jason coles katika founder

A new mobile application aims to help people find Black-owned businesses around the world.

Katika offers a directory of business owners, doctors, lawyers and other professionals; plots their locations on a map and offers a marketplace for businesses to sell their goods. Users can search for businesses based on their locations.

Jason M. Coles and Eugena Brown are the creative forces behind the new app, which Coles said he was spurred to develop after he got frustrated when he tried to use a search engine or mobile apps to locate minority-owned businesses.

“What was out there that was built by other minorities — it didn’t have the user friendliness or just the technology I thought was appropriate for this day and age, so with that I set out to develop Katika to help people find Black-owned businesses through a mobile app,” said Coles, the company’s CEO.

Coles and Brown will debut the app during an invite-only launch party Friday evening at the African American Museum.

“We know that Philadelphia will be a great city to test the market with,” Coles said, citing the city’s large Black population and rates of minority business ownership.

“Katika wanted to start in this city because we feel like it will be a good fit.”

Katika, which means “inclusive” in Swahili, seeks to include business owners from across the African diaspora — the African-American, African-Caribbean and Afro-Latino communities.

“What we found from our competitors — people that are doing something similar to us — was they kind of only cater to the African American market and they leave out the other groups,” Coles said.

Katika’s directory currently lists 16,000 business in 35 states and three countries.

Entrepreneurs and professionals can sign up via www.shopkatika.com to be listed in the app’s directory for free. There is a charge for vendors who want to sell their products on the marketplace.

Coles, a 31-year-old native of New Jersey who works full time as an information technology manager and his team have been building relationships with city officials, local business owners, churches and nonprofit agencies in an effort to spread the word about Katika and build an economic movement.

Coles said he views the new platform as a way to help empower Black communities. He cited some statistics about Black spending, such as the Nielsen report estimate that Blacks spend more than $1.2 trillion annually.

“I kept hearing these things, but there was no action being taken,” Coles said. “It’s not only about building an app to facilitate it but then you have actually be on the ground and work with the communities you are trying to build up or empower economically.”

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