Step-Up Omaha Alumnus, Elijah Mitchell, Meets with President Barack Obama and Steph Curry at MBK Rising!
All eyes were on Elijah Mitchell as 2000 attendees were looking at him on stage.
“Did I really just meet and speak with President Obama and Steph Curry? Unbelievable. It’s all starting to sink in,” Mitchell said after the experience.
He posted images and videos of himself and President Obama on social media. His Facebook page and Snapchat lit up with hundreds of likes and shares. Mitchell, a Step Up alumnus joined an Omaha contingency on the trip to Oakland, California to attend the Obama Foundation’s first MBK Rising! national conference. The event marked and celebrated the five year anniversary of the launch of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Movement (MBK) after the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin. The movement focuses on the success of boys and young men of color.
Thousands of young men, mentors, non-profit executives, local and national leaders, and celebrities from across the globe came together for an inspiring, challenging and power-packed three-day event. In addition to President Obama and Golden State Warrior’s Steph Curry, internationally known figures including John Legend, Michael B. Jordan, Susan Taylor, and many others participated in the groundbreaking gathering.
Every aspect of the conference was full of energy and incredibly moving. It started with a day of service at local schools and included a town hall, music, food, main stage interviews, and informative breakout sessions. Topics focused on equity, policy, mentoring, violence prevention and story-telling. The entire conference was intentionally inclusive, featuring Native American, African-American, Hispanic and Asian youth.
Mitchell joined Willie Barney, President of the Empowerment Network; Shelley Henderson, MBK of the Heartland Leader; Moniki Cannon, Step-Up Omaha Employment Director for the Empowerment Network; Deborah Neary, Executive Director for MentorNebraska; and, Douglas County Commissioner Chris Rodgers.
Mitchell and twenty three other young men were selected to share the stage with President Obama and Golden State Warriors Steph Curry in a town hall format. Obama and Curry took questions from the young men and provided insights based on their own life experiences. Mitchell was also provided the exciting opportunity to pose a question directly to President Obama. He was also able to take photos and spend time with President Obama and the other young men, including new found friends from across the U.S.
“How many 17-year-olds have this type of experience or even adults for that matter?” asked Moniki Cannon. “To have the chance to meet, talk with, shake hands and even dap up the 44th President of the United States. This reinforces our vision. There are no limits to where Step-Up Omaha can take you.”
Mitchell started as an intern with Step-Up and worked at American National Bank for the summer. He did such an exceptional job and was offered a year-round position while completing his senior year at Central High School and has become a lead teller.
“We are so excited for Elijah,” said Wende Kotouc, Executive Co-Chairman for American National Bank. “He is an outstanding young man and we are honored to have him on our team.” Kotouc and American National Bank were the first business sponsors of Step-Up Omaha and have hired over 50 interns since the inception of the program. Like Mitchell, a number of them have become full-time employees.
Obama Foundation Selects Empowerment Network and MBK of the Heartland
In November 2018, Omaha, represented by The Empowerment Network and MBK of the Heartland was selected by the Obama Foundation as one of 15 cities to receive an Impact or Seed Award after a nationwide community challenge. Over 200 applicants submitted detailed applications with the Empowerment Network receiving a SEED grant of $50,000 to help grow Step-Up Omaha!
The goals are to serve a more diverse group of participants, connect them to mentors and expand STEM opportunities. Step-Up Omaha has helped to connect 5,000 youth and young adults to career exploration, jobs, and careers over the past 12 years.
“Our goal is to build a long-term partnership with the Obama Foundation to accelerate the pace of progress in Omaha,” said Barney. “We are thankful for the amazing partners that have worked with us the past 12 years and look forward to even greater things ahead as we work with the Obama Foundation and MBK Alliance. It’s great to be part of this national movement.”
Barney was also invited by the Obama Foundation to serve as a speaker during a breakout session at the MBK first national convening. The session was facilitated by Michael McAfee, President, and CEO of the PolicyLink.
“We are honored to be a part of this collaboration,” said Deb Neary, Executive Director of MentorNebraska and Nebraska Board of Education member. “This is an amazing opportunity for Omaha.” It was Neary who notified the team and recommended that the Empowerment Network become the lead applicant for the Community Challenge.
Based on its collaborative work and twelve years of collective success, the Obama Foundation has also identified the Empowerment Network as a model that should be expanded and replicated across the United States. Another key aspect of submitting a strong application was the Network’s experience with leading the Omaha African-American Male Achievement Collaborative in partnership with the National League of Cities, PolicyLink, City of Omaha, Omaha Public Schools and forty plus community partners.
Representatives from the Obama Foundation visited Omaha last year to make the final selections. They were impressed with the extensive collaboration, partnerships, and results generated in Omaha. The Obama Foundation will work with the Empowerment Network and MBK of the Heartland for the next two years to advance and expand their local models focused on the success of boys and men of color. An executive from the Obama Foundation will visit Omaha in the spring of 2019.
“It was obvious to us that the team in Omaha is working together consistently to make a positive impact,” said Burnell Holland, Obama Foundation representative. “They didn’t just come into a room to impress us, it was obvious they have established powerful and productive partnerships.”
Omaha and the Empowerment Network would not have had the opportunity to apply for the community challenge grant if not for the efforts of Shelly Henderson, Earl Redrick, Regional HUD Director, and Commissioner Chris Rodgers. They along with 200 other cities took up the challenge offered by President Obama before he left office. Henderson led efforts to host a series of events and facilitated the development of a local action plan.
“I’m glad that we were able to bring together a regional collaboration of groups representing African-American, Native American, Hispanic/Latino and Asian communities,” said Henderson. “Creating the MBK action plan allowed us to keep the door open for the transition to the Obama Foundation.”
Commissioner Rodgers had this to say, “This is an extreme honor and should be seen as a high vote of confidence that Douglas County and the City of Omaha were selected to be a part of this gathering. We have done some trend-setting work, and it renewed me personally. I hope it renewed all of us to dig in to go to the next level to address the specific issues of young boys and girls of color over the next five years.”
The goal for the team is to help more Omaha boys and young men of color to connect with their purpose, establish big goals and experience high levels of success in school, life, careers, and entrepreneurial endeavors. Young men, just like Elijah Mitchell.
Mitchell, along with other Step-Up Omaha alumni, was a part of the team that presented to the Obama Foundation when they visited Omaha. He is excited to be a part of the next phase. As he prepares to enter college next year to study finance, Mitchell is reaching out to other students to share his once in a lifetime experience and get more youth engaged with Step-Up and other community initiatives.
As Moniki Cannon, Employment Director for Step-Up Omaha says, “There are no limits.”
To learn more about MBK Rising! visit www.obama.org/mbka/rising.
Black Business Summit highlights keys to raising funds and capital
Published: Tuesday, June 28, 2022
The June Revive Black Business Summit was very inspiring and informative.
60+ Black business owners, entrepreneurs and support organizations participated in the hybrid – in person and virtual event hosted by Willie and Yolanda Barney of Revive Omaha Magazine, Revive Black Business Network, Revive Center and Carver Legacy Center.
The monthly summits provide an opportunity to gain knowledge on important topics, meet specialists in each area, hear from business owners who excel in implementation, network with other entrepreneurs and get connected with resources and opportunities through the business exchange.
Building Multiple Businesses
Luper Akough, CEO of Clout Enterprises, provided insights on launching and scaling multiple businesses. His key points including building effective systems, understanding timing, investing in yourself, finding partners and hiring the right people were incredibly helpful.
Akough and his wife, Brittanie, are known as innovators and serial entrepreneurs with over 100 employees. Luper shared their goal of creating 450 new employees over the next five years.
Keys to Raising Capital
Timothy Christian, CEO of Night Fox Entertainment, shared his valuable experiences with raising capital for films and entertainment projects. Those in attendance appreciated the core elements that he outlined: Integrity, Intelligence, Passion, Partnerships, Idealism and Pragmatism, and Surrounding Yourself with the Right People including an Attorney and Accountant.
Christian has his corporate headquarters in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska and maintains an office in Los Angeles, California. His company’s sweet spot is raising capital for $10 million films.
Opportunities Created by the North Omaha Recovery Plan
State Senators Justin Wayne and Terrell McKinney provided an update on their work to gain approval of $330 million in state funds for North and South Omaha, Lincoln and other qualified census tracts in Nebraska to support entrepreneurship, business development and job creation.
They informed the group that most of the work for implementation will be conducted through the Department of Economic Development. They emphasized the need for businesses to be prepared for the opportunities and community engagement meetings are coming soon.
The Nebraska Department of Economic Development has created a page to stay updated on the opportunities with the North Omaha Recovery Plan. https://opportunity.nebraska.gov/programs/recovery/
Tax Increment Financing
Bridget Hadley, Economic Development Manager for City of Omaha, provided an overview of TIF and the process used to determine what projects might qualify. Participants have a greater understanding of how it works and ways that our businesses and real estate owners can get engaged and maximize this financial tool.
TIF can be used as leverage by developers to attracting additional funds and financing. Smaller and large development projects are eligible. Hadley is available to support large and small projects and encouraged the attendees to reach out to her.
Dr. Martin Williams, CEO of Martin Williams International and DreamBusiness, walked the group through the opportunities created by being open to equity investments. Entrepreneurs should consider what’s possible when teaming with others and allow investors to have a stake in our businesses. Williams also shared insights on having a buyout plan and selecting the right partners.
Williams and his wife, Lynnell, have helped dozens of businesses with scaling from self-employment to multi-million dollar enterprises. They hold real estate investments locally and internationally and partner with the Barney’s with the Carver Legacy Center.
Ernest White, 1st Vice President of American National Bank and Ambassador for Carver Legacy Center and Jim Reiff, Executive Director of Nebraska Enterprise Fund, shared practical and real examples of loans and resources available through the Carver Legacy Center and Nebraska Enterprise Fund.
The Carver in partnership with American National Bank has assisted 30+ businesses and another 25 are in the pipeline. Nebraska Enterprise Fund has made loans to hundreds of businesses in Omaha.
The most recent approval includes Roll-N-Sweetz, the new rolled ice cream shop which was opened by a 17 year old entrepreneur at 60th and Ames. Carver and Nebraska Enterprise Fund both supported the business financially.
The next Revive Black Business Summit will be held on Saturday, July 23rd and the topic will be Maximizing Technology to Grow Your Customer Base and Increase Profits. More information coming soon.
Black business owners and entrepreneurs are invited to become formal members of the Revive Black Business Network and experience the outstanding benefits associated with this group. Build your social, cultural and intellectual capital.
Willie and Yolanda encourage attendees to continue doing business with each other and supporting Black entrepreneurs. The Revive Black Business Guide features hundreds of Black-owned businesses in Omaha. Revive Black Business Guide
And, join the Carver Legacy Center movement. Go to Carver Legacy Center to open your account, apply for a loan, sign up to receive training or develop your plan for building wealth.
June 25th…Revive Black Business Summit…Raising Funds and Capital
We’re building capacity and momentum. Where can you find funds and capital to launch or scale your business?
Please use these links to learn more and register.
The next Revive Black Business Summit will be held Saturday, June 25th from 8:00 am to 10:30 am. It will be in-person and virtual.
We’ve had a great response with the first three summits with over 100 Black businesses, entrepreneurs and support organizations participating. Let’s keep building together!
The location for the in-person event will be the Revive Center. Breakfast and Networking will start at 8:00 am.
Please use these links to learn more and register.
Carver Legacy Center, a Black-owned financial and wealth building system, opens in North Omaha
Published: Tuesday, May 3, 2022
The Carver Legacy Center, an innovative collaborative approach to building black businesses and thriving communities was publicly announced on August 30, 2020 and formally opened on April 4, 2022.
Carver Legacy Center Owners and Partners with Elected Officials and Strategic Collaborators (April 4, 2022 Soft Opening)
After nearly five years of behind the scenes work to develop formal partnerships, the collaboration is bringing new life to the historic Carver building located in the village at 24th and Lake.
Co-founders and co-owners Willie and Yolanda Barney and Martin, and Lynnell Williams have created a joint venture with American National Bank to make it happen.
The focus of the Center is creating wealth for African-Americans and North Omaha residents through business ownership, home ownership and community ownership.
“18 months ago we stood before the community and promised to renovate the historic Carver building and launch a new financial center, develop a Hub and Accelerator for small businesses where they can launch, scale and grow, and create a store and pop-up incubator where Black businesses and North Omaha entrepreneurs can feature their products and services. Today, we are back to have you experience it for yourself. Welcome to the Carver Legacy Center,” said Willie Barney, co-owner and co-founder.
“For over 22 years, Yolanda and I have worked to launch, support, promote and expand black businesses.”
“We are excited to partner with Martin and Lynnell Williams and American National Bank. To be able to do this in the historic building where the first Black-owned financial institution in Nebraska was opened 78 years ago, the place where Whitney Young launched a program to increase Black homeownership and the building that housed the offices of some of Omaha’s history-making black leaders is especially meaningful to all of us.”
The Carver Legacy Center will have several components.
Carver Legacy Center Co-owners and Co-Founders: Willie and Yolanda Barney and Lynnell and Martin Williams. Carver Savings and Loan, the first Black-owned financial institution in the state of Nebraska opened in 1944 and closed in the mid 1960’s. The Carver Legacy Center owners purchased the building and partnered with American National Bank to bring financial services, hubs and accelerators and wealth building systems back to 24th and Lake.
CARVER LEGACY FINANCIAL SERVICES
The Carver Legacy Financial Services Center, a joint venture with American National Bank, will bring banking services to 24th and Lake, and provide increased access to credit and capital for Black businesses and North Omaha residents.
With the joint venture with American National Bank, individuals, families, organizations, churches and businesses can open accounts and make deposits at any American National Bank location by designating a Carver Legacy Account. American National Bank is a member of the FDIC which means deposits are insured.
Loans leveraged by these deposits will benefit Black businesses and individuals, and North Omaha residents and businesses.
In Phase III to come later, the Carver at 24th and Lake is working to become a full service branch which will allow all banking services to be provided at that location.
“We are excited about partnering with the Barney and Williams families to make this happen at this historic location,” said John Kotouc, Co-chairman of American National Bank. “We are bringing our banking experience, expertise and considerable investments to this collaborative approach.”
“American National Bank is committed to supporting this Black-owned business and initiative and we want this to serve as another catalyst for further community-based development in North Omaha.”
Kotouc also emphasizes that this is not an exclusive situation. “We will play a role, but we challenge and encourage other financial institutions to also get involved with this project. It will benefit the entire community.”
In addition to the financial center, the Carver Legacy Center will house three other important components: Hub & Accelerators; Revive Omaha Store and Pop-Up Incubator; and Legacy Wealth Center.
HUB AND ACCELERATORS
The Hub will be the new home for Revive Omaha and the Revive Black Business Network. It will also feature shared office and meeting space for the DreamBusiness Accelerator and other business collaborators.
“Nine years ago, we created the Revive Black Business Network which has connected with over 300 black owned businesses,” said Yolanda Barney, co founder and Vice President of SMB Enterprises.
“One of the things we have heard most consistently is we need more funds to launch and expand our business. We can’t get loans. Entrepreneurs have also told us they would like support with finance, sales, technology, admin, marketing and branding.”
While the Financial Center will help bring funding together, the Hub will be a place to help entrepreneurs with connecting with other business owners and resources, launching their vision and provide technical assistance to help take their businesses to scale.
The Accelerators run by the Barneys and Williams will also connect black businesses to supplier diversity and procurement opportunities with major companies.
“We are excited to be open for business at the Carver Legacy Center. The process of building and introducing this financial services center was a work of passion and commitment to our community,” said Martin Williams, co-owner and co-founder.
“We have worked for the past 30 years on cultural approaches to launch and grow successful businesses.”
He and his wife Lynnell are founders and strategic leaders of Ambassador Worship Center and have established several businesses nationally and internationally, including Barak II which is the partner with the Carver.
“Using what we have learned by helping others to launch million dollar businesses, we are blessed to be a part of bringing the Carver back to life and helping families to build generational wealth.”
The Hub will utilize a collaborative approach that all three families have dedicated themselves to over many years. The Revive Black Business Network will operate a start-up accelerator and the Williams will facilitate a scale-up accelerator through their DreamBusiness program.
Other businesses will bring their specific expertise to the table. Hayes and Associates and Advance Tax Solutions will support businesses with finance, accounting and tax services. Technology Consulting Solutions and others will assist with technology.
Business Seals and others will assist with business plans and financial forecasts. PPRP Innovations will support market research, pricing and market growth strategies. Other black owned businesses will assist with social media, branding, marketing, HR and operations.
“We wanted to create one place where an entrepreneur can go from idea to launch and then to scale and expansion,” said Willie Barney.
“We are also finalizing partnerships with other specialists and organizations who will offer services at the Center.”
REVIVE OMAHA STORE AND POP-UP INCUBATOR
Another key component to the Center will be the Revive Store and Pop Up Incubator. The space where Big Mama’s sandwich shop operated will be multi-use.
It will feature products created by African-Americans and North Omaha residents. The space will also serve as a pop-up incubator for businesses that would like to introduce their products to the community.
“It’s a perfect space for a small business to host an event to showcase their products while also giving them a chance to test market and gather valuable experience” said Yolanda Barney.
“Our goal is to help them step out into their entrepreneurship journey and then hopefully locate a business in the 24th and Lake District or another key corridor in North Omaha.”
LEGACY WEALTH CENTER
The final piece of the four part strategy is the Legacy Wealth Center. A core element in the vision is financial empowerment and community ownership. The team wants to see residents save, improve credit scores, purchase insurance, invest in stocks, purchase land and homes, become business owners and pass wealth to future generations.
The Legacy Wealth Center will feature workshops, special events and classes to help residents with accomplishing their financial goals. We will have guest speakers and experts in their fields share their time and talent with members. Participants will learn more about turning their gifts and talents into revenue producing businesses and multiple streams of income.
“This is the part that gets me most excited,” said Lynnell Williams. “We want to teach families everything we have learned about building wealth. That starts with breaking cycles and implementing discipline in the areas of finance.”
“Carver Legacy Center is committed to bridging the gap for all ages and ensuring that our young ones get a head start on understanding money matters! Our future depends on how well we financially prepare our youth.”
The Carver Legacy Center will also house the Revive Black Business Network which has national strategic advisors, including Dr. Pamela Jolly, Dr. Randal Pinkett and Tawanna Black. They will also support and offer wealth building classes and sessions.
As the Carver Legacy Center moves through the phases, the team will also work with local and national partners to create collective investment opportunities. This will be a platform to pool and leverage resources.
“We believe the reopening of the Carver is like digging up the wells that made North Omaha a great place to live, worship, work and own homes and businesses,” said Martin Williams. “As we move forward, we will work with others to help residents to create wealth and ownership.”
Other local collaborators include: Omaha Economic Development Corporation, Nebraska Enterprise Fund, Family Housing Advisory Services, Omaha 100, Shift Omaha, Creighton University, Metropolitan Community College and the University of Nebraska – UNO.
“American National Bank is committed to helping to develop strong communities and we are very supportive of many organizations in North Omaha,” said Wende Kotouc.
“We have worked with Willie and Yolanda and Martin and Lynnell for many years and they have consistently worked with others to produce measurable results. They have shown again and again they know how to make things happen. We are excited to be involved in this effort. Earnest White who has a long history of community involvement will be our ambassador to Carver.”
Willie Barney added, “We want to specifically thank Michael Maroney, Ben Gray, the City of Omaha Mayors Office and Planning Department, Lorie Lewis, Ernest White, Ryan Meyer, Steph Gould, Jackie Vinci, Patti Kuhre, Pamela Jolly and Katie Weitz for their support as we have worked to develop this Center.”
“We believe the Carver will be an important piece of accelerating progress at 24th and Lake, in North Omaha and for African-American communities.”
“Omaha is known for wealth, we want it to be known for creating Black wealth as well and rebuilding a thriving North Omaha.”