Freddie Taylor believes people should learn about Black History all year round — not just in February during Black History Month. He turned this goal into a multi-million-dollar business, one that prints and publishes Black history flashcards.
Taylor had been trying to find innovative ways to teach Black history to people since entering college in 1994. Back then he xeroxed profiles of history makers of African descent and sold them for 25 cents. Now, with his company Urban Intellectuals, he is selling them for 100 times that amount on major retail platforms like urbanitellectuals.com and Amazon.
Each deck features 52 cards that are detailed with historic people, places, or events, offering trivia that students often miss out on in traditional educational settings. The cards are broken up into packs, such as “Black History Flashcards: Women, dedicated 100% to amazing Black women! (Volume 2)”; “Black History Flashcards, Vol 1”; “Black History Flashcards: S.T.E.A.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics), (Volume 3)”; and “Black History Flashcards, Vol 5: Afro-Latino / Caribbean,” among other offerings.
He started the venture in 2017, with an invested $1,500 to manufacture his initial order of 500 decks, according to Face 2 Face Africa. He found a Chinese company that would print for cheap and hired talent per project to support his vision.
“In our [Black] community, we tend to want to do everything on our own,” Taylor said to Time.com. “I needed to humble myself and reach out for help to create and launch the flashcards. I modeled the flashcards after a standard deck of cards — 52 cards in each series. Then I hired a graphic designer on Fiverr and an illustrator on Upwork. The flashcards featured a picture on the front and bullet points of Black history information on the back.”
Within a few days, he sold out. He ordered a second run of the cards, placing up for sale 2,000 decks. Like the first batch, these sold like hotcakes. The next order went up to 10,000 and as of 2022, learners have purchased over 350,000 of the $24.99 decks, Taylor says.
Geoff Streat, the Chief Operations Officer for Usher’s New Look, purchased a deck for his son to help cultivate a love for learning his culture.
Taylor’s desire to make Black history accessible to millions has helped his company grow into a fully online education platform, netting $2 million a year in sales. His company now outsourced the flashcards‘ creation, customer support, marketing, public relations, and other areas to help the business thrive. Taylor and his team also hired a virtual assistant to manage small tasks.
The success of the flashcards opened the door for other ventures, like his new travel experience business, the Sankofa Club.
The Sankofa Club is an online platform for kids to learn about Black culture and historical contributions, and also sponsors trips to Ghana, Morocco, Granada, Alhambra, and other places where people of African descent have made a significant impact.
Another expansion into travel and tourism is his partnership with the airline, JetBlue. In 2019, he created a partnership deal with the company to have his flashcards featured in two major hubs, John F. Kennedy and Newark airports, going into the most trafficked city in the United States, New York, and marketing his company to as many as millions of travelers.
Taylor still desires to learn more and help others, sharing that to win in this space one has to first “position yourself as a relatable expert,” and then educate yourself in order to stay at the top of the game.
Lastly, business owners have to lock in on their niche, product, or service. He also encourages new business owners to utilize social media platforms to make money like YouTube, podcasts, and books.