the gas cards, but most of the money went to that Black owner. Why isn’t this our standard practice as a community?

So sorry for digressing/ ranting. Let me get practical for a second. It is indeed almost impossible to find the businesses. That has been the worst, most disappointing part of our journey so far. We hope, through The Ebony Experiment, to create, finally, the largest, national, most credible database of Black businesses, professionals and manufacturers ever. Because of the project’s appeal to the media and that it lasts a whole year, we hope to create enough buzz and hope that millions of businesses and professionals, and consumers and investors will register here at the website, The Ebony Experiment Foundation, supported by other nonprofit business groups, will help us manage and populate the directory and accommodate the pledges by individuals who believe in this. If you cannot find a business, product or professional in our database, we will do the research for you and keep in touch. We will work with you. Then, all of you can post your stories and dollars spent. We will keep track, as a community, of all the money we spent Black over the year. That number will be on the website and updated hourly. Can you imagine how big that number will be if we just start making small changes now?

Yep, this all takes money and work. We are finding the resources to make this happen. We have enough talent, smarts, and products out there. We have enough consumers and investors eager to buy Black. We just have to get organized. The Ebony Experiment Foundation is working on that now. After we get enough sponsors, the website,, will be revamped. Please go there now and register. That way, when everything is set, we can contact you.

I want all of us to learn and grow from this as a community. So I'm asking you guys to go back to the website, the home of The Ebony Experiment, and just make sure you register. That way, I can email you all directly about how we're doing and how much we've spent, send you details about the Victory Celebrations we are planning, and if you want to try this yourself, accommodate your inclination to make small Buy Black commitments of your own.

You can also make the website one of your Favorites!

Peace and love,
Maggie Anderson, CoFounder, The Ebony Experiment

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Ebony Experiment - the first days

Hello all,
I've been getting emails from folks asking about our first few days. I'll tell you now that they've been great. I cannot express how fulfilling it's been! I know now - mark these words - that a revolution is coming. Once you start doing The Ebony Experiment, you can't stop. Once you Buy Black, it's real hard to go back! I've met so many awesome entrepreneurs, good folks trying to get their piece of the American Dream. They've been so grateful, so pleased to know we care about them. We need to show them that there are millions of Andersons out there, just dying to support Black business and promote Black entrepreneurship.

My life has changed forever. Yep, just from shopping and taking care of my family like I always have. We are changed. The Ebony Experiment changed us.

In a few minutes, I'll come back and offer a more detailed account of the experience (where we shopped, how we found the businesses, the sacrifice, the joy, the service and quality compared to a 'typical' expenditure, etc). Really fascinating stuff. Stay tuned!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Middle Class Chicago Family Commits to Buy Black for all of 2009

My name is Maggie Anderson. My husband John and I are the founders of The Ebony Experiment. It is a year-long study and campaign about economic empowerment and Black entrepreneurship grounded in my family's pledge to try to exclusively support Black-owned businesses and professionals for an entire year. The project officially launched yesterday, January 1, 2009.

I created this blog to keep my community informed of our progress, the ups and downs of our commitment, and maintain a dialogue about the plight and potential of Black business.

For more about The Ebony Experiment, visit You should also read the article in the Chicago Sun Times (,CST-FIN-buyblack21.article?plckCurrentPage=18& that presented our story to the world. I also copied our national press release below. You can also find it on Forbes, Reuters, Yahoo! Finance, Hoovers, and several other local, national, and international media outlets. Our little project has created quite a stir! Join the conversation. Join the movement.

Black Family Pledges to Solely Support Black Owned Businesses For One Year
CHICAGO (December 22, 2008) – John C. and Maggie Anderson are ready to engage in an experiment that will change their lives. On January 1, 2009, the Andersons will launch “The Ebony Experiment,” a year-long effort to generate significant economic growth within the Black community. During this time, the Andersons will only support Black owned businesses and professionals in efforts to motivate other Black consumers to do the same. With a concerted national push, the Andersons look to prove that Black communities can be improved when Black consumers and investors support their own.
Tracking Every Penny Spent
For the Andersons, the Ebony Experiment will be no small undertaking as they will transition their standing contracts and household expenditures which include loans, utility bills, credit cards, etc., to truly execute their initiative. The Andersons will track their progress on the experiment’s website, The website will feature a ticker that tracks the Anderson’s expenditures in real time with a national goal of one million dollars by 2010. “During the coming months, we want The Ebony Experiment to become a national movement connecting Black consumers and investors to Black businesses and professionals,” said Maggie Anderson, president of The Ebony Experiment Group. Anderson continued, “Ultimately, this will unify the struggling and successful sectors of the Black community so we can determine and improve our standing together.”

An Effort Worth Supporting
The practice of supporting your own community is not new and is often exercised by many races in the United States. However, The Ebony Experiment will be the first time that a Black couple steps outside of their daily conveniences in order to help build their community. There are nearly 2.5 million Black households with incomes over $100,000. The Ebony Experiment targets these middle-class and upper middle-class families and asks them to make commitments to buy Black. “The Black community is energized and engaged as we look to 2009. This is the perfect time to leverage that excitement by maximizing the potential of our business community and the bargaining power of Black consumers and investors,” said John C. Anderson, co-founder of the Ebony Experiment.

An effort of this magnitude has drawn the attention and support of esteemed Black scholars and leaders including world-renowned author Dr. Michael Eric Dyson and Steven Rogers, the director of the Levy Institute of Entrepreneurial Practice at Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management. At the end of the experiment, a comprehensive and revealing study will be published by Dr. Michael Bennett, the executive director of the Egan Urban Economic Center at DePaul University. Dr. Dyson will also co-author “The Ebony Experiment,” a book that will chronicle the Anderson’s journey and how their efforts impacted the Black community.

About The Andersons
John C. Anderson is a Harvard graduate with a MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management and is a native of Detroit. Maggie Anderson is a first-generation Cuban American, reared in a drug-infested area of Miami, and has a JD and MBA from the University of Chicago. The Andersons live in Oak Park, Ill., with their daughters Cori and Cara, who are ages two and three respectively.

About The Ebony Experiment Group, LLC
The Ebony Experiment Group, LLC, was created by John C. and Maggie Anderson of Oak Park, Ill, and is a community service oriented project that is seeking sponsors to support the experiment and maintain the website. The purpose of The Ebony Experiment is to infuse long-term wealth into the Black community by galvanizing and uniting Black consumers, investors, businesses and professionals.

Media Contact: Courtney Quaye or
Carla V. Oglesby
CGC Communications LLC