The Startup Thread- Blistey: Showing us how to Create Social Change One Business at a Time

Blistey: Showing us how to Create Social Change One Business at a Time

November 2, 2021

Dan Stein

I recently spoke with Franklin Forbes, an architect, urban planner, and the CEO of Blistey, the travel app and online business directory for Black, Asian, Latinx, and Indigenous businesses. Last July, he launched Blistey to encourage people of color and their allies to engage and patronize businesses in their communities and cities globally. His Latino heritage growing up in Brooklyn and the importance of the increased visibility of Afro-Latino/a/x people in the business culture have shaped his goals and experiences. As a result, he decided to use his passion and urban planning background to connect people and make cities more livable and enjoyable.

Blistey is available in 25 cities; 16 are located in the United States, and the rest are internationally. There are over 2,500 businesses currently that are a part of our listings globally. At Blistey, we want to focus on the intersections of race, and ethnicity, explore those differences, and create bonds from those differences and amongst our allies. Our future growth is with curated gift box sets starting in January from BIPOC businesses and the use of our app to find amazing BIPOC businesses in their city and when they travel.

Check out our full interview below!

Dan: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us. To start, I am sure our readers would love to learn more about you. How did you get here? What is your background?
After working in the real estate industry for a few years, I decided to return to school and become an architect. I graduated from Columbia University with a degree in architecture and then went on to get my master’s in urban planning from the Kent School of Architecture in England. After that, I taught architecture in Japan and Paris and then returned to the United States in 2019.

Check out our full interview below!

Dan: Tell us about your business. What do you do, and what is your startup’s origin story?
After coming back from Japan and France, I decided to start a business in January of 2020. I planned for a soft launch in March and our hard launch in April. Then in February, COVID-19 changed my business plan for my first startup. I realized that I had to pivot into another one of my passions (urban planning) that could become a business in the middle of a global pandemic. Blistey is a form of urban planning that uses technology to connect people with the diversity in our cities and towns.

Dan: What’s unique about your company? What are the key differentiators between you and other players?
Blistey is unique in the way people will be able to access diversity. Our users will be able to have diversity at their fingertips with our app. One of the ways we enjoy the cities we live in is exploring and finding places that make home unique or our vacations special. The critical difference between Blistey and other business players is that we are not focusing only on one part of diversity but its entirety. We want you to patronize within your community, learn something about other communities, and focus on building a global society. Not only can you do this where you live, but you can use it when you travel to find places you identify with as a person of color or an ally.

Dan: Can you take us through a typical day in your life?
My typical day starts with checking my email and then my slack to see what messages I need to return. I then go down the list of things I have to do both at work and home. During the middle of the day, I do a check-in with my employees. On Mondays, we have management meetings and a general life check-in or our Mental health Mondays. After that, I continue with the rest of my workday, and then usually at night, I try to do something relaxing like painting or sculpting.

Dan: What are some of the critical steps you have taken to grow your business?
We use social media, advertising, and community grassroots outreach to grow our business. I am also partnering with companies that would like to be part of our growth. For example, in January, we will launch Blistey Box, our curated gift boxes from BIPOC businesses. It has a dual purpose of having a social impact on the industry and brand recognition.

Dan: What has been the most challenging part of growing your company?

What has been the most challenging part of growing your company? One of the most challenging things about growing a startup is in your initial available resources. You have to learn about scale quickly and how to manage expectations versus initial results. At the same time, you maintain your professional goals and those of the company while managing your team. You have a fantastic product and idea, but the challenge is to let the public know that this resource exists, especially the communities already disenfranchised from the business and tech world.

Dan: What are your best sales and marketing tips?
One of my tips is to recognize who is to know your market as soon as possible. My other tip is to wait for opportunities to maximize your marketing ability in the early stages of your business. Then, start by advertising and marketing locally and develop a plan for growing out your marketing plan.

Dan: Do you have a book, podcast, or YouTube channel you recommend to other Entrepreneurs?
I would recommend “LEAPFROG: The New Revolution for Women” by businesswoman and author Nathalie Molina Niño, “The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life’s Direction and Purpose” by Oprah Winfrey, and “The Work: Searching for a Life That Matters” by Wes Moore.

Dan: If you could go back in time to the day you founded your company, what advice would you give yourself?
If I could go back in time on day one of founding my company, I would tell myself to trust my intuition. However, I would also tell myself to embrace the fear of change and possible failure, and potential success. Either can keep you going depending on looking at both as a learning experience.

Dan Stein

Dan Stein
San Francisco Born and Bred. Co-Founder of the Startup Thread. Entrepreneur.