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Panels discuss inclusion, entrepreneurial opportunities

Photo by Tevin Stinson

Panels discuss inclusion, entrepreneurial opportunities
August 10
05:00 2017

At a place in time where everyone has a side hustle or is looking for a way to make some extra cash, in separate events last week, local business owners, professionals, CEOs, and countless other stakeholders in the community came together to discuss the ins and outs of entrepreneurship.

The first event held was hosted by HUSTLE Winston-Salem, a citywide campaign designed to promote entrepreneurial spirit. During the event held inside the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter on Thursday, August 3, campaign organizer Matt Williams led a panel discussion that explored concepts of inclusion, and the challenges entrepreneurs face here in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.

Panelists who participated in the panel included investment banker Algenon Cash, CEO of the Winston-Salem Urban League James Perry, founder of innovateHer Fay Horwitt, president of M-Creative Mary Jamis, and local Latino Credit Union manager and CEO Luis Pastor.

To jumpstart the conversation, Williams asked panelist to share their thoughts on the mayor’s push to make Winston-Salem one of the top 50 metro areas in the nation by the end of the decade. Perry said Mayor Joines’ push is amazing but to reach that goal we must be more open to entrepreneurship.

“Part of being an entrepreneur is being brave enough to have an idea and putting it out there even though it might fail. Here in Winston-Salem, we need more investors who are willing to take that leap of faith with you and invest in your concept,” continued Perry. “One of the things that’s striking to me is that this is a very safe investment community so the challenge I’ve run into with entrepreneurs is finding investors. And that’s even more true if you’re an entrepreneur of color.”

Perry said in order to reach the goal we must become more comfortable with entrepreneurship. Perry also discussed the Urban League’s push to create a nonprofit bank that can make capital available for entrepreneurs. He said, “hopefully we’ll be able to bridge some of those gaps. That’s one of the biggest goals of the Urban League to make sure there is money available.”

After hearing Perry’s comments about Winston-Salem being a “safe investment community” Algenon Cash, who is a regular in the editorial section of The Chronicle said, if you relate to certain people in the community you can get the capital to fund projects. He said, “This town is more of a country club community.

“It’s a bit cliquish at times and if you’re not in the right circle or have the right friend you don’t know what’s going on and it’s very difficult to source the capital to pursue anything whether that’s opening a barbershop or launch technology firm,” he said.

“We have to evolve beyond the high school games that we play sometimes here in town and get to a point where we really have a strong social fabric and a degree of trust so we can start mobilizing capital like other urban areas are already doing.”

Before wrapping up the discussion Horwitt, Jamis and Pastor discussed initiatives they are involved with that promote entrepreneurs in the community. Horwitt is the founder of innovateHER, a nonprofit designed to help women launch and grow businesses. Jamis discussed her involvement with the Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem, and Pastor talked about programs the Hispanic League of Winston-Salem has in place to help entrepreneurs.

The conversation that began inside the Innovation Quarter carried over into the weekend during the National Black Theatre Festival. On Saturday Aug. 5, music producer 9th Wonder was joined by other young entrepreneurs and business professionals who started right here in Winston-Salem. Drew Church, CJ Beatty, Rico Lindsay and Attorney Shade Dixon gathered at the Marriott Hotel to discuss their careers and how they created their own lane.  Following the discussion, it was clear that panelists left a mark on the future entrepreneurs in attendance.

“Having people like 9th Wonder, and other successful people talk about how they started really means a lot,” said Erica Johnson following the event on Saturday.

“I’ve learned to be more confident in myself and to take chances. I know I have a long way to go to reach their success level, but I know I will get there someday. Everybody has to start somewhere.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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