Local business convention looks to expand emerging markets

As ethnic communities continue to grow in Minnesota, new, emerging markets open for business, and Lennie Chism wants to raise awareness. The 2008 Summer Festival controlled Minnesota Orchestra Hall and a portion of Peavey Plaza Sunday, with the goal of informing visitors about getting businesses to communities of color. Thousands visiting for the Republican National Convention reside in hotels surrounding Peavey Plaza. âÄúThey have lots of dollars in their pockets,âÄù Chism, coordinator of Summer Festival 2008, said, âÄúand weâÄôre trying to help the businesses that we know of that are participating reach some of those dollars.âÄù Chism, an economic mobilizer for Your Black Wall Street , a group dedicated to bringing business spending to communities of color, started planning the festival in order to raise awareness of the emerging markets. The goal is to open 100,000 businesses in communities of color by 2010. A forum including local business people and members of ethnic chambers of commerce met at the festival to discuss how the goal could be met. Dileep Rao , a senior lecturer at the Carlson School of Management , considers the event a step in the right direction. âÄúI think itâÄôs a good goal to increase the number of businesses for minorities,âÄù he said. Rao said 550,000 new businesses are started in the country each year, meaning ChismâÄôs goal would require 10 percent of those businesses in each of the next two years to be in communities of color. Rao said the goal is reasonable but whether itâÄôs attainable is a different question. âÄúSomebody had to set a goal. 2020 was too far, so why not make it 2010?âÄù Chism said. In the 2004 Census, businesses with less than 500 employees accounted for over 99 percent of all businesses in America. Aneeta Babulal , a marketing and advertising junior, thinks the event is emphasizing small business appropriately. âÄúI think it will actually help the economy significantly,âÄù she said. âÄúIt helps the businesses flourish better if you have the support within the community.âÄù As activities coordinator of the Business Association of Multicultural Students , Babulal said she has been fortunate to receive opportunities in the business world. Babulal is Guyanese and helps BAM give students opportunities to network with companies in Minneapolis. Although the 2008 Summer Festival remained below the radar with a lack of marketing and advertisement, Chism said he still expected more than 20,000 people to be walking around Peavey Plaza on Sunday. With the Ron Paul Walk4Freedom passing through and Spark24 arts showcase set up in the plaza, different entertainment attracted people to the festival. But the goal was to get people to see their message, Chism said. âÄúItâÄôs a combination of basically showcasing what we have available,âÄù Chism said. âÄúBecause when you look at the market, we have to go out and showcase our skills, our talents, our people that are involved.âÄù The new businesses could hit close to home for many multicultural students at the University. âÄúEntrepreneurship has been one of the most popular areas in the business school,âÄù Rao said. âÄúMany students, especially undergraduates, feel that they might be better off starting their own businesses.âÄù If 100,000 new businesses open, numerous job opportunities will become available for all students, regardless of ethnicity. The 2008 Summer Festival aimed to open the eyes of the Twin Cities while the Republican National Convention is in town. âÄúAmerica, weâÄôre open for business,âÄù Chism said.