May 15th Virtual Transform Westside Summit: Small Businesses on the Westside
The May 15th Virtual Transform Westside Summit featured updates from key organizations helping to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on Westside residents, and it highlighted the importance of Westside small businesses while providing resources for entrepreneurs. Usually held at The Gathering Spot in front of a live audience made up of hundreds of Westside community members and stakeholders, the summit was instead live-streamed via social media.
Makeda Johnson, Vine City Resident and Founder of Sister’s Action Team, joins the May 1st Virtual Transform Westside Summit.
Makeda Johnson, Vine City Resident and Founder of Sister’s Action Team, helped kick things off via a prerecorded video providing updates from Sister’s Action Team. Johnson and Sister’s Action Team continue to distribute over two hundred care kits per week to Westside residents, largely focusing efforts on preventative care for seniors and other at-risk community members. The kits contain hand sanitizer, cleansing wipes, gloves, and masks made of batik, an African fabric, which are intended to help fellow residents stay safe when away from home. Following Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to reopen Georgia, Johnson stressed, “No matter what anyone says to you about this virus, what we know is that 80% of the people hospitalized with it are people of African American descent and other ethnic groups. We also know that 40% of the people who die reflect people of color. Don’t be foolish.” Johnson urges residents to continue to practice social distancing and also urges seniors suffering from loneliness due to isolation to call 888-524-7143 to speak to a member of Sister’s Action Team.
Venessa Harrison, President, AT&T Georgia joins the May 15th Virtual Transform Westside Summit panel.
John Ahmann, President & CEO of Westside Future Fund moderated the featured panel discussion which included: Venessa Harrison, President, AT&T Georgia; and James M. Bailey, President & CEO, Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (RCIE). Craig Lucie, Owner of Lucie Content and former news anchor at WSB-TV, fielded questions from online viewers during the Q&A segment following the panel discussion.
Venessa Harrison offered reassurance to AT&T customers experiencing financial hardships in the wake of COVID-19. Harrison made it clear that through June 30, 2020, for residential and small business customers who cannot pay their bills due to the pandemic, “we’re not terminating any postpaid wireless or homephone or broadband residential and business accounts. So that means that if you’re past due on your bills, we’re not terminating the accounts.” AT&T is also “waiving any late payment fees for postpaid wireless, homephone or broadband residential and small business, U-verse TV or Direct-TV customers.” Harrison also pointed out AT&T Georgia’s partnership with Westside small businesses EDC Kitchen and Busy Bee to provide hot meals to Westside first responders, showing well earned love to some of Atlanta’s most essential heros. To learn more about AT&T Georgia and its efforts to ease the impact of COVID-19, click here.
James M. Bailey, President & CEO, Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (RCIE) joins the May 15th Virtual Transform Westside Summit panel.
James “Jay” Bailey weighed in on the panel discussion, speaking first to the incredible legacy of Atlanta businessman Herman J. Russell before then addressing the many ways RCIE looks to continue that legacy through providing an array of resources to Black entrepreneurs in Atlanta. “We are sitting now in 54,000 square feet,” said Bailey, “the largetst center in America dedicated to growing, scaling, developing African American businesses.” The only initiative of its kind in the region, RCIE will be part incubator, part accelerator, part innovation lab and even part museum—telling the untold and under-told stories of African American entrepreneurs and business leaders of past and present while offering access to workspace, resources, networks, mentorship, technical assistance and education. Bailey contends, “the only difference between Buckhead and Bankhead is access, opportunity, and exposure.” To learn more about how RCIE is helping to create a level economic playing field for African Americans, click here.
Joe Arnold, Senior Vice President, Not-for-Profit & Government Banking Division Manager, Truist; and Gayle Cabrera, Senior Vice President, Business Banking Leader, Truist join the May 15th Virtual Transform Westside Summit.
Joe Arnold, Senior Vice President, Not-for-Profit & Government Banking Division Manager at Truist; and Gayle Cabrera, Senior Vice President, Business Banking Leader at Truist joined the May 15th Virtual Transform Westside Summit via prerecorded video to discuss the ways Truist is helping small businesses stay afloat in the wake of the the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our mission is to build and inspire better lives and communities,” said Cabrera, “and what more important part of our communities is it than the small businesses?” To learn about the many services Truist is offering small business owners throughout the pandemic, click here.
Donte Miller and Harriett Williams, Co-Founder and Director of Operations, Village Micro Fund join the May 15th Virtual Transform Westside Summit.
Donte Miller and Harriett Williams, Co-Founder and Director of Operations at Village Micro Fund, joined the summit via prerecorded video to speak about the nonprofit’s crowdfunding effort to provide $500,000 in grant funds to small businesses on the Westside. For more details on Village Micro Fund and its fundraising effort, click here.
Leonard Adams, Founder & CEO, Quest Communities, joins the May 15th Virtual Transform Westside Summit.
Leonard Adams, Founder & CEO of Quest Communities, also joined the summit via prerecorded video to highlight the Westside Impact Center which is currently under construction at the corner of Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard and Joseph E. Boone Boulevard. The new facility will be home to a number of nonprofits and “socially conscious small businesses”, including On the Rise Financial Center. To learn more about Quest Communities’ Westside Impact Center, click here.