With all of the recent stories about Morehouse College, CLUTCH has uncovered one of the more interesting stories of the year. After finding early success in their respective fields, a few Morehouse College graduates have sought to make a change in their community by starting a company to change the trajectory of HIV/AIDS in the African-American community.
b condoms® (www.bcondoms.com) was started by a few friends who attended Morehouse college. The “Men of Morehouse” combined their backgrounds in social media, nightlife & entertainment, business, and healthcare, to develop a brand to spark change in the community. Ashanti Johnson (Morehouse 02’ graduate and Co-Founder) says the team was driven by the lack of attention given to the sexually transmitted infection epidemic that is taking hold in the African-American community, and throughout other communities in the United States. He explains that b condoms® will combat this epidemic by reinvesting a portion of its sales into organizations that work to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections in our target communities, and by making the decision to use condoms as a smart, cool, and hip lifestyle decision. Mr. Johnson explains that companies like Trojan, Lifestyles, and Durex have not “connected” with the community at an emotional level and that’s what b condoms will do.
The team knew that taking on this challenge was not possible without addressing some highly sensitive issues. In addition to developing a business with good margins, the team sought to differentiate themselves by reaching deeper into the phenomenon and trying to understand how social perspectives on topics like HIV/AIDS, Black Male Homosexuality, and the Black Church and Sex affect the rates of infection. As Mr. Johnson states, “knowledge is power and it’s going to take a combined effort to change what’s happening in the community. That’s why we feel so strongly about our educational and reinvestment programs. The organizations that we highlight are on the ground fighting a daily battle for a better tomorrow and that ought to be recognized.” Building a self-sustaining business while making positive change is what b condoms® is all about.
The company launched in grand style at the Trump Soho in New York City on World AIDS Day during an event appropriately titled “b Inspired.” The red-carpet event brought out the “who’s who” in New York City’s Entertainment, Finance (Wall Street), Non-profit, Political and Philanthropic industries. The event was held in conjunction with VillageCare®, a pre-eminent New York City based HIV/AIDS group. The event gave VillageCare® an opportunity to highlight its work over the past thirty years and showed b condoms’® commitment to partnerships with community organizations that are on the frontlines in the battle to eradicate HIV/AIDS.
The highlight of the evening was when VillageCare® executive director, Ken Stewart, praised the mission and commitment of the b condoms team in his speech. Mr. Stewart said, “The AIDS fight in America started out as a white gay problem, but it is now a young black issue.” He added, “I am excited to know a company like b condoms is out there because they fully understand the magnitude of the issues facing young inner-city youth. No other condom company is going to be in the community the way these guys are.” Mr. Johnson followed Mr. Stewart’s address by bringing the entire room to its feet by delivering a powerful speech about the need for open dialog within our daily life to lift the stigma associated with the HIV/AIDS. A great orator, Mr. Johnson said, “I implore you all to take a second and think about the consequences of silence . . . where has that taken us thus far?”
The event was a huge success by all accounts. The b condoms® team says that they will continue to host elaborate events in the future in major markets all throughout the U.S., with cities like Miami, Atlanta and DC on the horizon. A panel discussion is being planned in February in New York City for Black AIDS Day as well.
*Please check out photos from the event below: