How one startup is saving hundreds of minority businesses during COVID-19


Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

 By Catherine LaCroix

May 14, 2020

Melanoid Exchange How one startup is saving hundreds of minority businesses during COVID-19

The grim reality of the rapid spread of Coronavirus is that—no matter the size of the business or corporation—we weren’t ready for it. It’s not hyperbole to say that those hit hardest were small businesses and single-owner operations. Millions of small minority businesses thrive from storefronts, vendor festivals, conventions, swap meets, and flea markets; major sales opportunities that were canceled left and right when groups were limited to ten and under. Suddenly, all businesses were forced to rely on e-commerce revenue—a difficult and complex jungle to navigate for those who’ve never dabbled in online retail or services before. Most minority small businesses have enough resources in reserve to survive one to three months in this new, socially distanced landscape. However, with the recent announcement that this could last for up to 18 months, e-commerce is a necessity. Congress allocated a meager $10 million to the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) out of the $2.2 trillion Cornavirus relief bill. The MBDA is an Agency dedicated to connecting minority-owned businesses with the capital, contracts, and markets they need to grow, yet it received less than 1% of Coronavirus relief assistance. That’s where Melanoid Exchange steps in.

Success in Six Months

Melanoid Exchange was launched by husband and wife duo, Jovante and Darsha Ham. In a mere six months, they’ve been recognized in Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list, has netted over 12,000 app downloads, house over 300 vendors, and have 700 registered customers. They recently launched a $1500 grant to help small minority businesses struggling through this difficult time. “It’s just a blessing from God to be a blessing to someone else going through a rough patch… The only way we will get through this tough time is by aiding each other,” says CEO Jovante Ham.

Saving Minority Businesses

More than half of 11 million small businesses lack an online presence, including any kind of website, online storefront, or emarketing strategy. Entering the world of e-commerce in the digital age is intimidating, as larger e-commerce platforms monopolize the industry—charging high maintenance and marketing fees. The purpose and build of Melanoid Exchange are to streamline the process of connecting vendors and customers, taking the e-commerce marketplace concepts of Etsy or eBay, and combining them with eCommerce software system services of websites like Shopify and Squarespace. This resulted in a platform dedicated to helping small minority businesses go digital, no matter the product or service. Unlike many of its competitors, the owners take a more intimate approach to their customers, ensuring that each vendor and client receives a custom experience tailored to their needs. “What separates Melanoid Exchange from other platforms is because it’s personal,” says Darsha Ham, COO. “Me and my husband both come from a family of old school entrepreneurs who work hard. It’s a priority that we help these businesses work smarter and adapt into [the] eCommerce industry that has taken over almost every market.” More information and a link to the app can be found through Melanoid Exchange’s website


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