KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) The first observance of Texas Black Business Week got underway Monday, coinciding with Black History Month, and its creator hopes the event becomes just as widespread by offering minority business owners a chance in the spotlight.
“This is the beginning of what is to come in the state of Texas,” says Ronnie Russell.
He is the creator of Texas Black Pages, an online database of black-owned businesses.
Russell came to realize that the same businesses on his site were often lacking connections and resources that help other mainstream
He decided to put together Texas Black Business Week to help educate and empower all entrepreneurs in need of exposure.
“There is no separation, no segregation between any other ethnicity wanting to participate,” says Russell.
“We have a special focus and emphasis on the African-American market because that is considered the under-resourced, the underprivileged, the under-funded. All of those words that are in conjunction with the word under- that's our special focus and emphasis,” he says.
The week features a series of free workshops and seminars on topics like funding and marketing and taking advantage of resources like Texas’s Historically Underutilized Business Program.
The Jewelry Lady in Killeen is one of the businesses hoping to benefit.
The owner, Lucy Diaz opened her storefront several years ago but feels that she still needs guidance on things like social media marketing.
She hopes to gain insight from entrepreneurs from different cultures during the event.
“We want them to come out because they have education and information we need as well,” says Diaz.
“We want to know how their business is thriving. When we network together, we all can grow together,” she adds.
The mayors of Killeen, Nolanville and Austin and are all issuing proclamations of support during Monday's launch.
Rose Smith is helping to coordinate events in Austin through her nonprofit Black Women in Business.
“It's not about segregating. It is about shining light on and making people more aware that we need to even the playing field so that everyone in the business world can be successful,” she says.
Her organization holds regular seminars where she finds that some business owners don’t know where to start when it comes to placing bids with the city, acquiring licenses and securing contracts.
She is addressing those challenges through workshops being held in her city.
“The resources are there, we just have to take a step outside of our comfort zone and make sure that we are putting ourselves in the right position to win.”
The inaugural Texas Black Business Week will end with an awards gala on Friday.
The event also falls on the 400th year that African-Americans have been in the U.S.