One year. One city. Endless opportunities.

Sparking a New Conversation

Heading downtown this weekend (again) to check out some sights and sounds. My first stop: the Black Business Festival at the Russell Bazaar.

The Festival, which runs Saturday and Sunday, is aimed at entrepreneurs at all stages of development. Last year, its inaugural event drew more than 3,000 people, eager for its mix of seminars, panel discussions and entertainment. So you can learn how to do your taxes and the Hustle all in one weekend.

I'm particularly interested in hearing what keynote speaker Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh has to say. His Saturday evening remarks will highlight the city's economic outlook to this large and likely receptive audience of business owners and operators.

The event also highlights the Russell Bazaar and Russell Industrial Center, a business incubator and shopping extravaganza all rolled into one. I've yet to boogie myself out to see this development of stores, restaurants and art galleries (I can almost taste Niki's Pizza now) so I'm ready to check it out.

“Entrepreneurship will usher in Detroit's renaissance,” said Lisa Eberhardt, social media marketing intern for doDetroit, which is helping to promote the festival. “And this event is the perfect way for business owners to jumpstart or continue to grow their business.”

Organizers including Jodie Svagr have boosted the festival's offerings this year, adding a strong educational element to the mix. There's a panel on starting and growing your business in Detroit. There are seminars on everything from finding interns to marketing insights to tax accounting. Speakers range from Pugh to the International Detroit Black Expo and TechTown. Networking is also a key component to this year's event, said Svagr, who handles events, promotions and development for the Russell Industrial Center and Bazaar. Thus, there will be lots of time to get people together to talk about their common issues.

The Festival is designed to bring new business to Detroit, to offer a free, family-friendly event to the public and to highlight Black History Month, Svagr said. The Russell Bazaar also is providing 100 table spaces for local business owners to advertise promote and network.

“The goal behind this whole event is to get conversations started,” Svagr said.

FYI: The whole thing is free. The Russell Bazaar is located at 1600 Clay in Detroit. It is the Motown version of European marketplace, housed within a converted Albert Kahn factory. Most weekends, it has about 150 vendors, who have rented booths within the 60,000-square-foot facility. So come back often!

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