In life, one of the most important things is being on time, present and relevant. And that’s exactly what Khadijah Robinson, founder of The Nile List, is.
The Nile List is a young company that many have likened to “The Green Book” and here’s why:
Like the original Negro Motorist Green Book, written by Victor Hugo Green, The Nile List promotes black-owned companies and lets people of colour know exactly to whom and where their money is going. Why is this so important? Simply put, money is a powerful tool and the communities or people who own it, tend to be more influential. This is especially important for every Black community around the world, as we struggle for access to opportunities, inclusion in all industries and the ability to make lasting and impactful decisions that benefit us as a people.
In a time that is so racially charged, and is calling for people of colour to support their own, the team at Accelerate couldn’t think of a more relevant entrepreneur to focus on this week. Khadijah Robinson, before the noise and all the protests, has been supporting the Black and African community through enterprise, like many of the black-owned businesses she works with, through The Nile List.
How did you come up the name of your company?
Khadijah: A friend gave me the name and I ran with it. It’s a play on Amazon but brings it back here to the continent.
Historically, the Nile river has been an important conduit of travel and played a vital role in terms of trade and commerce in Africa. And that is essentially the aim of this business- to facilitate business and commerce in the same way for black owned businesses, by linking them to consumers.
What were some of the frustrations that led to you starting The Nile List?
Khadijah: Finding Black-owned businesses was difficult and I wanted to streamline the process. In addition to that, I wanted to address the negative stereotypes and connotations that surround black businesses. For a long time, I’ve felt that I have a part to play in changing that mentality. Black-owned companies, like any other good company, offer exceptional customer service and good quality shopping experiences.
I also want to widen the scope people have of black-owned businesses. Oftentimes, people don’t associate black businesses with industries such as furniture, paint, and other manufacturing businesses.
What are some of the similarities between The Nile List and The Negro Motorist Green Book?
Khadijah: It is an attempt to make the shopping experience transparent and to give businesses validation and verification. We have a proper review system and offer detailed contact information for each of our listed businesses. Similar to the original Green Book, we have created a system where people can find specific things from specific companies, and can get a strong sense of the business before making a purchase.
We let people buy black with the best possible information.
Our target audience is black people but we also cater to other communities who are supportive of our community.
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Why is your business relevant during these times?
Khadijah: When black people become “too” prominent or wealthy, it’s a trigger for white violence. There is a reason why black businesses have attracted push backs and racism and that’s because enterprise is a means through which a community can lift itself up. History tells us so. You can see this in what happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the 1920s.
It is only right to think of investing in and growing black businesses because it is fundamental to our progression. Whatever role any of us can play, no matter how small, we should.
What is The Nile List’s primary narrative?
Khadijah: Quite simply, it’s “we know someone black who makes that”. That’s our slogan.
We have a strong desire to showcase people’s daily purchases don’t have to be made outside of the community and that you’ll get good quality.
Is there anything that makes Nile radical?
Khadijah: Normalising blackness and black things. That is radical even in 2020.
If you think about it, “black” is always “other” while “white” is normal or the standard baseline. Black is viewed as extra or different. The Nile List is working hard to normalise blackness.
Though we want to maintain our uniqueness and culture but we don’t want to walk around feeling like “other”.
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You’ve been in Lagos for about 4 months now. Why have you been focusing on Nigerian companies?
Khadijah: I feel like this is the Black capital of entrepreneurship. I love the Nigerian hustle and the amazing creativity that you can find here.
When you talk about fashion, artisanal and lifestyle brands, from my outside point of view, I have seen real growth in the space over the last decade. It excites me. Everything from high fashion to every day clothing. I wanted to draw that out and showcase it. You dont see that in the US. You don’t have the same level of access to black-owned clothing stores, with their own store fronts and online platforms.
How has your audience responded to the Nigerian businesses you have featured?
Khadijah: People have been really interested and are asking questions about shipping to America. They are exited. At first I wasn’t sure what the reception would be like but it’s actually really worked out. Furthermore, this has really highlighted the similarities between black communities in the U.S. and the one here in Nigeria.
Do you have plans to include other African countries?
Khadijah: Most definitely. I am actually hoping to produce content that is focused on West African businesses and further link the greater black community to businesses in the region. My next stop is Ghana. With that said, I have plans for East Africa too, and have begun talks with companies based in Kenya.
I want The Nile List to be a global company and not just U.S.-based.
How can businesses join The Nile List community?
Khadijah: Very easily. Go to our site. Click on register and follow the prompts. It will take only a few minutes. The only major requirement is that your products are available to purchase online. Our website is www.thenilelist.com.
Overall, based on your experience through The Nile List, what is one thing black business owners need to do more of?
Khadijah: There needs to be consolidation amongst black business owners who operate in the same spaces or industries. This will ultimately lead to economies of scale which eventually will drive down the cost of operations, and ultimately make products and some services more affordable. Working together will facilitate buying and prevent companies from constantly reinventing the wheel.
I also suggest collaborating where and when you can and sharing co-working spaces.
Lastly, we need to strengthen our networks. Many black people in the U.S. are isolated. And successful black people are far and few in between.
Now, more than ever, is the time for us to support each other. In doing so, we fight systemic racism and oppression and keep our money in our communities. If we don’t invest in ourselves first, or push our members of our own communities ahead, no one else will. For us, by us: buy black-owned, and buy Nigerian-made.
Nile is a one-stop digital platform that connects consumers with black-owned brands online.
Khadijah Robinson, the founder and owner of Nile is a Southern girl through and through, and was raised in Savannah, GA and Montgomery, AL. Her life is a manifestation of the Issa Rae phrase, “I’m rooting for Everybody Black.” One of her favorite facts to share about herself is that when she started elementary school, she had never heard “The Star Spangled Banner,” and thought that “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was the national anthem! She never lost that love of community. Khadijah is a graduate of Spelman College, received her MSc from the University College London and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.
By: Oladotun Adio
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