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From Jim Crow to George Floyd

The original Green Book, published as "The Negro Motorist Green Book," has a history that the African American community knows all too well. It was launched in the 1930s as a semi-secret guide to enable Black travelers to eat and sleep safely in the still-segregated South. The pamphlet acted as a subversive roadmap that helped many navigate the racial tensions of the time and avoid the potential danger and violence they faced in many areas of the U.S.  


It was from this act of both rebellion and unity that Danilo Batson took his inspiration for Spicy Green Book — his nonprofit organization that provides a directory of Black-owned food and beverage businesses across 35 states.

I wanted to create an easy-to-use directory that someone could pop up on their phone, on the go, and find a business. If you're a small business just starting out, and you’ve got to be your own salesman, you’ve got to be the cook, you’ve got to be the marketer — it's just a lot to worry about. So I wanted to help provide a bridge to that hurdle.

Spicy Green Book allows any Black-owned business to be listed in the directory and provides them with free professional photography and marketing services to help them grow their business.

But while the organization’s mission is uplifting and unifying, it was born out of a time of chaos and heartache.

Danilo-Batson-2Spicy Green Book is a directory of Black-owned food and beverage businesses.

A Painful Beginning

As the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the world, Danilo saw the strain it was placing on the U.S. healthcare system and, most especially, on nurses. Danilo was, at the time, a nursing student himself, and what he saw was enough to make him question the path his life had taken.

Then, in May 2020, George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minnesota, sparking a tidal wave of protests and cries for justice. In the midst of this horror, something became very clear to Danilo — he needed to take action. The story of the original Green Book was always close to his mind and his heart, and after a lot of questioning and contemplation, Danilo made the decision to take a hiatus from his nursing education and pay it forward to the Black community.


That same year, Danilo launched Spicy Green Book, largely with the support of passionate volunteers who were also looking for a way to take positive and meaningful action.

Once I started this business, people from all around the world were applying because they wanted to contribute. We had over 1,000 applicants. It was crazy to see the outpouring of support — everyone wanted to be involved.

Danilo put together a team of photographers, videographers, content creators, and marketers from across the U.S. and beyond. From his home base in Orange, California, Danilo began reaching out to Black-owned businesses in the food and beverage industry and offering them free marketing and a free business listing.

Danilo-Batson-3 Spicy Green Book makes it easy for customers to find Black-owned businesses.
Danilo-Batson-3 Businesses featured in Spicy Green Book also get free marketing help.

Too Good to Be True?

Early on, the biggest barrier was building trust. Danilo found that the Black business owners he spoke with were skeptical — getting “something for nothing” had never been their experience, and they were wary.

But Danilo knew he was onto something. He believed that others, like himself, wanted to support businesses that aligned with their social and moral values, but the difficulty and time required to research and find these businesses may deter some people. His goal was to contribute to the intentional economy by making it fast and easy for diners and shoppers to find businesses they could feel good about patronizing.

Our tagline is "Eat with intention," right? But trying to create an intentional economy is not always easy. We're all busy, and we forget or we choose what’s convenient. So the goal is to have a way for a consumer to meet new businesses to support.

Now, Danilo has built trust with the Black-owned business community (of which he is now a part), and business owners or patrons seek out his organization. Danilo has a small staff now, but he still leans heavily on a vast network of volunteers he can deploy to photograph and interview business owners and share more than a standard business directory listing — he wants to give them a voice and a platform to tell their unique stories.

Learn more about registering a trademark for your business name, logo, or brand with Incfile.

Danilo-Batson-5 Danilo Batson took inspiration from "The Negro Motorist Green Book" to launch Spicy Green Book.

Danilo’s Top Business Tips

Danilo started without any experience as a business owner or nonprofit founder. He’s learned a lot along the way and wants to share it with others who are starting out in the business world.

So what are his best business tips?


Find a network of advisers.

Danilo found that as a young entrepreneur, he relied heavily on support from his board and those who’ve walked in his shoes. As he says, he has a rule to keep his “mouth shut and ears open.”


Stay resilient and be persistent.

Early on, Danilo struggled to gain the trust of Black business owners. But he kept at it, knowing that just one “yes” would open the door to his success.


Take care of yourself.

In the beginning, Danilo says he didn’t have time to put his needs first, so they always came last. But now that he has a family, he understands that he can’t be his best for them or for his business if he doesn’t prioritize his time.

As for why he’s doing this, in spite of the time and effort and the hard days?

Representation. So little Black kids can see, "Oh, there’s a business owner, and they look like me. That’s something that I can do." Just continuing to repeat that message.

What’s Next for Danilo and Spicy Green Book?

Danilo is committed to making Spicy Green Book an ongoing success. He’s decided not to return to his nursing education but has instead found a new career path in web development and software engineering (which blossomed as he was working on SGB’s website). But his dedication to his organization is unwavering. Here’s what he plans to focus on next:

  • 1

    Markets and live events.

    Danilo is launching quarterly markets in California to grow beyond the business directory. He invites Black business owners in the food and beverage industry, but in other industries as well, and gives them a space to interact and grow their connections with the community. He hopes at the same time to bring resources like healthcare and financial education to more African Americans who need it.

  • 2

    Growing sponsorships.

    Danilo is looking for like-minded supporters who want to put their money where their mouth is and keep Spicy Green Book going and growing. “Sponsors who understand that mission and who preach that mission back to us — that’s where the cohesion happens.”

  • 3

    Expand across the U.S.

    Similar to the historic Green Book, which started by covering the American South and grew to many northern states as well, Danilo hopes to keep growing SGB’s coverage as well. Now in 35 states, he’d like to see it expand to cover all of the U.S.

Why Danilo Chose Incfile

Going in, Danilo didn’t understand the complexities of starting a nonprofit as a 501(c)(3). Still, he knew that there were people who wanted to make a difference, and that kept him going, even through the difficult times.

“Everyone sees the atrocities that keep happening in our society,” he says, “but some feel powerless to help. I'm not a politician or a lobbyist. But I can actually truly affect change.”

So when it came time to form his business, Danilo went with Incfile, which made the nonprofit process as simple as possible.

As far as actually filling out the business forms, the same way you start any kind of corporation or LLC, Incfile took care of a lot of that. And for me, coming in with no background with my first business — it was really user-friendly.

Danilo’s Top 3 Business Tools

  • Slack

     - for instant business communications
  • Canva

    - for professional-looking design and marketing
  • HoneyBook

     - for project and financial management

This trio is tops for Danilo, who says these are his must-haves for operating SGB. Slack, an instant messaging platform, allows him to stay in contact with volunteers, staff, and board members, while Canva helps him design a stunning website and crisp marketing materials. Powering it all is HoneyBook, which does everything from project management and CRM to invoicing and billing.

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