Atlanta Public Schools ignited the spirit of young minds by kicking off Minority Enterprise Development Week (MED) with an enlightening panel discussion for students at Booker T. Washington High School.
Every year, during MED Week, APS highlights and celebrates minority and female-owned businesses, and this year’s kickoff event aimed to empower and uplift students by letting them witness successful entrepreneurs who look just like them.
“It’s very important for students to see successful minority and female-owned businesses. I want students to see successful business owners that look like them,” APS coordinator of supplier diversity Brent Bailey said. “It gives them hope and allows them to set goals for themselves. I’ve learned that a lot of students want to start their own businesses, so it’s important for me to expose students to minority and female-owned businesses that are successful.”
The “Focusing on Student Success Through Supplier Diversity” seminar gave Washington High School students the opportunity to hear directly from successful entrepreneurs from different industries.
“What we do here at Atlanta Public Schools is plan different events to celebrate MED Week, and we always try to connect students with supplier diversity.”
The panel included Daniel Gillis, president of Young Funeral Services, Aisha Miah-Gordon, photographer and owner of House of Content ATL; Carmen Johnson, owner of Swanky Spa Bus and Swanky Spa Parlor; and Letice Huff, owner of Suite One Eleven Nail Studio.
The panelists shared their journeys to entrepreneurship and provided insights into what it takes to build a business.
Johnson, a former APS teacher, turned her passion for helping kids into a successful business. She went from celebrating her students’ birthdays in the classroom to creating a business that throws spa parties for young girls.
“I wanted the students to know that everything starts with a passion,” Johnson said. “If you have a passion for something, you can actually build a business around that passion.”
Brooke Shelton, a 17-year-old senior at Washington High School, aspires to be a football coach, but still took away some valuable information from listening to the panel.
“This was amazing. We should implement this every year,” Shelton said. “Although they do different things, they were really here to explain to us that if you market yourself and believe in yourself, not matter what you do, you will prevail.”
Students were able to pick the brains of the visiting entrepreneurs about various aspects of their business. This year’s panel was specifically selected in response to student feedback.
“Today’s panel was excellent,” Bailey said. “This year, the students told me who they wanted to speak with. Students wanted to speak to a cosmetologist, someone in the funeral home business and in social media. I listened to what the students wanted, and I brought those businesses here and they were excellent.”
The next day, a handful of local minority and female-owned business displayed their services at the Supplier Diversity Vendor Fair in the Center for Learning and Leadership (CLL) Board Auditorium.
As the coordinator of supplier diversity, Brent Bailey assists minority and female-owned businesses navigate doing business with the district. APS has placed an emphasis on ensuring that the vendors used by the district reflects the diversity of the students it serves.
“It’s important that we do business with the vendors that live in our community,” Bailey said. “Each of the vendors are related in some way because they provide some type of instructional services. Hopefully, in the future, the people in [CLL] will start using the services and the goods that they offer.”
MED Week continued Wednesday evening with a Local Intergovernmental “How to do Business,” seminar with representatives from the Atlanta Housing Authority, City of Atlanta, Fulton County, the State of Georgia and APS.
And finally, the celebration of MED Week concluded with the live virtual conversation with Char Ross of Proof Printing on Thursday morning.