Imani Lee's last nine years of work on his startup was coming to fruition. His clothing line focused on health and healing was getting ready to take off, but events in 2020 made Lee re-evaluate.
"I asked myself, 'What can I do to support my Black community, to help us become more visible, help other people learn about Black culture, to break down stigmas and stereotypes?'" Lee said. "I was making traction with my passion project, but I really had to decide at that moment what direction I could go with. I had been working on the side for nine years, so to put it down completely spoke volumes on how passionate I was about this company."
His bet with his new company, Black Stock Footage, has been paying off. The company was one of 10 in the nation that won a $25,000 grant from the NAACP and Daymond John, an entrepreneur and host of ABC's "Shark Tank."
"I've been waiting 10 years to meet Daymond John — I've known about him since FUBU," said Lee, co-founder and CEO of Black Stock Footage. "He popped up on the screen and I thought, 'Is this real?' It was exhilarating to meet him and now to let him know what I'm doing and hear his candid feedback."
The grant comes three months after Black Stock Footage won another $25,000, this time from Miami Endeavor's Pitch Competition.
"It's great to have an idea, but when the community backs you and then awards you money to tell you they support you ..." Lee said. "Especially in Florida — I'm from Miami, now living in Tampa and witnessing this — to be part of that change and history, I'm honored."
Lee is in the process of officially launching the company's beta phase with his co-founder and chief communications officer, Zebrina Edgerton. The company will provide a platform that allows video creators to access stock video focused on Black representation, something Lee saw was lacking when he was a freelance videographer.
"After the events in 2020, when a lot of social injustices were brought to light, a lot of my clients started requesting, 'Hey we want to make sure we’re more inclusive,'" Lee said. "I was using stock video platforms and I started looking and said, 'I don't see enough of people who do look like me and in the Black community.' From there, I said if there isn’t a platform or current competitors aren’t doing this, I should do it."
The company plans to launch with an official timeline of Q2 next year and is currently hiring videographers. It is also fundraising on GoFundMe, with a $50,000 goal.
"If the community is looking to support a young startup, we’re mission driven and the faster we get the platform up and running, the faster it can be an accessible resource," Lee said. "It's helping literally bridge the gap between Black representation and creative storytelling. If a company is targeting a specific group with Black representation or just wants to be more inclusive, they can make sure their company is represented in the best light."
View the full Tampa Bay Inno article in the Tampa Bay Business Journal at https://www.bizjournals.com/tampabay/inno/stories/profiles/2021/10/19/tampa-startup-black-stock-footage-gets-daymond-joh.html