It began with the announcement of a new digital partnership to empower small businesses. It ended with thousands of children receiving free school supplies and health screenings. Along the way, the seeds of new businesses took root, the future of education and urban civic engagement were hotly debated, and an R&B star brought down the house.
Columbus’ cultural diversity and its status as a technologically-driven, smart city made it the perfect setting for a conference focused on the theme of “Save Our Cities: Powering the Digital Revolution.”
In keeping with the theme, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg announced a new program to provide digital skills training through the Urban League’s 13 Entrepreneurship Centers across the country. The National Urban League also is joining Facebook as a national advisor, helping to create new opportunities for small businesses from underserved communities.
The conference explored the intersection of technology, economic empowerment and social justice – from online activism, with hashtag innovators Tarana Burke, April Rein and Tamika Mallory – to equity in education to civic engagement.
A highlight of the N.U.L. Experience & Expo was the United States debut of the Google Arts & Culture Pop Up Lab, a collection of artifacts, art, documents and stories from cultural institutions across America honoring the legacy of Black Americans.
Aspiring tech entrepreneurs and innovators conferred with creators and visionaries at TechConnect and pitched their technology based solutions to societal problems in a competition known as Demo Day. The winning app, “Safewrd,” developed by Johnny Richardson and Randy Fling, allows users to create a ‘safe word’, that – when spoken – delivers a live video stream to an emergency group from the locked screen of the user’s mobile device.
Small Business Matters ended with three small business owners thousands of dollars closer to their goals. Winners of the Pitch Contest were: Deidre Mathis, owner of Wanderstay Hostels, a low-cost alternative to hotels, aimed at millennials; Quinn Conyers, founder of Purse Paparazzi, a line of creative handbags; and Andrew Suggs, CEO of Live Chair, a mobile app for urban barbers.
Thousands of children and their parents were welcomed to the Back to School Family & Community Day on Saturday, August 4, where backpacks loaded with school supplies were distributed, along with health screenings, free haircuts for children, and other informative and entertaining exhibits and sessions.