In past years, SIBL observed Black History Month with resource guides or bibliographic essays. This year, instead, I’m using this blog post and the next to spotlight a few individuals and initiatives that attest to the vibrant interest in entrepreneurship today among New Yorkers of African descent.
What inspired this shift was my attending the appreciation party that the Workshop in Business Opportunities throws annually for the legions of business people who donate time and talent to WIBO. To the staccato beat of the band I chatted—and cha-cha'd—with volunteers who take on a host of roles (workgroup leader; discussion leader; business consultant; and legal/accounting advisor) to support aspiring business owners in WIBO’s signature 16- week course How to Build a Growing Profitable Business. Some experts give programs open to the metro-area small business community which SIBL routinely posts on its smallbiz events calendar.
Though their roles may vary, these supporters all seem to share a strong commitment to the WIBO approach which fosters group discussion and peer critique of each phase of participants' business plans as they evolve over the intensive 4-month course. Made me want to register and you can too. As I lined up for seconds of the mouthwatering Southern comfort food, one veteran discussion leader told me that folks who stick with the WIBO course likely glean more real-life business insight than he did while earning his Ivy League MBA. Oh, and did I mention that the venue for this festive celebration was the “new” Cotton Club? Guess who re-opened the venerable Harlem institution in its current 125th St incarnation more than four decades ago? You got it—a WIBO graduate!
Two weeks later I was again floating on a WIBO “high,” in yet another venerable NYC institution the Cooper Union. Its Great Hall, (pictured at left) where Abraham Lincoln delivered his rousing "Right Is Might" address in 1860 has, for years, served as the site of the bi-annual WIBO graduations. This year’s emcee, Celeste Morris, is a WIBO grad. The keynote address was delivered by a 2010 WIBO alumna whose company, Sweet Loren’s, recently has landed its first Whole Foods contract.
Classes from 9 NYC neighborhoods assembled to mark this milestone. WIBO hosts a lively pre-commencement fair complete with live music and food where selected students—this year a total of 36—exhibit their products and services. When I stopped by the booth of one of several service-based businesses and heard the magic words "SIBL is my second home,” I asked Michelle Newson of Onederland Events (pictured at right) for a quick interview the next time she hit the Library.