The inaugural conference brought together Black entrepreneurs from business, tech, education, politics, art, and entertainment.
By Blake Carter
Black people in the greater Los Angeles area are doing many amazing things in various industries, especially in business. Entrepreneurs are using their expertise in their fields to blaze their own trail to success and financial independence.
Los Angeles’ Black communities are pretty spread out just like the entire city, so many entrepreneurs rarely if ever cross paths. Zaneta Smith has been working to change that. She created TEDxCrenshaw which is a community organized TED-like event designed to spread ideas, spark conversation, and address changes affecting Black people. Attendees of these events were looking to connect more, so Smith created Kolor Society, a members-only social club that features business and tech mixers, quarterly member-curated events, and quarterly Branding Camps.
Smith then partnered with Vincent Brathwaite, a visual designer and entrepreneur, to create KolorCon, which was held in View Park.
“This is an opportunity for people to connect and support one another,” Brathwaite said. “It’s about building together and not in silos.”
The inaugural KolorCon featured an outstanding lineup of local Black entrepreneurs. The guest speakers included Nana B. Afoh-Manin, MD, founder of Shared Harvest Fund; Rashidi Jones, co-founder of TEC Leimert; Eboney Pearson, president of the Korean American Democratic Committee; Joseph Luckett, founder of Affluent Solutions Group; Will Catlett, actor and director; Dom Brown, founder of Coin Convos; Jimar Wilson, co-founder of The Metaphor Club; and Adrienne Reed and DJ Benjamin Walker, co-founders of Brunch2Bomb.
The speakers discussed their reasonings for starting their own businesses; the process of starting, growing, and financing businesses; the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur; and how they became successful. The attendees were able to take away valuable information to help grow their own businesses.
Smith found it important to host this event in South Los Angeles, and she also hosts events in Inglewood.
“Kolor Society events always happen south of the 10 freeway,” she said. “When we did our market research before launching Kolor Society, we asked millennials and Gen Xers between the ages of 25 to 45, what did they want in L.A., what did they need, and where did they want it. Everywhere that they wanted it was south of the 10 freeway. They wanted it in Inglewood. They wanted it in the Crenshaw area. They wanted it in the West Adams area.”
KolorCon will be a yearly event, but people can become engaged on a consistent basis by joining Kolor Society. The connections that entrepreneurs can make at these events are extremely valuable.
“Whenever you can connect individuals and get them to enter into the same space, the networking opportunities are automatic,” Brathwaite said. “We kept the event intimate for a reason because we wanted people to have authentic conversations with other individuals so that the connections are not only made here, but also happen outside of here. The content that people are getting from the speakers is only one part of the equation. The other part is the people that they’re in the room with, that they’re connecting with, that they’re sharing stories with. So that they can continue to build as they move forward.”
The event was not just for the attendees to learn from the speakers, but also for the speakers to learn from each other. Adrienne Reed and DJ Benjamin Walker, co-founders of Brunch2Bomb, gave an engaging and entertaining presentation of their business journey, and they also learned from the other panelists.
“It’s great to see a lot of people who look like me and that are interested in building their own empire by becoming entrepreneurs or by maximizing their efforts,” Walker said. “Not only to share my experiences, but to hear from other people on the panel. I can take gems home from them to help me with what I’m doing.”
“These spaces are important, and the work that Kolor Society is doing is very critical,” Reed said. “It’s a special dichotomy to be a Black millennial in Los Angeles when everybody is trying to chase celebrities. There needs to be events like this that grounds us.”