Increasing entrepreneurship could help reduce the high rate of poverty in the city of Kalamazoo, according to Neighborhood Business Coordinator Dwayne Powell Jr. He says that's why the city agreed to be a partner with the inaugural Kalamazoo Black Business Expo being held from 3-7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11 at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.
"One of the major problems that the city of Kalamazoo has is poverty," Powell says. "It's the No. 1 problem that we have in our city. And one of the major solutions to eliminating poverty, we believe, is entrepreneurship."
The Kalamazoo Black Business Expo is the brainchild of Black Wall Street Kalamazoo, an organization initially begun as a public Facebook group in December 2017. Founder Nicole Triplett, a local psychologist, thought social media would be an effective way for African-American small business owners to get mutual support and widen their customer base, she says in an interview airing Thursday, Aug. 9 on WestSouthwest, WMUK's signature news and public affairs show. (Dwayne Powell Jr. also joins her on the show.)
Triplett says the natural progression was the Kalamazoo Black Business Expo, so her members, as well as anyone else interested in entrepreneurship, could network in person. The plan is to hold the free event annually.
What's the importance of black entrepreneurship?
Says Triplett: "It will strengthen families, which in turn will strengthen the community, which in turn then obviously strengthens our whole culture."
The theme of the Expo is "Culture, Community and Collaboration." Triplett says there'll be more than 35 business exhibitors, live entertainment and professional development sessions, including a panel discussion unpacking the "Characteristics of an Entrepreneur."
Among the five small-business people on the panel is Kalamazoo builder Jeremy Cole, who has a pilot on HGTV this fall showing how he's ridding neighborhoods of blight. (Click on Cole's name to hear WMUK's recent interview with him. For a full list of panelists, scroll down).
The keynote speaker is Nicole Farmer, a consultant to hundreds of entrepreneurs as owner of Detroit-based Lifeline Business Consulting, according to the city of Kalamazoo's Dwayne Powell, who says Farmer has an inspirational back story.
Farmer opened her firm after successfully operating a Tuffy Auto Center franchise, believed to be the first one owned by an African-American woman in the U.S., event organizers say.
It wasn't easy. She told Crain's Detroit Business, in a Sept. 29, 2017 article, that she grew up in foster care and later dealt with homelessness as an adult.
"An opportunity to empower someone to become an entrepreneur is extremely impactful," Powell tells WestSouthwest.
"The reason why it's impactful is because, if you're able to help a job creator create jobs, that's going to affect several people, potentially several generations."
In addition to the city of Kalamazoo and Black Wall Street Kalamazoo, Expo organizers are Soul Artistry LLC and Rootead. Sponsors are Chase Bank, PNC Bank, Horizon Bank, Old National Bank and Miller Canfield. Admission is free.
For more info, visit Eventbrite.
SATURDAY, AUG. 11
3-7 p.m. Vendor Showcase
4-4:45 p.m. Panel: "Characteristics of an Entrepreneur"
- Jeremy Cole, Neighborhood Builders LLC
- Sabrina Pritchett-Evans, State Farm
- Jonathan Jelks, Midwest Tech Project
- Bettye Daly, Bettye Daly & Associates
- Trey Zachery, Corporate Elevator Asset Management
5:30-6 p.m. Keynote: "Business Empowerment" featuring Nicole Farmer, Lifeline Business Consulting Services