In a gala affair featuring professional networking, keynote speakers, and fine food and beverages, the National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA) held its 32nd annual pre-conference media reception in downtown Los Angeles.
Established in 1970, the NBMBAA, which is also celebrating its 40th anniversary, strives to establish partnerships that ultimately spur the creation of intellectual and economic development in the Black community throughout the United States. With more than 400 of the nation's top businesses as partners (e.g., State Farm, Kellogg's, Hess Corporation), the association has developed connections with a wide variety of industries in the public and private sector.
The NBMBAA helps re-energize and reinvent its members' careers through mentoring and access to innovative training technology with successful business owners and corporate executives.
"I had my MBA and I wanted to socialize and get to know more people in L.A., when I first moved here six years ago from San Francisco," NBMBAA Los Angeles Chapter Vice President Brenda Holder said. "I wanted to meet more people, network, and expand my professional development. I have networked with many people through all of our events that we have every month. We have an educational program every month, and personal and professional development programs every month. I have met a lot of people. We are happy to be having this year's conference in L.A. The career fair is the largest career fair in the nation. We will have over 350 Fortune 500 companies."
The annual NBMBAA conference, which takes place in Los Angeles Convention Center September 21-25, comes at a time, when Black entrepreneurs and working professionals are still dealing with the challenges of the nation's economy.
NBMBAA Chairman William Wells offered his perspective regarding the keys to African Americans dealing with the economic recession. "It comes down to two things: Access to capital for Black entrepreneurs; access to opportunities for Black professionals," Wells explained. "We can't do a whole lot with access to capital, but we can provide access to opportunities. One of the things we stand for is diverse businesses. So NBMBAA provides a broad range of career opportunities for those who seek us out, not just at the Conference but throughout the entire year."
NBMBAA Los Angeles Chapter President Lynn Beatty stressed that the nation's economic recession should not serve as an excuse for people to get discouraged. "What (NBMBAA) has tried to do," Beatty says, "is identify resilient industries and provide our members with opportunities to see what may be in store in terms of career change or different industries to work in, to leverage their skills in light of the current economy.
"With the current economic climate, I would like to think that African Americans have become more engaged in learning how to manage their finances. That way, they will know how to weather the storm, because this (economic downturn) is cyclical."
NBMBAA interim President Stephen C. Lewis noted, however, that the recession can be beneficial for Blacks seeking new employment. "Companies are positioning themselves so they are strategically and competitively prepared (to) can take advantage of the business environment in this economy that has bottomed out. Now it is starting to grow again," Lewis observed.
"At the same time," he continued, "we have talent that we have been warming up. So those companies will be coming to our conference looking for that talent. There will be thousands of job opportunities at the annual conference for those looking for career changes and entry-level jobs.
"We not only focus on those who have MBAs but we also focus on those business students and undergraduates."
The organization's focus on Black youth was a factor that attracted Lewis to NBMBAA.
"There was a tremendous focus on young people and reaching back into the African American community to provide to scholarships, mentoring, and education in the area of business," the interim president recalled. "NBMBAA wanted young people to recognize there is more to being successful than being an entertainer or an athlete. They wanted to let them know that, within the corporate community, there was a tremendous opportunity."
Among the activities the public can participate in are a two-day career fair Sept. 23-24; career success workshops throughout; and an Entrepreneurial Institute Sept. 24, which offers professional development to both aspiring and current business owners.