Karen Thrower believes connecting people is her superpower.
An independent consultant, Thrower’s world has been rocked during the pandemic as in-person gatherings have halted and her consulting contracts have all dried up. So she took to the digital world like everyone else and developed a virtual connecting tool, specifically for the Black-owned business community.
Through her app, Kharis Connect, Thrower has created a directory of 60 Black-owned businesses in the Charleston region. With the swipe of an iPhone or Android, one can pull up businesses and services within a 1,000-mile radius that may not be advertised as often as other Lowcountry businesses.
“The reality of it is Black-owned businesses don’t have the marketing dollars,” Thrower said. “We don’t have the startup cash that most people have and our visibility is limited because our resources for that is so limited.”
She was determined to find a way for those businesses to be seen.
With plenty of time on her hands during quarantine, the entrepreneur dove into researching how to create an app and launched it with the help of her collegiate nephew who she proudly calls a tech genius.
“It’s exciting to start this process,” Thrower said. “Everybody is having the same problem, but I decided to create a solution to help us be seen, for a way for Black-owned businesses to economically market themselves.”
In the 1990s, Thrower worked at The Noisette Co. in North Charleston. Her mentor would tease her that she could be famous if she could only bottle up her passion to connect people.
Years later, Thrower became so immersed in connecting people, getting calls from friends and businesses asking if she knew anyone who could help them, that she became an independent consultant.
Last year she noticed a local newspaper’s Black-owned business listing only displayed 15 businesses.
“I thought to myself, there’s a lot more than that,” she said. “There has to be a better way for us to connect and engage customers.”
The Kharis Connect app is free for consumers and businesses pay $159 to be featured. Members receive education on owning a business, social media pushes, a headshot from Bubble Photography Studios, a one-minute promotional video and marketing and network opportunities.
As a further perk, businesses can join Thrower every Friday when she is featured on one of Kirkman Broadcasting’s radio shows. Members get 30 minutes to discuss their business and 30 free commercials on the radio that week.
“My plan is to build a solid community here in Charleston and then to move statewide and into Charlotte and North Carolina,” Thrower said. “For now, I want to make home great. We don’t get enough recognition here yet.”