We Did It

On July 20th, the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) celebrated 30 years of impact as pioneers in the small business economy, at our 30th Anniversary Symposium + Gala at the historic National African American Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.

Below please access our conference media library to view the dynamic segments from our Symposium.

2022 Symposium Recap


Aligning Racial Equity Impact: Corporate, Philanthropic, and Public

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Kicking off the event Symposium + Gala, AEO CEO and President, Connie E. Evans, marked the milestone sitting down for a fireside chat with industry leaders Dan Schulman, President and CEO of PayPal and Isabel Guzman, Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration. The three leaders discussed the importance of equity and access to capital for diverse entrepreneurs. They also examined the role private-public partnerships play in the small business economy and can be instrumental in expanding small business networks and continuing to serve and build bridges in communities across the U.S.

As one of five overarching themes throughout the Symposium, Segment One leads with “Aligning Racial Equity Impact: Corporate, Philanthropic, and Public“. Highlights from the segment include the “Racial Equity through the Lens of Allies” panel where moderator Melissa Bradley, AEO Board member and Founder & General Partner of 1863 Ventures spoke with Franz Paasche, SVP, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer of PayPal and BCG’s Joe Davis, Chair of the Center for Inclusion and Equity, North America Regional Chair Emeritus, Senior Partner and Managing Director of Vista Equity. The panelists challenged the concept of “allies” and the role organizations play in leveling the playing field when it comes to racial equity and funding for black and brown businesses during these turbulent times.

This panel was followed by a TIMtalk on “A Racial Equity Roadmap for Policymaker” by Phillip Gaskin, Vice President of Entrepreneurship, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.


The Importance of ESG Commitments and Its Impact on Underserved Entrepreneurs

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Segment Two topic covered “The Importance of ESG Commitments and Its Impact on Underserved Entrepreneurs” with a fireside chat between Jenny Flores, Head of Small Business Growth Philanthropy at Wells Fargo and Fran Seegull, President, U.S. Impact Investing Alliance and Executive Director, Tipping Point Fund on Impact Investing.

A conversation on ESG commitments and the effects on diverse microbusinesses followed the fireside chat with Founder and CEO of Coradorables, LLC., Cora Spearman-Chang, Scot Case, VP of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability, National Retail Federation and Caroline Priebe, Founder of The Center for the Advancement of Garment Making. The panel was moderated by AEO’s Research Director Manu Delgado-Medrano.


The Next Frontier: Emerging Technologies That Create Opportunity for All

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Segment Three looked into “The Next Frontier: Emerging Technologies That Create Opportunity for All” with opening remarks from Jonathan Herman, CEO of Baller Mixed Reality. Jonathan Herman promoted the power of emerging technology like Augmented Reality, NFTs and blockchain.

Legendary actor, author and founder of the BlackWallStreet app, Hill Harper, challenged the status quo in his keynote, bringing to light the funding disparities between White-owned and Black-owned tech companies and how blockchain technology can help solve the wealth gap in Black and Brown communities.

A panel followed featuring Guidehouse Partner, Tanya Hughes, Gary Stewart, CEO of Founder Tribes and Black Innovation Alliance (BIA) Executive Director, Kelly Burton.

Tanya Hughes then interviewed Verizon Chief Corporate Social Responsibility Officer, Rose Stuckey Kirk, on the topic of how corporations are driving impact on main street, including Verizon’s work supporting urban and rural schools with the latest technology and their commitment to improve underserved communities.

Segment Three closed out with an emotional TimTalk from DreamSpring President and CEO, Anne Haines who grew up in public housing and saw firsthand how many talented people were not able to live their dreams. This inspired her to create DreamSpring where she could help entrepreneurs grow and scale their dreams.


How Will Corporate Philanthropy Meet the Needs of Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs?

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Segment Four asked “How Will Corporate Philanthropy Meet the Needs of Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs” with opening remarks from Fifth Third Bank’s SVP and Chief Corporate Social Responsibility Officer, Stefanie Steward-Young where she reiterated Fifth Third Bank’s $2.8 billion commitment to diverse small businesses over 3 years.

Steward-Young’s remarks were followed by a virtual fireside chat between two pioneers – Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), U.S. House of Representatives and AEO’s Connie E. Evans. Congresswoman Waters reminded attendees of the challenge small businesses faced during the pandemic and all the steps Congress took to pull the economy from the brink with PPP program but that there is still more to be done to support diverse small businesses.

Connie E. Evans then sat down in-person for a deep conversation with AEO Board member and Co-President for the JPMorgan Chase Institute, Chris Wheat. Tough subjects were covered, such as how some organizations gave lots of money and made commitments to underserved entrepreneurs during the pandemic but that the funding and promises haven’t held up two year later. They also discussed how the industry needs to redefine “risk” and how some funders won’t fund small business owners but will fund tech startups despite an untested business model.


Entrepreneurship: Keeping the Main Thing, The Main Thing

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Segment Five’s topic highlighted “Entrepreneurship: Keeping the Main Thing, The Main Thing”. Keynote Kim Folsom, Founder, Chairperson and CEO of Founders First opened the segment with a powerful story of her journey as an entrepreneur and overcoming the blocks and limitations she hit as a Black woman in the corporate world stating that as small business owners “You must persist and push through.”

The final panel of the conference was “Black Women Entrepreneurship–Scaling and Growing”.

The Honorable Natalie Cofield, Assistant Administrator, Office of Women’s Business Ownership, U.S. Small Business Administration moderated a provocative panel with Chicago French Press CEO, Kris Christian and Nicole Cober, Founder of The BOW Collective, where they debated the importance of collaboration between women.

Connie E. Evans and VP of Strategic Engagement & Communications, Corey Briscoe, closed the event.

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