Social media has the incredible power to connect you outside of the boundaries and limitations of your geographical location. In fact, the story of The Cookout (alaso known as The Cookout Online or The Cookout App) starts on social media 9 years ago.
In 2011, 2 of The Cookout's owners, Kiki and Atiyya, connected after "meeting" while following the same Facebook page. After commenting in the same threads many times over the course of several months and realizing that they had a lot in common, Kiki and Atiyya sent each other friend requests. Over the years, they stayed in touch and connected over their love of being creatives, designers, the politics of black hair, love, and dating, being non-monosexual LBGT+ black women, and their mutual ambitions. They've remained friends through marriages, pregnancies, babies, and divorces. In 2017, they finally met in person for the first time. It was Atiyya who came up with the idea of naming the app The Cookout. She knew from their many years of online friendship and building trust and community that partnering with Kiki (and her partner Cass) was the best way to actualize this idea, as they had already built a successful social community and brand that reached millions.
The Cookout's other founder, Cass, actually met Kiki in high school through a summer camp. They had a lot of mutual friends but never really talked to each other much. In 2007, everyone in high school added each other on Facebook and Kiki and Cass were no exceptions. Although they didn't talk much in high school, Kiki and Cass stayed in touch over the years, noticing their common interests and it brought them closer as friends, and eventually as a couple.
Although Kiki and Cass met "in real life" first, it was social media that truly allowed them to grow closer to each other. Twelve years after adding each other on Facebook, Kiki and Cass have been in a relationship for two years, have two businesses, a successful podcast, and now, The Cookout Online.
As avid social media users, Kiki, Cass, and Atiyya felt that there had to be a better way to protect users like themselves from being unfairly targeted and silenced by social media giants for their brand of unapologetic Black womanhood and they set out to build it. They connected their skills as web developers, graphic designers, photographers, writers, product managers, entrepreneurs, and community organizers to create a vision of a better, progressive, Black centric social media experience.
They asked themselves the question, "What does a positive social media experience look like for people like me?" Kiki, a budding user experience designer asked, "How do I create a platform that is functional, and user-friendly but also extends "user experience" not just to the physical features and layout of the app, but also the experiences that users have with each other?" What does UI/UX look like when the user experience is also determined by the climate that is set by the app? While social giants like Facebook and Instagram may have good UI/UX features, the social user experience is one that isolates, violates, and dismisses more than it celebrates. We set out to create a better social media experience for users like us, and thus The Cookout app was born.
They created some of the distinct features of The Cookout around their own experiences. Fake profiles that only seek to cause social strife and discourse? Gone, let's make the app invitation only and curate the community we allow. Digital Blackface profiles (as popularized by the Cambridge Analytica scandal)? Let's give people the opportunity to verify and make sure there's space where ONLY people we know are real people can exist. Unfair policing? Create standards that protect blackness as opposed to penalize it.
The Cookout is here to create truly safe digital space that centers and protects the margins instead of marginalizing further. We are the first and only invitation only social platform that is exclusively for Black users (as far as we know!).
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