The annual Essence Festival has always been much more than daytime fun and nighttime music concerts; and this year, the original “party with a purpose”, is adding even more purpose to the three-day event with Path to Power Entrepreneurship and Business Conference taking place on the second floor of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily June 30 – July 2.

For anyone looking to start, build or grow a business plan or for those looking for direction in their professional career paths, this conference is a must-do.

The conference is free and attendees will get the opportunity to hear from successful business owners and professionals representing a variety of industries from across the nation, including Lisa Price (founder of Carol’s Daughter), Carla Harris (vice chairman of Wealth Management and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley), New Orleans native Master P (founder of P Miller Enterprises), Jessica O. Matthews (founder and CEO of Unchartered Play), Bari Williams (head of North American business operations at, and Diishan Imira (founder of technology company, Mayvenn, Inc.), among others.

The conference will feature daily general sessions, networking opportunities and more than 40 workshop-style quick courses.

State Farm Bank is a sponsor of this event, and programming partners for the Path to Power Conference include Time, Inc., the Minority Business Development Association, the National Minority Supplier Diversity Council, the National Urban League, the United States Black Chamber, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council and #YeWeCode.

Participants can register by downloading the official Essence Festival app or visiting

The conference will address a number of topics, including:

•Creating Your Value Proposition & Marketing Your Brand
•Small Biz Tech Start Up Kit
•Doing Business With Corporate America
•The Power of the Pivot: Knowing When It’s Time to Change Direction
•Developing a Profitable and Sustainable Business Model
•Innov8HER: Transforming Tech through the Federal Government
•Using Technology To Grow Your Business

Whether you have only thought about starting your own business or you have been in business for 20 years, there is a session track that will fit your needs. Options include:

LEAP for pre-launch or early stage entrepreneurs: Gain information about capital development, technology resources, team building, and minority business certification for your idea or new business.
RUN for established entrepreneurs: Learn how to operate their business more efficiently & effectively through better branding, pursuit of higher revenue opportunities, technology resources, and minority business certification.
GROW for seasoned entrepreneurs: Take your business to the next level or create your exit strategy with ideas on new market expansion, repositioning, succession planning, and minority business certified opportunities.
Millennials Entrepreneurs Workshop for entrepreneurs ages 16 to 35: The US Black Chambers will offer their custom curriculum fueling business start-up and growth and funding opportunities exclusively for millennial entrepreneurs.
CAREERS: Get proven insights to help you excel in your profession including advice on how to score the next promotion and maximizing your personal brand within an organization.
FINANCE: Get your money right with expert advice and tips on budgeting, investing and long-term planning with expert-led panel discussions, interactive workshops, leadership training, and networking. Get on the right path to owning your financial future!

The Path to Power is Needed

To be sure, African-American professionals, burgeoning entrepreneurs, and seasoned business owners must do more to strategically position themselves to grow their businesses or strengthen their careers.

While the number of Black-owned businesses increased by 34.5 percent over a five-year period (2007-2012) to 2.6 million, more than 17 times the overall growth rate for all U.S. business of two percent for the same time period, according to the most U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners, the fact remains that Black-owned businesses face distinct challenges.

For example, despite their growth in numbers, Black-owned businesses only garnered a little more than $187 billion in annual receipts compared to the nearly $13 trillion made annually by White-owned businesses, according to the most recent U.S. Census business survey.

And since the recession, Black-owned businesses have a much tougher time getting SBA loans, which are often a vital source of financing for entrepreneurs for everything from start-up funding to expansion to operating costs. According to a 2014 analysis by the Wall Street Journal, Black-owned small businesses, which received 8.2 percent of all loan money through the Small Business Administration before the recession, saw that figure drop to 2.3 percent of the roughly 54,000 loans doled out through the agency in the fiscal year that ended September 2013.

And when it comes to growth and promotion within corporate organizations, the outlook for Black professionals seems to have dimmed in recent years. Since 1999 when Franklin Raines became CEO of Fannie Mae, making him the first Black person to serve as CEO of a Fortune 500, only 14 other Black CEOs have assumed that role within America’s Fortune 500; and there are currently only four African-Americans serving as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Meanwhile, Blacks make up only 4.7 percent of executive team members in the Fortune 100—a figure that has not changed since 2011. Even at smaller companies, African Americans only fill about 6.7 percent of the nation’s 16.2 million executive level jobs, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, though they make up twice that share of the nation’s population.

Such disparate realities make targeted opportunities for Black entrepreneurs and professionals to network and learn proven strategies in an effort to strengthen and their grow businesses and reach their goals all the more valuable.

To register for the Path to Power Entrepreneur and Business Conference, visit


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