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Sunday, Dec 5, 2021

Mercer student creates Instagram account to feature Black students’ businesses

After realizing the lack of recognition for many Black-owned student businesses on campus, junior Melody Gervin created an Instagram account dedicated to featuring and supporting her classmates.

Gervin is the owner of black.owned.mercer, an Instagram account that she began in the summer of 2020 amid the Black Lives Matter protests. Her account has over 700 followers and has featured over 20 businesses since she first began posting in June.

Gervin wanted to bring attention to Black Mercer students’ businesses after seeing social media encourage people to support Black business owners.

“A big thing that was going on was to start and to continue supporting Black-owned businesses because we saw that big corporations valued the Black dollar, but didn’t value Black people,” Gervin said. “It’s very important to give your money to someone who actually values you and your life and the life of your brothers and sisters. It’s really good to just pour back into your own community.”

She originally conceived of the idea as a Twitter thread, but her roommate suggested she create an Instagram account to feature businesses instead.

“I saw a lot of Instagram pages about Black-owned businesses, and they had a lot of the bigger ones that are more familiar, and I just thought to myself, there’s a lot of Black-owned businesses here at Mercer that probably don’t get enough recognition that they need to. Instead of just focusing on the big ones that everyone knows about, it’ll be better for us to support the people in our community right here,” she said.

When she first began her account, Gervin reached out to businesses she already knew of and asked for their permission to be featured. As the account has grown, however, business owners now reach out to her for features.

That’s how Toni Walker’s business, Urbane TB LLC., was featured on Gervin’s Instagram. Walker said that another Mercer student recommended she reach out to Gervin about having her business featured, which Gervin did in September 2020.

Walker said their sales increased when they were featured, and they gained more exposure.

“I know a lot of people think that you support a small business by buying from them, but when you give us a follow or repost a picture from us, it really helps us get off the ground. Our biggest problem is other people knowing about us, and it’s really helping that challenge we’re facing right now,” Walker said.

After their original feature on black.owned.mercer, Walker said Gervin reached out again around Valentine’s Day to see if they had any specials going on. Urbane TB LLC was one of nine businesses featured in Gervin’s “Black-Owned Valentine’s Day Gift Guide.”

Gervin wanted to encourage people to remember to buy from Black businesses for different holidays like Valentine’s Day. The guide is also one of her new strategies for increasing interaction with her account. She plans to do similar posts in the future but also hopes to have a physical event to support the businesses and students that she features.

“I didn’t think it would get to this level,” Gervin said.

She said a lot of people have reached out to her to let her know that they like the idea and the platform she’s built over the past few months.

“It’s been a really good experience seeing how supportive people are and how people want to support Black businesses, because I know we’ve been going through a lot this year. It’s been a difficult year altogether, but I think stuff like this helps bring the community together, and that’s really enjoyable,” Gervin said.


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