By Gaynelle Adams Jackson
Co-founder AG Gaston Conference
In 2005 Robert Dickerson Jr., Executive Director of the Birmingham Business Resource Center and I co-founded and hosted the first annual A.G. Gaston Conference. Bob always says, what started as a file in his desk drawer has grown and become one of the premier small business conferences in the state.
And here we are 19 years later, preparing for the 2023 A.G. Gaston Conference, which will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, February 21-22, 2023, in the East Meeting Rooms at the BJCC on the 3rd Floor. There are people who are surprised that the A.G. Gaston Conference has lasted 19 years, something rare among black Business and networking events of this magnitude. But the key to its longevity is that we have remained true to our mission. It also speaks to the caliber of the AG Gaston brand.
As we planned our first conference 19 years ago, our mission was to bring to the forefront the plight of Black businesses in Birmingham and to start the discussion on what we can do collectively to bring about a change and provide Black businesses with the tools and information needed to move them at one more step up the business development ladder. That mission is still relevant today, and we remain committed to helping grow and empower small businesses.
This annual conference has grown from a “mom & pop” operation to an entity with all the components of other businesses; fundraising, program development, the cultivation of vendor and sponsor relationships, marketing and customer service.
Along with the mission, one of the keys to the success of the conference has been vendor partnerships, we are very intentional about the vendors we partner with. We look for people with the skills necessary to put on a great event and who want to grow with us, and when you have a vendor you can trust, you let them do what they do best, and you always get more than you expected.
With any successful conference, sponsorships are key, and we have been fortunate to have support from the business community. These entrepreneurs see the value of the conference and what it stands for and know that it’s a good way for them to give back to the community.
Looking back on 2005 it is encouraging to see so many of the businesses that participated in our first conference are still in business in 2023. It is a testament to the strength and tenacity of African American businesses, and we would like to believe that we have played some part in their longevity.
So, 19 years later as we prepare for the 2023 version of the AG Gaston Conference, the mission is still the same: create a platform where accomplished leaders, orators and business owners share their expertise; provide a place for learning and developing better business practices; create an environment of celebration, challenge and empowerment; and use this platform as an opportunity to inspire the next generation.
To learn more about the 2023 A.G. Gaston Conference, visit our website at aggastonconference.biz. And join us as we continue to promote the lessons and legacy of Dr. A.G. Gaston.
Gaynelle Adams Jackson is co-founder of the AG Gaston Conference and the owner of Advanced Planning Services, LLC, a full-service company specializing in program planning, project management and meeting and event planning. Visit her website at apsplan.com.