Photos: ©2019 Nehemiah Barney, Revive Omaha
Character. Integrity. Faith. Family. And, a captivating voice with an incredible range that will stop you in your tracks.
Revive Omaha was blessed to have a conversation with native Omahan JeRonelle about his experience on the hit tv show, The Four last year. Immediately following his performance on the show, reactions came in from around the world. He blew the celebrity judges and the international audience away with his gift of range, style and a falsetto that generated over 3,000,000 views on social media.
—Omaha Family and Friends
It appears that he has blown up on the national scene overnight. But behind the scenes, JeRonelle has been “praying, preparing, grinding” and stepping out in faith since a very early age. “I started singing when I was 3,” said JeRonelle. His name was formed by combining the names of Jesus, his father Ron and his mother Michelle.
Actually, it was earlier, but 3 was the age that he could officially join the children’s choir at his family’s church, Salem Baptist Church. It was there at church and at home that he began to discover his God-given gift for music and singing. “I began to notice people’s reaction when I opened my mouth to sing and realized it was more than just me singing. It would have an impact on them.”
JeRonelle with consistent and unwavering encouragement and support from his mother Michelle, family members, and friends continued to sing through elementary, middle school and high school.
“I was the kid who was always in somebody’s talent show. Singing in the choir. I was always around music.”
He initially had not planned to go to college, he wanted to pursue music immediately after high school. His mother had other plans. “She wasn’t having that,” he said with a big smile as he thought about that life-changing moment. She insisted that he take at least one year of college. He agreed and was accepted at Clark Atlanta University and earned a music scholarship.
“One year turned into two, two into three and then four,” said JeRonelle. It was there that he had the opportunity to further develop what God had given him.
Immediately after graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his life long dream.
“It’s been tough. There have big highs and lows sometimes multiple highs and lows in the same day.”
Auditions. Rejections. Evictions. Bills.
Through it all JeRonelle consistently went back to the foundation that makes him more than a powerful voice. He called on his faith. He called on his family.
“This journey the past three years in Los Angeles has really helped me to develop even greater faith. My family has prayed for me. They have encouraged me with scripture. They have been there in the rough moments. God has always come through. Even when I was asking what now God? What’s going on? How am I going to do this? This journey has shown me how he comes through every time and everything is working for my good.”
Photos: ©2019 Nehemiah Barney, Revive Omaha
Last summer, just about anyone watching the show and listening to him sing Maxwell’s rendition of “This Woman’s Work” on the Fox show, The Four recognized instantly that they were listening to one of the most gifted voices we had ever heard. Even the other talented members of The Four reacted with awe.
From the first note, people in the audience and around the world gasped with their mouths wide open in complete shock as JeRonelle flawlessly sang. JeRonelle “kilt it” and “shut it down” as many said on his social media which collectively have gained more than 50,000 followers since his first appearance on the show.
His first song was exceptionally strong right out of the gate and was enough to earn him a chance to challenge one of the other chair holders. The audience was responding to him with great energy and feeling his stirring rendition of “Too Close” by Alex Clare.
But when he stood and delivered “This Woman’s Work,” Sean “Diddy” Combs, DJ Khaled and Meghan Trainer instantly knew JeRonelle had won the battle and earned his seat as one of the Four.
“Presence means everything and you, you were on point”, said Diddy.
Trainer who was obviously pulling for the other artist said, “I know JeRonelle has won tonight.”
“You got to be hungry,” said DJ Khalied. “JeRonelle, he came to eat.”
Now it was up to the audience. “On television, it appears that the vote comes back in 15 seconds. It actually takes three minutes,” recounted JeRonelle.
He could hear people in the audience: “We love you”. “We voted for you.”
He was praying. Thinking about what this moment could mean for him. Thinking about the encouragement from friends and family. Thinking about the sacrifices, long nights, highs and lows, the challenging and difficult circumstances and obstacles.
Thinking about all of the auditions and working for, praying for, grinding for a moment to break through. Thinking about the “we really love your voice, but you are not what we are looking for” moments he had experienced when applying in previous years for The Voice, American Idol, and even The Four.
And then, the decision came in.
“JeRonelle you have won the battle and you are now the newest member of The Four.”
The breakthrough moment. His gift has certainly made room for him and brought him before great men. With his voice, range, faith, character, integrity, and humbleness, there’s no question God has great things in store for JeRonelle.
The words of one of his original songs capture the essence of the moment;
“Seeds in the ground. New kid in town”
Although he lost his seat to fellow competitor James Graham, he is the first to tell you this was just one step on the front end of the journey. He is preparing now for his next season and what God has for him.
He is working on new music and focused on the opportunity to do some touring. Maybe, just maybe Maxwell or John Legend, or someone else will recognize the gift and come calling.
Follow and support JeRonelle on Instagram.
JeRonelle Talks Omaha, Los Angeles and The Four
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.”