February marks Black History Month, a time to celebrate the vibrant culture of the Black community in the past, present and future.
The Bulls, in partnership with BMO, tipped off the month by hosting their inaugural Business Summit to support local Black- and Brown-owned businesses. The Summit is an extension of the organizations’ 4th annual Black-Owned Business initiative – designed to encourage collaboration, development and relationship building among entrepreneurs in Chicago.
The Summit, held at BMO Tower in Chicago, offered a rich program that included conversations about the challenges that business leaders of color face. The event also included opportunities for knowledge sharing, professional headshots and ample time for meaningful connection. The agenda included:
Introductions from Bulls Vice President of Community Engagement, Adrienne Scherenzel, and BMO Head of US Business Banking, Niamh Kristufek.
A panel moderated by Don C., a Chicago-based streetwear designer and Bulls Creative Strategy and Design Advisor, with Richard Bloomfield, co-founder and CEO of Funky Town Brewery, Danielle Mullen, owner of Semicolon Bookstore and Maya-Camille Broussard, founder of Justice of the Pies.
Short inspirational speeches from Ron Milsap, director of U.S. Zero Barriers to Business at BMO, Sarah Smith, director of marketing at the Chicago Bulls and Jason Mercer, principal at Cleveland Avenue, Accelerator, Venture Capital and Consulting Firm.
Q&A session led by Vachon Harper-Young, senior regional relationship manager at BMO.
Fireside conversation with entrepreneur, NBA All Star and Bulls alumna Carlos Boozer with Cassandra West, assistant managing editor at Crains Chicago about his transition from professional athlete to entrepreneur and lessons learned along the way.
“This summit connects to the Bulls initiatives and our ongoing commitment to the community, Black and Brown businesses, nonprofits and up and coming leaders,” said Adrienne Scherenzel, Vice President of Community Engagement with the Bulls. “We provided a space to let people build community and talk to each other, think about how they can collaborate, ask questions and really be vulnerable.”
This Business Summit marks a step forward in a journey toward sustained economic growth, increased opportunities, and a more inclusive Chicago. Together, the Bulls and BMO will continue supporting and uplifting Black and Brown-owned businesses this month and beyond as they recognize their vital role in the prosperity of Chicago.
“Our partnership with the Chicago Bulls has really brought to life a program that we’ve been running for a couple of years now,” said Ron Milsap, Director of U.S. Zero Barriers to Business at BMO. “Every month throughout the course of the season, the Bulls highlight a Black-owned business and bring that to their audience. It aligns with what we do in terms of our purpose here at BMO – to Boldly Grow the Good in business and life – and aligns with my day-to-day work in terms of the programs I lead.”
In 2020, the two organizations launched Chicago Bulls x BMO Chicago’s Black Owned Business campaign, an initiative focused on amplifying awareness of Black-owned businesses across Chicago and uplifting Black entrepreneurs who are making a positive difference in the community. Each business in the annual cohort is highlighted at a home Bulls game and on the organization’s social channels and gameday broadcasts throughout the seasons, detailing the story and inspiration behind each business in the words of their leaders. This year’s cohort includes:
Auriel Bannister, owner of Banni’s Beats, an organic, cold-press juicery in Beverly and the West Loop.
Kpoene’ Kofi-Bruce, owner of Ette the Wedding Tailor, Mignotte Bridal and Bricolage Bridal, the first 100% zero-waste luxury bridal collection.
LeQoinne Rice and Chris Scardin, co-owners of The Duplex, a restaurant in Logan Square.
Shari Currie, owner of Recycled Modern, a curated home décor store, art gallery and event lounge which stands to elevate the voices and stories of local artists from diverse backgrounds, while featuring vintage and handcrafted home décor, art and lifestyle goods with a focus on black creatives.
Donna Coleman, owner of DSC Vision Corner, a plus size women’s clothing boutique that also carries bras and shapewear, statement jewelry and fashion bags.
Stay tuned as the Bulls continue to support the Black community this month and year-round.