I recently attended the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit. It was held locally here in Houston at the Marriott Marquis. Thank you so much to the AT&T Small Business team for inviting me to be a blogger and social media correspondent. This was an experience I truly won’t forget! I’ve attended a lot of business conferences in my short career, however, this one was so inspiring and life changing. Out of all the conferences, I’ve attended, none of them had notable Black speakers, business owners, and success stories as the keynotes and session leaders. Every session I attended, every booth I visited, every luncheon was filled with black excellence. I think as a young, black, educated, millennial woman it’s important to put yourself in spaces where you are immersed in excellence. So often we are surrounded be others, who are content with mediocrity, that sometimes we fall into a place where we question why we work so hard. We don’t have the same opportunities as others (which I’m glad we talked about candidly as well) so we do have to work twice as hard. Even when we get discouraged, persistence will pay off in the end.

I was so inspired from all of the bosses in attendance! I took away so much (check my tweets and the #BESummit #ATTSmallBiz hashtags) but these were my main takeaways:

Pitch for your life. There are so many business owners who have a difficult time explaining exactly what they do–that’s a problem. You should be able to tell people what you, how you can help them or the community, and speak briefly about profit too…and you should be able to do it quickly. On the second day of the summit, AT&T sponsored the “Going Up! The Elevator Pitch Competition” 2017. These contestants were competing for $10,000 to propel their business forward. There pitches were concise (anywhere from 30 seconds to 45 seconds) but they hit everything that an investor would want to know about and a consumer would care about. You never know who is interested in your business–you should be able to talk about it to anyone.

Collaboration is key. There was so much talk about working together. One thing, that really stuck with me is when the president Butch Graves, said: “You can’t deposit business cards in the bank.” This is so funny but sad too. I’ve met several business owners who just want to hand out their card and let you know that they are in charge of their own business. Most African-American owned businesses are sole proprietorships, meaning that they don’t employ anyone else. In order for us to move forward as a community and to really propel the business forward, black-owned business needs to be able to take on bigger projects and bigger contracts. Sometimes that means collaborating or merging with someone else. It is better to own a third of a billion dollar business than to own all of a million dollar business.

Embrace technology. Technology is not going anywhere. We need to find the right programs and software that we can use for our businesses. Don’t shut out millennials or early adopters of technology, you can lose them as a consumer if you do. Find ways that you can use technology to effectively build your business. Also, find ways that you can use technology to monetize as well. AT&T hosted a session, “Spotting Trends in Technology” and the panel shared their backgrounds and how technology is going to stay the wave of the future. They also shared how government entities and large corporations are using websites and intranets to allow potential partners to apply for opportunities with them. Although networking in person is key, you will still have to use the electronic tools.

Support black-owned businesses. One of my favorite parts of the summit was the VIP “Culture and Code” luncheon hosted by At&T. This luncheon was a room full of movers and shakers, influencers, and executives from large corporations. We had a candid conversation about so many things. One thing in particular we discussed was the support of black business. In the 1980’s there were over 110 African-American owned banks, now there are 20. We have to support black businesses! Butch raised question, name 10 businesses that are black owned that you support. Mechanic, doctor, dry cleaner, etc…I have maybe 2 or 3 but not 10. That is something that we need to work on as a community.

I’m so inspired. I’ve got work to do now. Thank you again, AT&T for having me!

My To-Do List:

  1. Get certified as women owned-minority business.
  2. Open a savings account at Unity Bank (Houston’s only black owned bank.)
  3. Find new black businesses to support.