Helping Entrepreneurs

A preview of the Cape Fear Region Minority Enterprise Development Week

Lori Harris Story

Sometimes, silver linings really do appear.

That has been the case with this year’s Cape Fear Region Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week, scheduled for Oct. 5-10.

Originally planned as an in-person week of inspiration and small business information aimed at people of color, women, and military veterans, the COVID-19 cloud forced organizers to shift to a virtual format.

And the registrations started coming in.

“We’ve got fifty-seven unique registrations, and we’re still four weeks out,” organizer LAURA BROGDON-PRIMAVERA says, noting that the conference publicity efforts had not even ramped up. “Our goal is 100 unique registrations. We’ve got people from California, Kansas, Minnesota, and Ohio registered, as well as local business owners.”

“We were going to do [the conference] at this scale before, when it was to be an in-person event, but to be ahead of things is great,” she says.

Brogdon-Primavera, manager of programs and operations at the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), says the center has been involved with planning MED Week every year since 2015, but this is the first year the CIE has been the presenter. It is partnering with UNCW’s Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion.

What organizers are realizing is that a Zoom format may suit their target audience very well.

“I know people are Zoomed out, but this way, they don’t have to come to everything for all six days,” Brogdon-Primavera says, explaining that attendees can register only for the sessions that interest them, or those they can fit into their schedule.

People don’t have to travel, spending money on food and lodging. In fact, they can attend while still keeping an eye on their businesses.

The fact that many minority entrepreneurs don’t have a lot of schedule flexibility was made clear two years ago when the impacts of Hurricane Florence on small businesses meant that some potential MED Week attendees couldn’t leave their companies, even for a few days.

The program is a mix of nuts-and-bolts topics – such as business bookkeeping basics, marketing in a post-COVID world, and how to qualify as a Veteran-Friendly business – and sessions that deal with less-tangible subjects.

Wilmington-based Harris Whitesell Consulting will present three sessions on leadership. One of those is specifically aimed at women in business.

“How Women Lead: the Rise of Women Leaders and the Organizations They Lead,” besides being part of the MED Week lineup, has been chosen as one of the sessions offered as part of Montclair State University’s Weekly Women Entrepreneurship series this fall.

The session will offer a discussion of twelve behaviors that keep women from being more successful, says Harris Whitesell managing partner LORI HARRIS (pictured above).

“We work with (female) executives all over the world, in all kinds of C-suite positions,” Harris says, adding that recognizing these limiting behaviors “really does transform their lives. We asked them what they wanted, what they were missing.”

Harris Whitesell, which itself recently became an SBA-certified Women-Owned Small Business, was recommended to MED Week organizers as a resource for leadership expertise.

“We do a lot of culture work, talking about change management and realigning organizations,” Harris says. “Development and coaching are very important to help people become more successful.”

As she shifted gears to an all-virtual conference format, Brogdon-Primavera wasn’t sure she could line up sponsors, but almost all re-enlisted, she says.

“Some even upped their support,” she adds. “We have really great sponsors, and the support allowed us to invest more in marketing, and to enable Spanish-language translations of some of the sessions.”

The sparkle in MED Week’s silver lining will be enhanced by the use of a new networking platform for the conference Expo, Brogdon-Primavera says.

The startup platform, developed by a Raleigh entrepreneur, allows face-to-face interaction to be conducted remotely while helping showcase local minority-, women-owned, and veteran-owned businesses.

For MED Week information and registration, visit uncw.edu/diversity/medweek/.


To view more of photographer Terah Wilson’s work, go to terahwilson.com.

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Categories: Women to Watch