Buy Black: Innclusive
To live in a society where prejudice is still an unfortunate reality, Black people can often find ourselves trapped in the repetitive loop of corporate discrimination. A company treats us in a racist manner, we demand recompense, we’re either ignored or given an incredibly tepid response, and we react in momentary anger and frustration, only to eventually forget the original offence.
Usually, somewhere between the halfhearted response and us being pissed off, someone in our community will say, “This is why we need to open our own businesses,” which is a statement we’ll typically acknowledge, but not take very seriously. Well, meet Innclusive, a brilliant and diverse travel company that not only takes that statement seriously, but looks to redefine how important diversity is as a basic necessity of business practices.
Innclusive was born out of CEO and co-founder Rohan Gilkes’ frustration with the discrimination he received on AirBNB, a popular online marketplace for renters. Earlier this year, Gilkes went on AirBNB and attempted to book a stay in a cabin in Idaho. The host was incredibly excited until he finally posted his picture revealing himself to be a Black man. Instantly, she notified him that the dates she said were previously available had now become unavailable and continued to inform him that there were no other possible dates for him to stay there, even after he continually provided numerous other dates. Thinking something was up, he asked one of his white friends to attempt to book the same dates the host said were unavailable, and instantly she messaged the white guy back to let him know that they were excited and ready to host him. At that point, Rohan knew exactly what happened.
He took to the internet and blogged about his experience and shared it on social media. Instantly, other AirBNB users stepped forth and spoke openly about the racism they faced on the app as well. One of the saddest parts of the entire fiasco is the fact that so many other people of color from various communities had experienced a similar sort of prejudice. In fact, a Harvard Business School study recently revealed that AirBNB hosts are 16% less likely to book users with “distinctively African-American names.”
But this problem came with a great silver lining: Gilkes’ realization that a void could be filled for renters looking for a more accepting marketplace.
Gilkes immediately collaborated with co-founder Zakiyyah Myers, whom he had previously met through Facebook years prior and knew was very connected in the diverse-travel crowd. They decided to not only talk about the need for a more diverse forum, but to create one. He told her, “Man this happens all the time. we can do something about this,” and as a serial-entrepreneur, he wasted no time in bringing things together. In just four months, not only have they branded themselves as the common sense renting choice for any traveler who desires premium customer service and doesn’t want to deal with discrimination, but they’ve also established themselves as advocates for a wide cross section of different, marginalized communities.
Although Innclusive is Black-owned and born out of anti-Black discrimination, they are committed to creating a safe space for people of all races, genders, religions, and handicaps. Their ability to vet and disqualify potentially biased renters is not only revolutionary across their market, but it has garnered many fans in high places — including the President.
Although they’ve been a business for four months and officially launch at the end of September, Innclusive has already caught the eye of President Obama’s senior advisors who have invited Rohan and Zakiyyah to the White House on October 3rd to praise them for their efforts of cultivating inclusion.
Zakiyyah’s advice to new Black entrepreneurs is simple.
“Just start. Don’t constantly boggle yourself down in details. And only take opinions from someone who is doing what you want to do.”
Although the team has grown; they are working harder than ever to perfect every aspect of their business. Though it can seem daunting on the outside to witness their meteoric rise, it’s important to know that they are still grinding and perfecting their craft as they stride towards their larger goals of financial success, and becoming a huge company with an equally huge humanitarian side.
Lincoln Anthony Blades blogs daily on his site, ThisIsYourConscious.com. He’s author of the book, “You’re Not A Victim, You’re A Volunteer.” He can be reached on Twitter @lincolnablades and on Facebook at Lincoln Anthony Blades.