State Rep. Isabella Fitzgerald (D-203) hosted the second annual Northwest Economic Empowerment Business Summit at Masjidullah on Saturday.
The summit was presented by Masjidullah, the Universal Business Association, the Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corp. (OARC), the West Oak Lane Business Association and the Business Center as an effort to educate and promote the growth of Black businesses.
Hundreds of business owners, aspiring entrepreneurs and advisers convened at the event, listening in on business talks, participating in workshops, networking, and researching resources from the offices of elected officials, the African American Chamber of Commerce, the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship and Katika, among others.
“The summit is a community-building event,” said Fitzgerald. “Small businesses have been the lifeblood of our community. [And] where you have strong businesses, you have robust communities.”
Imam Muhammad Abdul-Aleem agreed, stressing the community’s role in economic empowerment.
“It’s important that our community begin to take responsibility for itself, especially in terms of economic development,” he said. “Our political leaders have taken the lead in providing the forum. One of our themes this year is ‘getting our share.’ [And] in order to get our share, we have to have economic empowerment and economic development. Those are the things that are going to help us get our share as African Americans.”
The summit opened with prayer and a keynote speech by U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans (D-3), who walked the audience around the resource fair and discussed economic development and elementary steps to building a business.
Workshops included: “How Do I Start a Business?,” “How Do I Sustain and Grow My Business?,” “Women Entrepreneurship,” “Millennials on the Move,” “How to Manage Your Balance Sheet” and “How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Litigation.”
“It’s good to have your vision on paper. Whatever you do with your business, you have to put it on paper,” advised Kimberly Lloyd, OARC president, in the workshop on managing a balance sheet. Lloyd also discussed the different taxes that local business owners face and said that it should not be discouraging but that entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs should “seek out their local business associations” for resources.
In the Women Entrepreneurship workshop, a panel of entrepreneurs talked about the needs they saw in their community and how they opened businesses to address those needs. Focusing on the purpose, and not the money, is vital in maintaining a business, they said.
“You have to start with that passion in your heart. And it’s not about chasing money,” said Sandi Williams, founder of A Wealth of Women. “Keep your job and then work until you have an exit strategy. What’s going to drive you is that you have this in your heart.”