Black Greek Letter Organizations, also known as BGLO, were created because of segregation. White Greek Letter Organizations denied Black women and men entry. The idea behind the BGLO's was for Black people to pool their resources together to acquire an education. If a student could not afford an education, then BGLO would band together to assist. The other idea was to find ways to uplift and connect with the Black community.
When you're a member of these Greek organizations, there's a deep level of bond and trust that's developed. The organizations provided an environment for great friendships to spawn.
But what happens when you graduate college? People tend to go their separate ways, wherever jobs may lead them. And because of this, it's challenging to stay in touch with other fraternity and sorority members.
Anthonia Raphael-Chieke came to Iyin Akinlabi-Oladimeji with a business idea. Both of which are Delta Sorors. They had taken an entrepreneurship class together. This is where they developed the concept for Khemet. Khemet is a social networking app that connects members of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). These members make up The Divine 9. The Divine 9 represents the nine Black Greek (BGLO's) fraternities and sororities.
Iyin & Anthonia noticed frat brothers and sorority sisters lost contact with each other after graduating college. They had no access to remain in touch. It became clear than many Greek members were moving to remote areas. As a result, they didn't have access to familiar faces (or connections). They noticed one more thing. There was no centralized market place for Greek paraphernalia. Hence the birth of Khemet. A place to connect and buy Greek products.
Why The Name Khemet?
Initially, they named the app Greek Links, but it wasn't available. They wanted to use a name that embodied the strength of the BGLO's. Khemet is an Egyptian word that means the land of the Black people. It also means black soil or fertile land. The Khemet app is the embodiment of that soil and how it enables people to connect, grow, and uplift each other.
Setbacks Happen One Way Or Another
Iyin reported there were many setbacks. "We didn't realize how long this would take." Developing the app and having trials and errors took a considerable amount of time. One of the issues that Khemet had was finding a technical member for their team. The team didn't want to outsource the development of the app. They wanted to keep everything in-house. In the beginning, the initial product wasn't the best.
When asked why they kept the development in house, Iyin said they experienced tons of communication barriers. "Outsourcing posed a lot of challenges from location to language, but it was challenging to get the exact product that we visioned." She says. Another consideration was quality. It took way more money than expected to get the quality they needed for the app. They feared running out of money.
Iyin credits listening to the podcast, How I Built This with Guy Raz. A podcast where founders share their experiences in developing their companies. They share the amount of time it takes to scale it. "The biggest lesson, if I have another venture, is things will move a lot faster," Iyin says. To build an app takes a considerable amount of financial resources.
What Would Khemet Have Done Differently?
She says beta testing would have saved a tremendous amount of time and money. It's essential to start with some mock-ups of the platform. This allows you to receive in-depth and concrete user feedback. Had they received the input earlier, they could have avoided many pitfalls. Their focus would've been in streamlining now versus readjusting the way they had. She says the feedback they have received since then has been constructive. They have some simple UI/UX fixes, and they are adding Greek emojis to the app.
Walk Us Through The Pitch Competition
The idea was to have Iyin's co-founder pitch, but she couldn't make it. So she had to step in. Being in the public eye and public speaking wasn't one of her strengths. This was her very first time pitching. Before this, she and her co-founder worked non-stop to put their pitch deck together. They refined their business model and tightened up their profitability. They focused on sharing their unique selling proposition in the market place.
However, the day before the pitch, they made some last-minute changes. After having spoken to Shelly, she realized they did a lot of research. They had hard facts and numbers, but there was no story. People are more intrigued by a story and connecting to real experiences than the numbers. So, the day before they changed their pitch deck. After the pitch, several people approached her and said they would use the app. They left their information so she could reach out to them when the app was live in the market place.
What Are You Most Proud Of?
"I'm most proud of us having this business in general, knowing that it's coming together, even though we're behind on our launch date. People are really excited," Iyin says. She expresses how important it is or the Black community and members of the D-9 to have access to each other. Indeed, this is a niche audience.
Another proud moment for Iyin is standing in front of a public audience to share their vision. She has a fear of public speaking. Her nerves almost got the best of her. But with any challenge, having a bold vision pulls you through any obstacle that one faces. Her advice for others, "Just do it, you just have to do it and get over it. You'll gain more confidence, the more you do it."
What Does Self-Care Mean For You?
"My whole life is centered around peace and having tranquility." Iyin shares. One needs to have balance in everything they do. She says to have healthy eating habits and to exercise allows the body to do better. She wakes up grateful and says, thank you. Thank you for the business, and she sits with an appreciation for how it's going. Iyin makes a conscious effort to not always think about the next thing. But to be grateful for everything in her life and the things she's accomplished thus far. "While you're getting into the ground and your moving forward, remain level-headed," Iyin says.
Podcast recommendations: Oprah's Super Soul Sunday, How I Built This.
Book recommendation: Iyin curates a book club that meets monthly. She recommends Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and Rich Dad Poor Dad by Guy Kiyosaki.
Favorite Business app: Wonderlist helps to put her to-do lists together and gets her ready for her week.
A food item she cannot say no to: French fries.
What's Next For Khemet?
"We are focused on getting additional funding, attending more pitch competitions, and reaching out to influencers," Iyin shares. When building any type of business, every business owner needs to establish relationships and continue to network. She is hoping to get brand ambassadors to help get the word out about Khemet. With regards to the app itself, they are working on a few iterations. They are making updates from the user feedback they've received from their beta testing. They are hoping to release the app to the market place mid to late October. They are also thinking about having a release party to create some buzz but also having official launch parties in different areas of the country. Lastly, they plan to attend Startup School.