Celebrities, business leaders inspire at Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit

(Last Updated On: August 21, 2017)

Patti LaBelle, Hill Harper and Yolanda Adams were among the notable speakers at the 22nd annual Summit held in Houston, Texas, May 17-May 20

Hundreds of attendees descended upon the Marriott Marquis Houston for the 2017 Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit. The four-day long event, now in its 22nd year, boasted a powerhouse lineup of some of the nation’s most accomplished entrepreneurs and experts. Grammy award-winning singers Patti LaBelle and Yolanda Adams as well as actor Hill Harper served as keynote speakers.

The Summit, hosted by Black Enterprise Magazine and Nationwide, was also made possible through support from myriad sponsors, including AT&T, Georgia Pacific, Koch Industries, Toyota, American Express, Walmart, FedEx, Houston First Corporation, Houston Metro Airport, BBVA Compass, and the Port of Houston.

“Nationwide is committed to supporting minority businesses and diverse communities. One way we demonstrate our commitment is through our relationship with Black Enterprise,” said Terrance Williams, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Nationwide. “We are proud to be the presenting sponsor of this year’s Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit and look forward to connecting with the attendees–some of the most passionate people and brightest minds.”

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner delivered welcoming remarks alongside president and CEO of Black Enterprise, Earl Graves, Jr., and NBA legend Clyde Drexler. Turner shared with the crowd that Houston is now ranked as the top city in the nation for minority-owned businesses. Houstonians as well as guests from across the country came out to elevate their business acumen and network with like minds.

The 2017 Summit featured high-powered sessions on critical topics such as “Business Coaching: Crafting Your Game Plan,” “Fundraising from Startup to Scale Up in the Tech Space,” and “Seizing Opportunities in Franchising.”

Houston-based motivational speaker Jonathan Sprinkles led a workshop entitled “Networking Session: Mastering Business Presentations.” During the session, Sprinkles shared tips and tools to help entrepreneurs pitch themselves and their business ideas effectively. His core message was to think about your brand story. He taught that a crucial component of your brand messaging should be sharing why you do what you do; it helps build relatability and trust.

“People unite around their why’s. Most people talk about what we do, but very rarely do we talk about why we do it,” Sprinkles said. “We can have similar why’s that connect us all. So people don’t care how much you know until they know why you care.”

Photo Gallery image credits: Black Enterprise

Other notable speakers and panelists included:

  • Patti LaBelle, Founder, Patti Pies
  • Yolanda Adams, Owner, Yolanda Adams Coffee
  • Sylvester Turner, Mayor of Houston
  • Vernon Jordan, Attorney, Civil Rights Leader, Business Consultant
  • Charles Koch, Chairman & CEO, Koch Industries
  • Johnny C. Taylor Jr., President & CEO, Thurgood Marshall College Fund
  • Hank Aaron, MLB Hall of Famer, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist
  • Hill Harper, Author, Entrepreneur and Actor
  • Clyde Drexler, NBA Hall of Famer, Drexler Holdings L.L.C.
  • Kase Lawal, Chairman, CAMAC International Corp.; Vice Chairman, Unity National Bank
  • Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell, Windsor Village United Methodist Church
  • Brandon Andrews, Senior Consultant, Values Partnership; Casting, Shark Tank and Steve Harvey’s Funderdome
  • Bonin Bough, Host, Cleveland Hustles, CNBC
  • Charles King, Founder & CEO, MACRO
  • Lisa Ascolese, Founder, Inventing A to Z
  • Tye and Courtney Caldwell, Co-Founders, ShearShare
  • Donna Sims Wilson, President, Smith Graham & Co. Investment Advisors, L.P. 
  • Hahna Alexander, CEO, SolePower L.L.C.
  • Jason Few, Investor, Energy Projects
  • Sulaiman “Su” Sanni, Co-Founder & CEO, WeDidIt
  • Teri Williams, President & COO, OneUnited Bank
  • John Scroggins, President & CEO, Unity National Bank
  • Melinda Emerson, Author, Host, #SmallBizChat
  • Zakiya Larry, Author, Founder and CEO, Quest Media Training
  • Lamar Tyler, CEO, Tyler New Media; Creator BlackandMarriedWithKids.com
  • Gilbert Campbell, Co-Founder & CEO, Volt Energy
  • Ramon Ray, Entrepreneur, Author, CEO, Smart Hustle Magazine
  • Michael Elliot, Founder & CEO, Hammer and Nails Salon Group
  • Stephen Hightower, CEO, Hightowers Petroleum
  • Jonathan Sprinkles, Connection Coach, Author of Presentation Power, feat. Miara Shaw, founder of MAVEN Business Academy

An annual highlight of the Summit is the presentation of awards for African American business achievement and community involvement. This year’s A.G. Gaston Award was presented May 19 during the 45th Anniversary Celebration & Awards Gala to Major League Baseball Hall Of Famer Hank Aaron, and the Corporate Champion Award, to civil rights leader and attorney, Vernon Jordan. The awards recognize the outstanding achievement of individuals who have had a positive impact on their industry and community while championing entrepreneurship, business growth, employment, and wealth creation for African Americans.

The Summit closed out on May 20 with the ABC “Shark Tank” Diversity Tour open casting call to identify entrepreneurs ready to pitch ideas for a life-changing investment on the hit TV show.

Since 1970, Black Enterprise has provided business information and advice to professionals, corporate executives, entrepreneurs, and decision makers. Every month, Black Enterprise Magazine enriches six million readers with information on entrepreneurship, careers, and financial management. Through the multimedia leg of the company, Black Enterprise also produces television programming, business and lifestyle events, web content, and digital media. Their next scheduled event is Black Men Xcel to be held at the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Aug. 30-Sept. 2, 2017.

For Summit recaps and future announcements, visit www.blackenterprise.com, follow the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit page on Facebook and search the #BESummit hashtag on Twitter

Celebrities, Business Leaders inspire at Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit