Summer Celebration’s biz conference fits IBE’s economic mission

Indianapolis entrepreneurs seeking growth, connections and opportunities might want to spend some time at the Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration July 11-21.

That might come as a surprise to those who associate the annual event with its higher-profile entertainment, like concerts, celebrity basketball, films and much more. But, in fact, many companies also use IBE's business conference and exhibitor event to network or access capital.

Both dovetail with IBE’s fourfold mission: education, performing arts, health and economics.

“We started as an organization focused on small businesses, which is why we do the Exhibition Hall,” said Vice President of Operations and Project Management Alice Watson.

The Exhibition Hall is a free-admission event July 19-21. Businesses pay to be an exhibitor, which gives them—alongside not-for-profits, authors, artists and others—the chance to introduce or show off their companies to more than 40,000 people.

The business conference, July 15-16, includes several chances for business owners to access capital, find procurement opportunities and network through events such as the Mayor’s Breakfast or a workshop titled, “Business Opportunities with the State of Indiana: Connecting the Dots.” All business conference events are free.

IBE says its goal is to empower business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals with information and resources to help them succeed.

While IBE caters to minority-owned small businesses, Watson said IBE and the business conference open their resources to everyone because small businesses’ success benefits the whole city.

“Small businesses are really the engine of the community,” she said. “As small businesses run, so do employment opportunities within our communities, our target communities.”

Watson said workshops at the conference provide information on a wide spectrum of contract opportunities with city and state government and universities.

Other workshops are tailored to business and employee professional development. One focuses on project management, while another helps entrepreneurs and aspiring executives with business acumen and branding, Watson said.

Throughout the conference, she said, small businesses are able to “meet with some of those decision makers you might not normally meet with, and they’ve been able to be privy to contract opportunities that fit their business as a supplier.”

Indiana Black Expo is also partnering to provide a new event called InnoPower at the convention center July 19-20, which is aimed at driving innovation through diversity and inclusion. Registration for that event starts at $59.

Indiana Black Expo will also sponsor a job fair with WTHR-TV Channel 13 on July 18. It’s one of the largest job fairs in Indiana, she said, and many employers hold interviews on site.

A corporate luncheon on July 19 brings 3,000 Indiana corporate, government and community leaders together for networking opportunities. Tickets cost $60. The event is open to the public, Watson said.

Details and registration for all events are at•

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