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Shops Noir: Black-owned online marketplace

SHE MEANS BUSINESS: Carol Cato, founder of Shops Noir

CAROL CATO, recipient of the 2016 Wise Women Christian Woman in Business Award, has worked in the IT industry as a contractor for over 20 years but has always had an entrepreneurial streak - she is passionate about supporting black businesses and encouraging individuals to buy and sell in a way that generates wealth in the community.

In 2011, Cato found it difficult to find and commission black businesses for specific work because there was no central library, she created her own Facebook Page, entitled, 'Looking for a Black Business but can't find one' so that other people could also access the information.

Once the Page had over 3,000 engaged subscribers, the next logical step was to provide a showcase for these businesses to help raise their profile.


CAMERA-READY: Award-winning entrepreneur Carol Cato

With the support of friends and volunteers, Cato launched the first Black British Expo event in London. The event also served two other purposes - the formal launch of the Noir International brand and the nascent movement, Buy Black British Weekend, in 2014. Carol then created the NOIR International Online Business Directory. The following year a second larger expo event was successfully held in the RBS Headquarters in Bishopsgate.

In 2016, following interest from like-minded business entrepreneurs, Cato started a What'sApp group, the NICER (Noir International Community Economics Revolution) where the members pitch their services to each other. As a result, the group held their first business event earlier this month.

The lessons Cato gathered from all these ventures have helped her forge her latest online venture, Shops Noir, which was launched in February 2017 and boasts 11,000 Facebook group members. This shopping platform is designed to allow UK and international black entrepreneurs access to a broader market outside of the Afro-Caribbean community.

To visit Shops Noir, go to www.shopsnoir.com

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