When Diamonde Williamson graduated from the University of West Georgia in 2013 she had her eyes set on Hollywood.
The Atlanta native had dreamed of having her own talk show like daytime pioneer Oprah Winfrey. Williamson started working in Atlanta's booming television industry, first as a field assistant on the reality show "Chrisley Knows Best." She bounced around a few other reality shows filming in town and then she made the move to Tinseltown to work on OWN's "Iyanla Fix My Life." She thought she had hit the jackpot, but her spirit pushed for something more.
Williamson recognized the difficulty for women of color to get into production, writing and programming roles at major networks, and she was determined to change that. She wanted to create a digital television platform catered to women of color. Two years later, www.WatchBlossom.com was born, featuring original programming and content curated based on the user's mood and interests.
If a user indicates an interest in politics, they might see the latest speech from congresswoman Maxine Waters or commentary from Angela Rye on CNN. If they select food as an interest, they might see a video of rapper Waka Flocka making vegan muffins, or the latest recipe from "Butter and Brown."
Topics of interest include sports, fashion, healthy living, comedy, politics, culture, parenting and more.
To launch Blossom, Williamson hosted focus groups and distributed surveys to their social media followers to gauge interest in the type of programming that would be of interest to millennial women of color. She also reconnected with her college friend Erika Smith, an independent filmmaker, who was working for an independent studio for burgeoning artists to create films and pilots to pitch to studios and networks. Smith is Blossom’s VP of Productions, ensuring that the content creator and the production team are aligned on the vision for each original program. They started off creating content for YouTube and editing videos for clients. Smith was drawn to Williamson’s passion for the idea and felt the idea spoke to her own experiences.
“Even though I wasn’t in Hollywood, I saw some of the same things on the independent side,” Smith said. “It was hard for women to be able to pitch and get their stuff out there. We wanted to prove that we could do it too because it’s such a male-driven industry.”
Smithwants to see Blossom grow to provide internship and mentorship opportunities for young women of color who are interested in working in film and television.
To further their mission to provide more opportunities for women of color, they also teamed up with director of brand innovation, Melani Carter, who had been working at Turner Sports as a broadcast operator for “NBA League Pass.” She wanted to move from behind the camera and into the writers room, but found that for women there were a lot of hurdles to get there. After leaving Turner, she was looking for a place where women could talk sports and she found Blossom. She now has her own show, “Girlchat,” which she hosts with Autumn Johnson and Mikaela Thomas, where they talk about trends in professional sports.
“I’m a huge sports fan, but I would always notice that most of the shows were led by men sharing their opinions and ranting,” Carter said. “If a woman was on the show, we always saw her as a host or a moderator. I would get frustrated because I would always want the woman to speak her mind. With ‘Girlchat,’ we are finally letting people see women talk about sports without a man having to validate the woman’s opinion.”
They created a website and started beta testing at Open for Business, a co-working space for women of color, where she met her co-founder Natina Adams. Adams owns an accounting company and a business consulting firm, and had just left a job at the Weather Channel after 10 years. She was looking to go back into media, and when she heard Williamson talk about Blossom, she knew she wanted to offer her expertise to the team.
“I originally approached Diamonde because I wanted to invest in the business, but that has since evolved into this relationship as co-founder,” Adams said. “We worked on business plans, product building and I brought on a legal team. It was the perfect match of Gen X and millennials. I have 20 years of business experience, and the team is so passionate. I love how the millennial way of thinking is very innovative— they’re going to make a way.”
Blossom is funded through the work of an in-house production team, Majority Women, which produces video content for a variety of clients. The all-female team of videographers, editors, writers and producers has created videos for A3C Festival, Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Usher’s New Look Foundation, TechSquare Labs, Spelman College and others.
Blossom is not the first site to host original content for people of color. Other sites such as Rise and Black & Sexy TV share this mission, but Blossom is the first to be aimed at women of color. The current lineup of Blossom originals includes an all-female rap cypher “She’s Got Bars,” “Unrefined,” which features a rundown of current events and political commentary, “Melanin Mommas,” a talk show about millennial motherhood and “Girlchat.” The episodes are less than 10 minutes long and all feature women of color.
“I think Blossom is needed more now than ever,” Adams said. “There’s a void for feel-good content and content that my daughter can consume on a regular basis on her journey as a young woman. Bigger companies are leaning toward reality television and gossip. We want to be a voice of women of color that is positive.”
For the past year they have worked to create Blossom’s content curation algorithm and moving them off of a third party platform. Now, Blossom has thousands of subscribers, just launched a new website and a mobile app is slated for next year.
Williamson says that her vision is for Blossom to become like Netflix for independent media makers of color.
“I want Blossom to be a global platform where we’re able to connect with women of color across the globe,” Williamson said. “It’s affirmative — to always live in bloom. We want to grow up with girls as they become women. When you come here, I want you to feel validated.”
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