Entrepreneurs and industry leaders celebrate Black business excellence and wealth-building during a three-day summit featuring podcast mogul, David Shands. 

From October 19 to 22, the Black Business Initiative (BBI) hosted its flagship event for Black business owners, with a highly-engaging schedule of empowering and inspirational activities and events. 

The 2023 Black Business Summit, held at the Thompson Hotel in Downtown Denver, offered wealth-building workshops, panel discussions, fireside conversations, and exclusive networking opportunities to elevate entrepreneurship. Celebrity keynote speaker and host of the famed Social Proof Podcast, David Shands, took this year’s summit to the next level. 

Starting with a VIP session sponsored by Jice Johnson Consulting on Thursday, Oct. 19, aspiring entrepreneurs, mid-career professionals, and small business owners were welcomed to the summit and encouraged to connect and build relationships with seasoned business leaders. The full schedule kicked off on Friday with a VIP breakfast followed by a welcome session hosted by CBS sports anchor, Justin Adams. 

Friday’s agenda contained four information-packed panel sessions where participants listened to industry-specific conversations led by accomplished professionals. The sessions were hosted by Regional NAACP President and entrepreneurial leader, Portia Prescott, along with community activist and founder of Ski Noir 5280, Quincy Shannon. 

The first session, “Sky’s the Limit: Navigating Opportunities in Aerospace for Entrepreneurs and Professionals,” featured panelists Nicole Jones and Justin Brooks. Jones, who serves as a Career Pathways Program Manager at the Denver International Airport for the Center of Equity and Excellence in Aviation, discussed important aspects to consider in the aerospace industry, including growth and technological advancements. Brooks, who serves as the mayor of Erie, Colorado, discussed his experience as an Aerospace & Defense professional and gave insight into the certifications and collaborations that can help with resource finding and funding opportunities. 

In the second session, “Future-Proofing Your Success: Exploring Entrepreneurial and Career Avenues in Technology,” information-technology professionals Al Gardner, Deidra Smith, Lisa Neal-Graves, and Toi Massey talked about the key trends that aspiring entrepreneurs should consider when starting tech-focused businesses. They highlighted critical skills and competencies needed for cultivating tech-related careers and provided insights into the importance of diversity and inclusion in the technology sector. 

During the third panel session, “Unlocking the Public Vault: The Ins and Outs of Entrepreneurial Opportunities in Government Contracting,” Rich Lewis and Brenda Taylor gave an informative presentation about the long-term revenue potential associated with government business contracts. They advised the audience on ways to navigate challenges in securing contracts by differentiating themselves and complying with regulations.

In the fourth and final panel session, “Unlocking Revenue: Best Practices for Contracting and Collaboration Among Small Businesses and Solo Entrepreneurs,” general contractor, Justin Gilmore, electrical contractor, Terri Jackson, and business development contracting strategist, Andra Hargrave, discussed contracting and partnership. They shared their experiences and ways in which creativity, resilience, and forming strategic alliances can help maximize revenue. They also discussed overlooked revenue opportunities and answered audience questions about joint ventures, mentorship, and sustainability. 

After a day of educational programming, the summit’s highly-anticipated premiere event began. Hosted by Chase Bank, the Pitch BLACK competition featured five entrepreneurs vying for a $20,000 grand prize. Selected from over 100 applicants, the finalists gave four-minute presentations about their businesses: software applications, business consultation, a social media management firm, and a pop-up dance facility. 

As the judges deliberated, Shands offered a compelling keynote address about the “Lifecycle of a Good Idea,” and encouraged entrepreneurs to succeed in business by not giving up. He highlighted five stages of business planning – excitement, evolution, engagement, resistance, and decisions – and instructed the audience to “Take each stage with you to the next.” Emphasizing the importance of energy, ingenuity, and execution, Shands talked about his own experience in leaving the job market and his rise to success. “Base your goals off of the work and not the reward,” he counseled.  

After an anticipatory pause, the competition resumed and BBI Founder and Chief Visionary Officer, Jice Johnson, announced the winner: Kalea S. Wright, founder of KSW Social Media Management received a substantial financial contribution to support the growth of her business. Despite a 2023 revenue dip following the unexpected loss of her son, Wright impressed the judges with a strong revenue model and plans to automate so that she doesn’t operate with “people where processes should be.” 

Johnson, who praised the organization for its commitment to business support as an incubator for Black business excellence, invited the audience to attend the after-hours Black Business Summit x Cuffin R&B event then return for Saturday’s full agenda. 

On Saturday, after a VIP breakfast and welcome session, the summit included three breakout sessions featuring business development professional, Portia Washington; project leader and operations executive, Tareka Wheeler; top-earning real estate brokers, Delroy Gill and Jaylen Harden; website development and graphic design entrepreneur, Alisha Harris; leadership development coach, Sydney Jackson-Clockston; education and business consultant, Charlyn Moss; and tax strategist, Jazmyne Hunter. 

The sessions highlighted several industries and provided opportunities for participants to engage in intimate conversations about business development, resource finding, collaborative structuring and asset management. Each speaker offered expertise and drew from their own experiences in business to help aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners optimize execution to strengthen their efforts and create a strong economic foundation in the Black community. 

A common element of each session was community engagement and the importance of building relationships. With opportunities to network and get to know each other, participants walked away with a comprehensive understanding of how to elevate themselves and their peers to create positive outcomes on a global basis. 

The final day of the summit began with a breakfast and welcome session hosted by community leader and entrepreneur, Topazz McBride. During breakfast, Johnson spoke about the importance of intergenerational wealth and ways in which the Black community can dispel statistic data that indicates approximately 70% of wealth being lost by the second generation. She talked about her journey with BBI, and the importance of overcoming obstacles while making progress and following through with business goals. 

Johnson’s speech included an analysis of the dichotomy that exists between failure to plan and over-planning, and inspired the audience to be self-motivated. “If your success depends on other people’s ability to hold space for you, you will fail,” she said. “Building a business is a marathon, and you have to play the long game.” 

The morning breakfast session was followed by a fireside chat between Johnson and Lanny Smith, founder of the Actively Black leisure wear brand, who discussed his inspiring journey as an entrepreneur. Smith shared experiences that echoed Johnson’s message about perseverance as he remembered a sports injury that changed the direction of his life from basketball to fashion. 

The 2023 Black Boss Summit was a great success. Aspiring entrepreneurs and business leaders left with important takeaways from industry trailblazers and innovators. The knowledge gained and relationships forged at this year’s event will strengthen the efforts and execution of business owners for years to come. 

Leaving audiences with inspiration for the next year of business milestones, Johnson exclaimed, “Building a business is not for the weak; but remember that you are strong!”. 

Editor’s Note: To learn more about the Black Business Summit and other initiatives led by the Black Business Imitative, visit www.bbiprofessional.com

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