The 2018 Bob Wright Business Empowerment Symposium

I had an opportunity to attend the sold-out 4th Annual Bob Wright Symposium on Business Empowerment. The all-day breakfast and luncheon took place in Columbus, Ga at The Columbus Convention and Trade Center. The event was started by Chairman Dr. Bob Wright, a retired optometrist and former Columbus City Councilor Businessman and philanthropist. He was very involved in the civil rights movement and is also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated. In 1985 he founded a technology and logistics company called Dimensions International and sold it for millions to Honeywell. He now heads an investment firm and continues to be a leader in the community.

The purpose of the business symposium is to provide the Columbus, Georgia community with the opportunity to network and promote business and economic development, as well as engage with local leaders, trailblazers, and entrepreneurs. This year’s theme was “The Year of the Woman.” There were various female panelists from different business industries discussing the challenges and successes of being a trailblazer, entrepreneur, and “glass ceiling” breaker. The enlightening and inspirational women’s empowerment panel discussion was moderated by ABC correspondent and journalist Byron Pitts and the keynote speaker was ABC journalist Robin Roberts.

The first speaker of the morning was Dr. Valerie Daniels Carter, President and CEO of V&J Foods Holding Company, the largest female-owned franchise organization in the country. The restaurant empire is comprised of restaurants such as Burger King, Auntie Anne’s Soft Pretzels and Captain D’s.

Dr. Daniels-Carter spoke of the importance of her faith and knowing whose you are and who you are. Dr. Daniels-Carter is also a board member of the Green Bay Packers and minority owner of the Milwaukee Bucks Basketball Team. Additionally, she is a graduate of the historically Black college, Lincoln University.

Dr. Daniels-Carter told an interesting story of how she was waiting for over 5 hours at a job interview and how rude the interviewer was to her to keep her waiting. The day was over and the interviewer was leaving and finally acknowledged her presence, but said they would have to schedule the interview at another time because he was on his way to go hunting with colleagues. So, that day instead of going home Dr. Daniels-Carter asked the interviewer if she could tag along to go hunting with them and the interviewer said sure.

She went hunting with the interviewer and his male colleagues to the mountains and you’ll have to read the rest of the details of the story in her book “Your Business Is His Business”, but long story short the interviewer eventually respected her and she got the franchise she was interviewing for. Dr. Daniels-Carter told the story because of the many barriers she’s faced being a black woman in a predominately white male space. Dr. Daniels-Carter dropped many words of wisdom, but the two that stood out were “failure is not bad all the time” and it’s okay to cut back because “it’s better to do a couple of things really great than do multiple things really bad.”

Dr. Daniels-Carter also shared a touching story of how her now deceased husband worked two jobs before they married and he saved his money from one of his jobs just for her. On their wedding night, he told her that the money was hers for any business she wanted to start because he believed in her. She said she was blessed to have an amazing support system and that you can teach a trait and have determination, but you cannot teach personality and that with God you can fight the giants of life.

Between speakers, there were breaks and a time for the audience to ask quick questions. The next two speakers on stage were Kimberly A. Blackwell, a top marketing and advertising executive, and top communications strategist Alexis Davis Smith. Alexis Smith spoke of the importance of diversifying your business and that for her every opportunity to make money isn’t always good. She believes in aligning with companies whose values align with her employees and the company’s culture. She also stated to be humble and strategic and open.

Kimberly Blackwell also dropped nuggets of wisdom by saying there’s a difference between being invited and being included. She also stated a candle doesn’t lose light by lighting another candle. Kimberly Blackwell also made her side hustle her main hustle and made sure she had money saved and opportunities coming her way before she left her old job to pursue her own business.

Next lunch was served. After lunch, the fourth speaker was Rose McElrath Slade, who is the founder, president, and CEO of Strategjc Resources, Inc., an international organization specializing in management consulting and information technology. Rose Slade spoke of her strong faith in Jesus Christ and how he has guided her from health battles to business endeavors. She also spoke of the importance of financial literacy and delayed gratification and remember to look before you leap. The next speakers were sisters Yukia Harris-Walker and Yuneisia Harris, owners of Curvaceous Couture Bridal Collection for curvy women. They also had a reality show called “Curvy Brides” that aired on TLC. They both spoke about the struggles they faced trying to find wedding dresses and outfits for their body types and through that struggle birthed their business of plus-sized fashions. Also, Emmy Award-winning makeup artist, Eva Jane Bunkley, spoke about being hard working and adaptable. Because of Hurricane Florence Keynote speaker Robin Roberts was a little late, so speakers Melissa Harville-Lebron, who is a NASCAR team owner and lawyer and Dunamis Clean Energy CEO, Natalie M. King, spoke about learning something from every experience of life. Natalie King spoke about the importance of minorities getting involved in industries that are often foreign to the culture so that they won’t be left behind. King also spoke about green energy, horticulture, and the medicinal marijuana industry and how it’s taboo, but a lucrative business.

Finally, the keynote speaker, ABC journalist Robin Roberts, came on stage and talked about her family and faith and coming from a small town and not being limited in life and that anything is possible. She spoke of how she is always grateful, but never content. She also said to make your mess your message and that money heightens what’s already there, to begin with.

Robin talked about embracing similarities with other people and how education and sports helped her in life. She grew up in Pass Christian, Mississippi. She talked about her father, who was a Tuskegee Airman, and the important “3 D’s” in their household: Discipline, Determination, and as Robin said, “Da Lord”. Robin’s energetic and positive energy radiated through the room and she spoke about her Rockin’ Robin Production Company. Robin even hugged some audience members and she answered a lot of questions before she had to leave to go back to NYC.

I was one of the audience members who asked a question about her production company and if they were looking for help. She was so generous and gave my information to her assistant! I feel so grateful. After Robin Roberts finished speaking I left, but there were two more speakers Stephanie Burnley and Dr. Michele Hoskins who spoke after Robin. It was my first time going to the symposium and I’m really happy that I was able to go. It’s so important to invest in yourself and your community. I give the event a perfect 10! If you want to know more about the symposium go to and check out the social media hashtag #BWSBE2018 for pictures and video snippets.

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