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Earlier this month dozens of black-led Innovator Support Organizations (ISOs) descended on Fort Lauderdale in Florida for the first-ever Black Innovation Alliance Sustainability Summit.
Hosted by the BIA, the three-day in-person event at Hilton Beach Resort was dedicated to helping member organizations grow, scale, and sustain their ventures. Sessions included everything from funding to alleviating the growing pains of team building.
Speakers included Kelly Burton, executive director of BIA; Mark Wilkins, private wealth advisor at UBS; Jimmie Strong, corporate counsel, Dustin Shay, BIA board member; and Typeform’s Patrica Rollins and Stephanie Boulanger. Other team members such as Tammy Charles, Jenna Scott, and Aniyia Williams were also hands-on in leadership development.
“The Sustainability Summit was a transformative experience for our community, “said Burton. “Our members had an opportunity to learn from industry experts and one another while building connections that will undoubtedly last a lifetime.”
A key theme throughout the summit, which took place May 17th – 20th, was sustainability, as each speaker spoke about the importance of progression while introducing blueprints to help businesses scale and grow. Each day saw sessions dedicated to more in-depth practices such as strategy and program design, fundraising, wealth generation, and more barrier disintegration tactics.
The objective outlined for all participants was to create community engagement while developing a milestone-based sustainability plan, building a support system through an accountability group sharing similar business terrains, and constructing core capabilities for organizations and professional development.
During Burton’s kickoff speech, she voiced that BIA has supported over 300,000 innovators and entrepreneurs across the country. Headquartered in several cities nationally, Black Innovation Alliance has had a “busy agenda” over the past two years through acts of assistance.
“At BIA, our work is really about building the ecosystem that is necessary for Black innovators to survive,” she said. “That includes direct support for our entrepreneurs through grants, leadership development, policy work, research.”
She concluded, “What’s important about the organization is that our customer is not necessarily the entrepreneur or innovator, but the leader. So, the work that we do is in service to the leaders and to the organization because we believe that you are the frontline of support.”
Other effective messages for takeaway included connecting with potential investors in a more humanized and perhaps realistic way. Shay, a board member, demonstrated ways to attract investors. He emphasized that entrepreneurs need to “align with those who see the vision of their business” for potential movement.
In turn, building those relationships can lead to conversations that may be necessary now and valued later on the road to success. Another gem during his lecture was how race can negatively impact the mindset of Black business leaders as they seek to build a rapport with lenders.
“One of the things I’ve learned since becoming a part of this great team effort is — Don’t engage with investors just because you ‘think’ they’re cool. Instead, go to the people who show an interest in helping you succeed and to obtain connections in the best range related to your business modules.”
“The Sustainability Summit was a transformative experience for our community. Our members had an opportunity to learn from industry experts and one another while building connections that will undoubtedly last a lifetime.”
Rollins, who is VP of Integrated Brand Marketing at Typeform said, “The BIA community of entrepreneurs, founders, and small businesses are truly one of a kind. Their passion for each other and growing their business is contagious. I am proud to be part of the community with Typeform as a partner.”
“It’s pretty rare that you get to have an experience like we did at the BIA Sustainability Summit this past week. To be in the presence of such a passionate group of innovators and entrepreneurs all with the common goal of lifting up their communities, left me inspired, humbled and knowing that I need to do more. So much was accomplished in just four short days- and this is only the beginning,” Boulanger, Director of Brand Programs at Typeform, explained.
Key components concluded at the end of the Sustainability summit included specifying business needs and where attention should be placed when seeking collaborators, highlighting the organization’s work that closely aligns with the target’s strategy, follow up through emails to accumulate new and old partners, and deducing rejection by change of strategy if previous ways yielded no tangible results.
While BIA is not a “traditional coalition,” they stand on the shoulders of cultural building through public policy, education, and capital to create long-term wealth for Black leaders.
“BIA has supported me both personally and professionally,” said UrbanGeekz founder and CEO Kunbi Tinuoye, who is also a founding member of the Black Innovation Alliance. “I am honored and humbled to be a part of this organization.”