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The Coalition of Black Professionals (COPB) is gearing up for their second event, a small business summit, where entrepreneurs can learn about the myriad considerations small business owners must make.

“I come into contact with a lot of small businesses, particularly minority businesses, and I find that a lot of them may not have all the knowledge and education, as far as business practices, to be as successful as they could be,” said Markeith Cook, leader of the COPB. “I don’t think they all reach their full potential for this lack of information, a lot of time, so I just wanted to be able to check that in whatever way I could, make sure they at least have the opportunity to be equipped with all the tools and information they need to succeed.”

Throughout the day June 1, attendees will participate in general and breakout sessions on topics like real estate investment, how to market one’s business, government contracting, state and federal certifications, banking and access to capital, how politics affects business and more.

“Whether you already have an existing business and you’re trying to grow it, or you’re looking to start a new business, we’re going to have somebody there for everything,” Cook said.

There will be four breakout sessions in total. Two lessons will take place simultaneously, and when the next breakout session takes place, attendees will attend the lesson they missed during the first breakout session, so that everyone has the opportunity to attend every breakout session.

Former Arkansas Senator and Rep. Tracy Steele will be the summit’s keynote speaker. Steele served in the Arkansas Legislature from 1998-2013 in various capacities; he also served on committees like the joint budget committee, the Senate subcommittee on minority health and the public health, welfare and labor committee, which he served as vice chair on.

He later started the Stand Foundation, an organization that provides specialized leadership training to empower individuals.

“He served a lot of committees and sponsored a lot of bills and he’s been a big champion for small businesses here in Arkansas,” Cook said.

Several other prominent Arkansans will also be featured speakers in the summit’s general sessions. El Dorado Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer will start the day by welcoming attendees and talking about the ways the city can help to support small businesses.

Breakout sessions will follow, followed by morning featured speaker Greg Modica, CEO of Government Supply Services in Camden, who will speak about state and federal certification, government contracting and other topics related to how government and business interact.

There will be a second breakout session following Modica. Lunch will be provided with catering from Kammie’s Catering. The afternoon program will contain two additional breakout sessions as well as more general sessions.

Harvey Brown, vice president of BancorpSouth, and Amy Ezell, a customer service representative at BancorpSouth, will speak about loans available for small businesses.

Barbara Breggs, founder and CEO of BL Breggs and Associates, will speak to attendees about insurance options for small businesses. A representative from the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center will show how the organization can assist small business owners in areas like making a business plan, performing market research and writing a cash flow statement.

Clarissa Pace, owner and operator of Shekinah Services, LLC, and Greg Williams and Jamar Cunningham, co-founders of Empire Properties, will also be featured.

Cook said the COBP has a three-fold mission: raising awareness, providing education and recognizing excellence. Awareness came into play with the COPB’s first event, a black business expo that was held in February.

The B.U.I.L.D. summit will serve as a way to deliver education to small business owners. B.U.I.L.D. is an acronym, standing for Believe, Unify, Inspire, Learn and Develop, highlighting the event’s mission.

“And on recognition, we have some events … in the upcoming fall that are going to be pretty big, to recognize some of the small businesses in town,” Cook said.

While the event is geared toward minority business owners, anyone is welcome to attend. Only 50 slots are available and 26 have already registered for the event, leaving 24 remaining spots for those who wish to attend.

Cook said it was important to organize this event to be geared toward minority business owners because they have historically had a harder time finding success due to systemic problems in the country; Cook said this is a movement to bring those businesses to the forefront.

“There’s been a resurgence in the black community as far as business ownership, home ownership, things of that sort; there’s been an awakening. I’m just trying to do my part in helping that sleeping giant wake up, because I feel like black [people] and minorities have so much to offer … and I feel like the more resources we have, the more knowledge we have, the more we can do with that and the more beneficial that is for the entire community,” Cook said. “It’s going to be open to anybody who wants to attend, but there’s going to be a focus on [minority-owned businesses], because I feel like that’s where the biggest gap is.”

Bancorp South helped to fund the event; Cook said he and his wife, Whittney Cook, worked with the bank when opening their own small business, Whittney’s Beauty Bar.

The summit will take place on June 1, with registration starting at 8:30 a.m. and the program beginning at 9 a.m. The event will be held at the St. James Village Outreach Facility at 1308 E. Hillsboro. The program will continue into the afternoon. Registration costs $10 and 100 percent of funds raised will be donated to Meet Me at the Court and the Team Kelly Foundation.

To sign up for the B.U.I.L.D. small business summit, contact Markeith Cook at 870-814-8382 or markeith@soarstrategies.com. He can also be reached on Facebook, through his personal account or at the Coalition of Black Professionals Facebook page. Sign-up for the event closes May 29.

Caitlan Butler can be reached at 870-862-6611 or cbutler@eldoradonews.com.

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