From retail and restaurants to tech and media, contractors to coworking spaces, large, small, and everything in between, a diverse array of businesses call Alexandria home. In our blog series, Growing in Alexandria, we sit down to talk with businesses around the City to learn more about who they are, what they do, and why they love it here. Have an idea for a business in Alexandria to talk to? Email us!
kweliTV is an Alexandria based streaming service that offers over 350 undiscovered, award-winning indie films, documentaries, web series & kids shows celebrating global black culture. AEDP had a chat with DeShuna Spencer, the owner of kweliTV, to learn more.
AEDP: Please tell us a little about your business and what you do.
DeShuna: Sure, kweliTV is an online streaming service. Our whole goal is to celebrate black stories from around the world through independent films, documentaries, children’s programming and live experiences. Kweli is the Swahili term for truth and so our mission is to curate global black experiences. We also use our platform to dispel myths about what is means to be black in the U.S. and around the world while supporting independent filmmakers around the world so they can create impactful content.
AEDP: How did you get started in this business and what made you want to go after this venture?
DeShuna: Literally it was me watching tv one night. I was flipping through a bunch of channels and I really did not like anything I saw. I love movies and I was tired of seeing the same things on black networks. I was really looking for something fresh and new. A lot of tv channels, like the History Channel for example, are really dominated by white stories and you rarely see any black history. So, I got a subscription to a streaming service and I still did not see the content that I was looking for. Especially from independent black filmmakers. I decided to start my own even though I had no experience in this field.
AEDP: Ok, nice! So, what’s the direction that you see your business going in the next couple of years?
DeShuna: Definitely more global! Right now, 80% of our customers are in the U.S. and North America but we have done a lot of advertising outside of the U.S. and we have grown some outside of the U.S. and so my goal is to be more global. One of the things we are really looking to do is to have more live experiences. I think its great for us to be connected together in person. Like I mentioned before, I want to use kweliTV to change the narrative around black programs. I would like to create history programs that showcase and celebrate our history.
AEDP: What countries are you targeting and where is kweliTV internationally, right now?
DeShuna: 20% of our customers are international and of that 10% are in Europe in countries like the U.K., Belgium, Germany and France. We also have 5% in various parts of Africa in countries like Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, and Senegal. And then another 5% is in Latin America and the Caribbean. There is a huge black population in Latin America especially in places like Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela. kweliTV is a way to share what life is like to those outside of the U.S. I want to emphasis their experiences too. We have a lot of people in Latin America who are thanking us for showing that they exist. I want to increase our presence there in the next couple of years.
AEDP: What is your next big project that you have planned?
DeShuna: We are really focused on distribution. We just signed with Comcast and Cox communications which should be going live by this summer. My goal is to get involved with more cable companies and get our product out to as many people as possible. In addition to making sure that we can serve people who speak different languages and the hearing impaired. We are working on making sure all of our films have subtitles in French, Spanish and, Portuguese.
AEDP: Finally, can you tell us why you decided to locate in Alexandria?
DeShuna: It’s interesting because I’m from Memphis originally but I would say that Alexandria is a great place to be in business. I travel a lot and its great having the National Airport and Amtrak so close. It’s a small city that has everything you need to be able to grow a business.
To learn more about kweliTV, visit their website.