Lifestyle | October 14th, 2020

gBook: A Marketplace for HBCU Students, by HBCU Students

By: Vincent Jones
gBook: A Marketplace for HBCU Students, by HBCU Students

Young entrepreneurs in college yearn for opportunities to present their products and find clients to grow their businesses. Students also enjoy finding marketable products they can purchase for their personal use or trading for goods that better suit their needs. A newly founded platform, gBook, provides HBCU students the opportunity to buy, sell and discover goods on campus. The marketplace will serve as a median between business owners and consumers to connect without leaving the comfort of their rooms, or the campus they attend. 

Founders Devyn Allen, a student at Prairie View A&M University, and Garrett Tolbert, a Florida A&M University alumnus, met through a program called Google Tech Exchange. Through this experience, the two were able to put their minds together to create gBook in efforts to be a stepping stool for other entrepreneurs.  

“For there to be more successful Black-owned businesses, there need to be more equal opportunities for exposure.”

Allen said that he found Tolbert on Instagram initially to find out more about a class that they were taking together. “I messaged Garrett on Instagram to see how difficult things might be and we ended up forming a bond,” said Allen. “We clicked instantly, we share a lot of similar qualities.” 

The beginning stages of gBook began at PVAMU, where Allen created the business as a freshman.

“I was creating something called Biz on The Hill that served as a directory on campus, where students could find different services,” said Allen. “I presented the idea to Garrett and he loved it, so we decided to go through with it and create .” 

Students face hardship finding adequate services that are on campus, mostly because they are unaware of where they might be, or if they exist. As an entrepreneur, it can be difficult to find support or access resources. In the Black community, this task is proven to be more strenuous, given the disparities that have limited people for generations. With the boom in Black-owned businesses over the past ten years and many would ask the question: have these issues been addressed? To be frank, they have not. Black-owned businesses, along with Hispanic owned businesses have the highest failure rates. For there to be more successful Black-owned businesses, there needs to be more equal opportunities for exposure. 

“We realized that this problem doesn’t only appear at our own HBCUs, but around the world, so we decided why don’t we try to make a change to society.” 

“One of our biggest assignments at the program was to interview students from different schools, by the end of the year we had interviewed people from schools all over the United States,” said Tolbert. “We realized that this problem doesn’t only appear at our own HBCUs, but around the world, so we decided why don’t we try to make a change to society.”  

Tolbert said that growing up he was able to help his family through technology and now sees that he can help people on a larger scale. “I never wanted to see people struggle and have always wanted to help people,” Tolbert said. “The moment I understood something I would try to teach it. I know I am not perfect, but my experiences have allowed me to expand upon my mindset to think about ways I can help people like me,” he said. 

“Ultimately we want to represent underrepresented schools and people,” said Allen. “Money isn’t our driving factor whatsoever. We believe our best way to contribute is on college campuses because we are the future.” 

gBook is setting itself up to become proprietors of change. The founders directly address issues on college campuses to make things easier. Similar to Facebook and CashApp being the first thought that comes into one’s mind for social networking and sending money, is looking to make a name for themselves in the virtual marketplace.

“My hope is that becomes the standard application for college students to use, with that I want to support entrepreneurs to take their side hustle and transform it into a business,” said Allen. “We want to offer licensing and resources to make these businesses legit.”

Allen and Tolbert are empowering entrepreneurship in every fashion. They encourage all entrepreneurs to give it their all in not only their businesses but in every aspect of their lives. 

“You miss all of the shots that you do not take,” Tolbert said. “Get started, the sooner you do the more lessons you will learn.”