Omaha conference focuses on equity and black business development

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On Friday, the Rebuilding the Village conference and Revive Black Business Expo took over the CHI Health Center. The event is centered around achieving equity, whether it’s showcasing Black-owned businesses or focusing on those conversations about Black wealth and long-term self-sufficiency. “It’s been almost three years since we last had our conference,” Willie Barney said. Empowerment Network founder Willie Barney says twice as many people attended this year’s conference and luncheon, aided by an appearance from keynote speaker, NBA Hall-of-Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Barney said Magic knowledge goes beyond the basketball court. “His investments in technology, sports teams and even in urban areas,” Barney said. “So this is a great opportunity for us to learn what he’s learned in those 20, 30 years of investing in urban communities with great success.” Barney said before every conference, the Empowerment Network asks the community what information they need right now. “Really, over the past seven years, we’ve really looked at how to build economic strength, businesses, business owners, home ownership, economic development and revitalization,” said Barney. As part of this change, organizations and companies have been there to promote their products and services. Footwear designer Nataya Thomas launched her line last year. Thomas said she’s had success selling her shoes online and hopes to open a physical store, but as a black business owner, it’s been difficult to get her foot in the door. “I’m partnered with the Nebraska Enterprise Fund, and so I’m working on getting business loans,” Thomas said. “I’ve tried to get grants, but so far no luck. So I’m just funding myself.” Barney said that’s why Empowerment Network conferences are so important to focus on growth and networking. We want to be part of the development,” Barney said.

On Friday, the Rebuilding the Village conference and Revive Black Business Expo took over the CHI Health Center. The event is centered around achieving equity, whether it’s showcasing Black-owned businesses or focusing on those conversations about Black wealth and long-term self-sufficiency.

“It’s been almost three years since we last had our conference,” Willie Barney said.

Empowerment Network founder Willie Barney says twice as many people attended this year’s conference and luncheon, aided by an appearance from keynote speaker, NBA Hall-of-Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Barney said Magic knowledge goes beyond the basketball court.

“His [background includes] investments in technology, sports teams and even investments in urban areas,” Barney said. “So this is a great opportunity for us to learn what he has learned over these 20, 30 years of investing in urban communities with great success.

Barney said that before each conference, the Empowerment Network asks the community what information they need right now.

“Over the past seven years, we’ve really looked at how to build economic strength, businesses, business owners, homeownership, economic development and revitalization,” Barney said.

As part of this change, organizations and companies were there to promote their products and services.

Footwear designer Nataya Thomas launched her line last year.

“I just thought about what I wanted to do and have as my own, and I was like, ‘I want my own brand,'” Thomas said.

Thomas said she’s had success selling her shoes online and hopes to open a brick-and-mortar business, but as a black business owner there are additional challenges to getting your foot in the door.

“I’m partnered with the Nebraska Enterprise Fund, so I’m working on getting business loans,” Thomas said. “I’ve tried to get grants but so far no luck. So I’m just funding myself.”

Barney said that’s why Empowerment Network conferences are so important to focus on growth and networking.

“The community said, ‘we want to be part of the development,'” Barney said.

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