Ngozi Ahanotu-Anorue is an ambitious, well-versed Founder across content creation and customer experience. As early as she could remember, she was shuffling words on paper and selling something to someone, somewhere. So she’s turned her passion for entrepreneurship and community, into the story-driven content agency NIA NIA Creative Studio and community-led website hiihat, a search engine to help people find all things Black, an all-in-one place called hiihat.
Ngozi’s superpower is improving and advancing the intricacies of a brand’s online or offline presence through words, data, and video. Her approach at developing brand voice allows her to mentor and coach creators on upskilling and implementing sharp marketing efforts or campaigns.
A graduate of Georgia State University (B.A. Journalism) and Johnson and Wales University (MBA Hospitality), she lives, breathes, and creates all things Black not just for herself, but for the future of Black communities. Although a tech founder, her love for storytelling doesn’t lean only on technology but on the historical themes that can repeat themselves in society, offline. She believes supporting and endorsing Black life is not charity work, it’s a necessity for the American economy to survive.
Ngozi resides in Atlanta, GA and is recently married. When she’s not advancing how we circulate the dollar in Black communities through content or via search, she’s traveling with her husband, spending time with her family, friends, and sorority sisters at celebrations and live concerts, or dining at a new restaurant anywhere in the world.
Connect with Ngozi on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- hiihat 1000 list that celebrate small Black businesses
- Paid advertising that is better than Google
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:03] Broadcasting live from the business radio studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Atlanta Business Radio, brought to you by on pay. Built in Atlanta on pay is the top rated payroll and HR software anywhere. Get one month free at on pay. Now here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:31] Lee Kantor here another episode of Atlanta Business Radio. But this is one of my favorite series that we do the GSU ENI radio series where we spotlight folks doing work out of GSU any and or the Main Street fund. So excited to be talking to my guest today. Ngozi Ahanotu with Hiihat Global. Welcome.
Ngozi Ahanotu: [00:00:52] Thank you so much for having me, Lee.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:54] Well, I’m so excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us about Hiihat Global. How are you serving, folks?
Ngozi Ahanotu: [00:01:00] Oh, my gosh. Hiihat is such a labor of love. But it came from I had is a B2C search platform. We operate as a search engine similar to Google, but ultimately we are serving the black community in terms of black businesses, black media, black services. We are working with these small businesses who are the bedrock of America to make sure they’re getting the traffic and exposure they need to ultimately build their business and create generational wealth.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:30] Now, what was the impetus of this adventure? What was the genesis of the idea?
Ngozi Ahanotu: [00:01:36] Yeah, so I had basically derived from me growing up, I have to be very honest. Like Black History Month tends to be very repetitive. They kind of tell the same stories. They showcase the same people who, while they are pioneers and our elders and our ancestors and we respect them. It’s just something where we think that we want to see something more future. Like who are the people that are leading us now? Who are the people that we should look up to and that we can see as our representation? So for me, part of that was going into my research skills and finding black owned businesses in my area when I was growing up in Atlanta and Stone Mountain. So from that, just over the years, I grew into doing more black owned things, working with more black owned businesses. And when COVID hit, I just decided, okay, how can I just ultimately do everything more black owned and really support these businesses? So from that database, I just said, let me try a search engine, you know, instead of a directory or marketplace, because I really think everything needs to be in one place. I want to read black news in one place. I want to buy my products in one place. I want to get my services from my home or whatever I need in one place. And that’s how high hat came together. It’s search all things black, all in one place.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:55] Now, are you a technologist? Where were you able to kind of code this yourself?
Ngozi Ahanotu: [00:03:00] No, I am a non-technical person. I do have a tech team. A close friend of mine when I went to grad school. He works in tech and we were able to connect and he really believed in what I was building. So he’s been helping me get this off the ground and launch it and it’s really been great.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:19] Now, can you give some advice for other non-tech founders? How were you able to identify that right partner? And how were you able to kind of get them buying into your vision of what this could be?
Ngozi Ahanotu: [00:03:33] Absolutely. That’s a really great question. You know, I would say in my case, I’ve known this person for almost ten years. So for me, it was a matter of really showing him this is what I’m doing, this is what I can contribute to the business and this is what I would need your help contributing. And once I was able to do that with him, he really believed in what I was putting together and we were able to convince some other tech people what we can really do and build. So that’s how we’ve been able to get things done so quickly in a matter of a few months, just adding new features and things like that. But and what I would advise other entrepreneurs who are non-technical, don’t be afraid to like, learn some things and then go at someone. This is what I’m trying to build. How can you help me? Because a lot of people are going to help you based off your commitment, your vision, your ability to contribute. It’s not just having an idea. It’s like, okay, maybe you don’t know how to code, but maybe, you know some other things tech wise that you can keep up with. Or maybe you’re really good at research, so you can research some things to help the tech team be able to contribute. And they will. It’ll show them that you can really you’re committed to this project and you’re serious about it.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:50] Now, when you started kind of building and putting it out there for the world to see, did you have some indication, some clues that, hey, we might be on to something big here?
Ngozi Ahanotu: [00:05:02] Yeah, I think that initial clue was when I would talk to the customers, customers and the people using it. It was really like, Oh, I found what I was looking for. And for me that’s the biggest thing in search. That’s something that Google is trying to solve every day. When I when someone comes to search for something, are they finding what they’re looking for within the first or second page? So when that is what’s happening or what’s what they’re getting, you’re definitely on to something because when they find what they’re looking for, then they’re able to then they’re able to really you’re able to really say, okay, the customer likes what’s happening, the user likes what’s happening.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:38] Now, are you going to monetize in the same manner that a Google monetize in terms of advertising?
Ngozi Ahanotu: [00:05:44] Yes. So that’s why we’re a B2C search platform, because ultimately we are working with small businesses on their ability to pay per click advertising, which they’re not already doing inside of they’re not already doing with Google. So we’re able to work with them directly on the ground and say, oh my gosh, like this is something that can really help your business. And we know you’re not as technical or we know that you’re not able to keep up with the trends. But we’re such a niche search platform, we’re able to really put together what it is that they need.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:15] Now, is your I know you’re based in Georgia. Is this something that is going to start out kind of Georgia centric and then expand kind of organically, organically from there? Or is kind of the world your oyster because there’s black owned businesses all over the planet?
Ngozi Ahanotu: [00:06:30] Yeah, the world is our oyster and we’re actually already in most major cities in the US. Were also have some things in UK like London that we’ve been able to put together Australia, South Africa and we’re hoping to get some things in Mexico and Canada as well. So it’s just an ongoing process of us really building things out.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:53] And is. I know that you’re doing something to celebrate black businesses, small black businesses. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Ngozi Ahanotu: [00:07:03] Yes. So we are having our annual event, Black Quest. It’s going to be on Saturday, October 1st, in Atlanta, Georgia. Our starting point is Mocha Pops, which is a black owned popsicle shop. And basically what happens, people sign up as teams or solo participants and they have a chance to win $1,000 when they use hi hat to find the destinations on the clues. So it’s a really fun event that we do every year. The businesses love it, the teams love it. You know, the city really gets to just come alive when you’re starting to find all these black owned businesses that you never knew.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:43] So it’s kind of like a treasure hunt.
Ngozi Ahanotu: [00:07:45] Yes, But I would say scavenger hunt tours the prizes at the end. You don’t get treasure throughout where there are some prizes throughout. But yeah, I would say closer to scavenger hunt. I don’t know. Treasure hunt. Scavenger hunt. You are using hi hat to find it.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:00] And then is this something that you plan to roll out in the other markets that you’re in?
Ngozi Ahanotu: [00:08:05] Yes, we actually so part of what we’re doing is black is really for the users. It’s just for them to know how to use the website, for them to just really learn what’s in their city. But some other events we’re doing directly for our business customers are they would need to come to happy hour events that we’re doing. I personally am going to speak to small business organizations in order to figure out what is it that you need. How can we help you outside of the paper Click advertising. We have some really great things that we’re putting together for small business owners in order to get them onto the platform.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:40] And then what’s your kind of sales pitch to a business owner to advertise with Hi rather than Google?
Ngozi Ahanotu: [00:08:49] Well, what’s really great is that they’re probably not already advertising with Google so that I don’t even have to compete with them. But my pitch is usually, you know, how are you getting customers? And here’s an opportunity for you to get more qualified customers that you know are looking for your services, because our search platform is so niche that when someone looks for something, it’s more likely they’re going to find what they’re looking for in your business when you have advertising with us. Because what they are searching for is a very particular thing, which is a black person who can do these services. A black business who has these products or a black media platform who has this type of news.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:33] And how did you hear about the mainstream fund?
Ngozi Ahanotu: [00:09:36] So I am actually third generation in Georgia State. My father was a professor there for several years. My sister graduated from there. So I was always on campus with her growing up as well as my dad. I was always on Georgia State campus growing up and then I went there as well. I graduated 2010 and I just always continue to stay involved. So I was chair of the Georgia State University Alumni Entrepreneurship Network. And as a chair, I just know more about entrepreneurship opportunities, and that was when I was able to have a better understanding of what it is that. You know, Jordan State’s doing and how I can be involved as an entrepreneur and business owner.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:16] So how has gone going through the program helped you grow your business?
Ngozi Ahanotu: [00:10:22] You know, I have to say, like I’ve actually learned so much and I have been able to transform my business in ways I would not have thought of prior to this program. And I’m sure a lot of people are going to say that. But I genuinely have to say like, I don’t mind. I want my hat to be looked at as a search engine. So I spent a lot of the program trying to figure out what is it that I’m telling businesses as customers and users who are customers as well? What am I telling them to make sure they understand? While we do appear to be a search engine like Google, we have so much more to offer you when it comes to your efforts to a little more black owned life. So I think this program has really been able to push me into a different direction as to how I can get that message out, the type of language I need to use, and ultimately how I can best serve the users and customers.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:15] Yeah, I think that community’s at the heart of it and focusing on that and that I think is going to resonate with a lot of folks.
Ngozi Ahanotu: [00:11:24] Absolutely. Thank you so much.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:26] Now, if somebody wants to learn more about high hat, either maybe submit their business to be in the search engine or advertise on the search engine, what is the the website? What’s the best way to learn more?
Ngozi Ahanotu: [00:11:40] Yes. So if you are a business owner and you want to claim your business in our search engine, you will go to high hat dot com h i h a t. There is a button there for you to claim your business. It takes a matter of 60 seconds and once your business is in there, we can start crawling you and get you right into the search engine. And if you’re a user who is someone who is transitioning to a more black owned lifestyle, you’re someone who money doesn’t matter. I really want to make sure I support black owned everything. Or if you’re even an ally and you have someone in your life who you love, who is black or African or of that community, and this is a way for you that you think you can support them. All of you guys can visit dot com I hate and take advantage of the search engine to your best visibility and find what you’re looking for.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:33] Well, congratulations on all the success. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Ngozi Ahanotu: [00:12:38] Thank you so much for having me again. Lee. It’s great.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:42] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you all next time on GSU. Any radio?
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