Times staff report
Shelly Bell, founder of Washington, D.C.-based Black Girl Ventures, which recently expanded into Birmingham to help women entrepreneurs of color gain access to capital, will be one of the speakers at the 2020 A.G. Gaston Conference in the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.
In its 16th year, the conference has put together a lineup that features nationally renowned speakers, authors, and thought leaders.
The February 11 and 12 event at the BJCC, a Black History Month staple in Birmingham, has also added both an Opportunity Forum and a Town Hall Meeting focused on local efforts to promote minority business development and financial literacy.
The conference, named for the iconic entrepreneur, A. G. Gaston has its sights set on elevating African American Entrepreneurship.
On Wednesday, Feb. 12, 10:30 to 11:45 a.m., Bell will give a talk entitled “How to Play the Game: Building Connections to Capital.” Bell has built a national reputation for empowering women, especially black and Latino female business owners. In 2016, she founded Washington, D.C.-based Black Girl Ventures to help women entrepreneurs gain access to capital.
Bell is a system disruptor and business strategist who moves ideas to profit while empowering people to live more authentically. As a cultural translator, she connects entrepreneurs, investors, and corporations in order to diversify their talent pipeline, increase equity and grow their brands.
Bell has trained over 5,000 entrepreneurs, held over 300 events for empowering leaders, managed multi-million dollar contracts, and scaled over 100 businesses.
In addition to Bell, another presenter Michael Graves, son of Black Enterprise Magazine Founder, Earl Graves, will close the conference. While Graves’ ties to Black Enterprise, which named Dr. A. G. Gaston “Entrepreneur of the 20th Century” is obvious: Graves, founding member and managing partner of the Graves Advisory Group, LLC, launched Graves Advisory, a marketing firm based in New York that focuses on business development and analytical growth strategies, branding, image consulting, and one-on-one coaching, services most businesses need.
Keynote speakers scheduled for this year include headliner Dr. George C. Fraser, Chairman and CEO of FraserNet, Inc., a company he founded 30 years ago to lead a global networking movement for people of African descent.
A noted author, his book “Success Runs in Our Race, is critically acclaimed 25 years after he wrote it. Fraser’s messages will focus on racial economic disparity and what blacks must do to close the divide. Eugene Mitchell and Maggie Anderson, both authors and past presenters at the A. G. Gaston Conference follow Fraser in Tuesday’s lineup.
Mitchell recently authored “Closing the Racial Wealth Gap” after spending his career helping people build and protect wealth from his position as an executive at New York Life, where he spearheaded an initiative that put $50 billion of life insurance in place for black Americans. Mitchell’s book and his address at the conference will detail “7 Untold Rules for Black Prosperity and Legacy.”
Anderson, author of “Our Black Year,” has spent the past several years advocating for black-owned businesses through her leadership of the “Empowerment Experiment”, an organization dedicated to study and facilitate economic development in under-served African American communities via self-help economics, conscious consumerism, financial literacy, targeted entrepreneurship and business diversity and inclusion. Tuesday’s events conclude with a Town Hall Meeting, focused on financial literacy, highlighting efforts by local sororities, and other civic organizations. While registration is required for the majority of the conference, the Town Hall Meeting is free and open to the public.
The conference has tapped into the Birmingham community and features leaders and movers and shakers. The Conference’s first “Opportunity Forum” will provide local businesses the chance to get a head start on seizing opportunities resulting from the World Games, airport and transit expansion and the Protective Life Stadium under construction in downtown Birmingham.
The A. G. Gaston Conference has always attempted to be relevant from both a philosophical as well as a practical perspective. Attending the Opportunity Forum, hearing first hand from decision-makers as well as other advocates is a must for local business owners.