When Bed-Stuy resident Janine Hausif moved from Maryland to New York City in 2007 to pursue a career in modeling, she never imagined that seven years later, she'd be teaching master classes and accepting awards for her achievements.
But it wasn't fashion or the runway that propelled her career (she had long grown bored with modeling); it was something entirely different-- something about which she knew nothing: technology.
Hausif, 29, is the creator of "Around The Way," a geo-location mobile app that connects consumers with local black businesses.
The app is the first of its kind to do what it does. And already, it's generating a lot of buzz.
Hausif says she got the idea for the app one day while walking through Crown Heights, where she had always taken note of two distinct cultures-- West Indians and Hasidic Jews-- divided sharply by one street: Eastern Parkway.
"All the businesses on the Jewish side are Jewish-owned," said Hausif. "They have their own business, schools, ambulances, police; they have their community set. And I thought, Why can't we do that?
"You've got Chinatown, K-Town, Little Italy, all of these neighborhoods where there is an ethnic correlation. But at the core of that, really, is economics.
"So it only makes sense to me that we also support our own, so we can reap the benefits of what that means for us as a community in the short-term and long-term."
Hausif, already feeling a little lost after giving up her original career in modeling thought long and hard about her true passion. And she decided, it was empowering women, children and the black community.
Hausif decided, if she could do something-- even a little-- to help grow black businesses, then maybe that would help decrease unemployment. Her first idea was to create a tasteful little decal that businesses could place in their windows identifying them as "black-owned."
"But after awhile, I decided that wasn't the greatest idea, because what if one business has a sticker on 10th Ave., how will you know where the next sticker is on 9th Ave or whatever?"
So she began building an online directory of black business by scouring the Internet, knocking on merchants' doors and combing government databases.
"But then I realized, there were a zillion online directories that existed. Besides, Google's a verb. So no one really uses online directories for anything, because the ultimate directory is Google."
So she began looking for an app that could geo-locate where she was in proximity to the black-owned business around her. She looked and looked. And believe it or not, no such app existed!
Immediately, she knew what she had to do: Create that app! And that's exactly what she did! Well, kinda sort of
"I'm not a coder. I'm more of a resource-gatherer and make-things-happener," said Hausif laughing. She hired a team to build the first version of "Around The Way," which launched on the iPhone in November 2012 and on the Android in January 2013.
But after experiencing a few glitches in the iPhone platform database, she brought on a second team to create a custom database for the app. And in January 2014, the second, most recent version of "Around The Way" launched.
"I was so happy when it launched, because I set out to do something and I completed it," said Hausif. "With no technical experience whatsoever, I made it happen. That's a huge deal to me. It made feel like, if I can do it, anybody can do it!"
And it's been fast-forward for Hausif ever since: panels, speaking engagements and teleconferences, all to share with others how to build an app and turn your passion into power.
On Monday, February 3, Janine Hausif was honored at the Amtrak Pioneer Award, presented during the Brooklyn Nets vs. Philadelphia 76ers game at Barclays Center. The award recognizes African Americans who, through resolve and perseverance, have positively impacted their communities.
And on Wednesday, February 19, she'll be headed to Lagos, Nigeria to teach a "Tell-All" social media master class on app creation.
"I was on a panel yesterday, and a guy on the panel told me that he got a business referral through my app," Janine said, her eyes sparkling with excitement. "He said he found it through the Around the Way App! I was like, 'That's amazing, thank you for sharing that!'"
"Even if it's in just a small way, I like the fact that I'm helping people's businesses grow."