Entrepreneurs in Atlanta received a rare treat last Friday with an in-person appearance from filmmaker Tyler Perry at a White House event.
The Atlanta Urban Entrepreneurship Forum was co-sponsored by the White House Office of Public Engagement and the city’s mayor, Kasim Reed. Perry served as the event’s keynote speaker along with Ofelia de la Valette, the founder of Dance 101.
In his speech, Perry stressed the importance of professionalism in minority businesses and told his story of personal struggle and living out of his car before his plays became sell-out productions. Perry’s story goes on to include several sold-out runs of his plays, turning them into movies, and opening his own state-of-the-art studio in southwest Atlanta.
Inspiration from the speeches was not the only draw for the forum’s participants.
A creative challenge titled the “60-second Pitch” was one of the focal points of the day. Attendees had to sell the strengths of their business in one minute to a panel from 100 Urban Entrepreneurs. The winner was to receive $10,000 in startup financing for their business along with eight weeks of mentoring. Instead of one winner, though, judges picked three winners because they were so impressed with the top candidates.
The successes of the pitch contest underscored the importance of small and medium-sized businesses in this country. Mayor Reed, in turn, stressed the importance of the event for much-needed job creation efforts in minority communities.
“Atlanta has a rich legacy and tradition of supporting urban entrepreneurs, especially small, minority and women-owned businesses,” said Mayor Reed.
“When entrepreneurs are allowed to capitalize on opportunities and are appropriately assisted by the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, they are able to create jobs and reinvigorate our local economy,” he added.
The White House echoed sentiments similar to Reed’s about the importance of focusing on job creation.
“President Obama’s top priorities are creating jobs and providing economic opportunities for all Americans to ensure that we win the future,” said Michael Blake, Deputy Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.
“One critical way to achieve that goal is by partnering with visionary leaders such as Mayor Reed to provide local business leaders, especially urban entrepreneurs, with the tools they need for economic success and job growth,” Blake added.
Last Friday’s forum was the second public event in Atlanta this year hosted by the White House Office of Public Engagement. In April, officials held the “Winning the Future” Community Town Hall to interact with the African-American community ahead of the 2012 election cycle.