Lindner College of Business hosts African American Chamber of Commerce Exchange event

New and familiar connections abound between Black business leaders and college

The University of Cincinnati Carl H. Lindner College of Business hosted the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce (AACC) in the Kautz Attic in Lindner Hall for the chamber’s monthly Exchange event in late October.

The purpose of the event was to introduce chamber members to leaders of various units or centers at Lindner, who shared the college’s ongoing efforts to promote inclusion and support for all students while building strategic partnerships with the external business community.

Lindner College of Business Dean Marianne Lewis, PhD, set the tone of the evening around interconnectedness — that the university wasn’t an ambiguous collection of resources distant from the local business community, and vice versa.

A woman with blonde curly hair wearing business professional attire gestures and speaks from a microphone to a group of approximately thirty people standing or sitting in the Kautz attic

Lindner College of Business Dean Marianne Lewis, PhD, left, addresses the African American Chamber of Commerce members at the chamber's monthly Exchange event that was hosted in the Kautz Attic in late October.

“We all know that we can do more together than apart; it’s about connecting the dots,” said Lewis. “We need each other.”

Additional speakers included:

  • Charles Sox, PhD, associate dean, Impact & Partnerships
  • Steven Jones, assistant professor, Department of Operations, Business Analytics & Information Systems
  • Kate Harmon, executive director, Center for Entrepreneurship, and El and Elaine Bourgraf Director of Entrepreneurship
  • Carol Butler, president, Goering Center for Family and Private Business
  • Kevin J. Hardy, assistant dean, Career Services

Assistant OBAIS Professor Steven Jones speaks at the African American Chamber Exchange event.

All expressed the variety of ways Lindner could partner or support Black- and minority-owned businesses, ranging from the programming available through the Goering Center for Family and Private Business and Center for Entrepreneurship, to opportunities for co-op or in-class projects.

“If you make even one connection tonight, you’ll have what you need,” said Hardy, who referenced how business owners who haven’t had a student co-op for them before may feel overwhelmed around where to begin.

“When I meet someone who shares that they don’t know where to start, I tell them, ‘Now you know me,’” he said. “I'm happy to help walk you through the process.”

According to AACC Director of Transformative Initiatives and Relationships Briston Mitchell, networking is one of the most valued benefits expressed by their members, and many of the “solopreneurs” businesses with minimal staff within the chamber membership would benefit from the skills students are cultivating in school. In turn, the students gain hands-on professional experience and a concrete understanding of what it takes to actually run a business.

“We want to bring our up-and-coming talent into the workforce strong,” said Mitchell. “Sometimes, with a large company, an intern might not have the visibility around the impact they can make on the business. But with a small business, they’re already in the boardroom.”

An economic impact analysis conducted by the UC Economics Center found Black-owned businesses in the Cincinnati MSA generated $1.44 billion in economic output in 2020. The 800 companies identified and included in the analysis supported a total of 8,682 jobs and wages of $542.6 million.

We want to bring our up-and-coming talent into the workforce strong. Sometimes, with a large company, an intern might not have the visibility around the impact they can make on the business. But with a small business, they’re already in the boardroom.

Briston Mitchell, Director of Transformative Initiatives and Relationships, African American Chamber of Commerce

The students in attendance expressed the value of connecting with businesses that weren’t the usual exhibitors at career fairs or program industry nights.

“Just being in the same room with business owners in the community who look like me, it’s empowering,” said Prince Kalala, BBA ’23. “I got a lot out of the networking.”

A group of three students wearing business attire speak to a woman wearing a light brown suit jacket who has her back to the camera

Students Elizabeth Piper, BBA '24, left, Prince Kalala, BBA '23, and Azaria Blair, BBA '23, network with Briston Mitchell from the African American Chamber of Commerce.

For some AACC members and guests, the event wasn’t so much about the idea of a new connection or idea, but rather the start of a new chapter of a long and evolving partnership. Distinguished Teaching Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy Charles Matthews, PhD, has led early engagement with Black- and minority-owned businesses since 1982, primarily through the Center for Entrepreneurship's Small Business Institute. 

“Interestingly, the founding of the AACC in 1996 and the formal founding of the UC Center for Entrepreneurship in 1997 share a similar timeline with an engaging past, vibrant present and exciting future,” said Matthews. “It is very encouraging to see the next generation of UC students and Lindner engaged in our vibrant entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem, supporting minority business advancement.”

A woman with dark hair wearing a dark red dress and black sweater and a face mask stands next to a man wearing a red and white plaid button-down shirt, a black suit jacket and a face mask in the Kautz Attic

Assistant Director for Inclusive Excellence Victoria Regan, left, and Assistant Dean for Inclusive Excellence Nick Castro.

Across all groups represented, the common thread is a renewed commitment for sustainable, valuable partnership that can take on a variety of forms between the hundreds of AACC chamber members and Lindner. Assistant Dean for Inclusive Excellence Nick Castro and Office of Inclusive Excellence and Assistant Director Victoria Regan, who were the primary organizers of the event, are confident in the transformation taking place. 

“We’re so excited to continue our relationship with the chamber and its members and learn more about how Lindner can be a valued partner in supporting local Black-owned businesses,” said Castro. 

Featured image: African American Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Eric Kearney, center, speaks with Goering Center for Family and Private Business President Carol Butler, left, and African American Chamber of Commerce Director of Transformative Initiatives and Relationships Briston Mitchell. Photo/Danielle Lawrence/Lindner College of Business.

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About the African American Chamber of Commerce

The Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce is the largest African American chamber in the State of Ohio. Founded in 1996 by African American business owners and consumers seeking to improve the economic status of African Americans, the chamber collaborates with organizations and supplier diversity and inclusion experts to empower businesses to succeed. The chamber will celebrate its 25th anniversary on Nov. 20, 2021. Learn more about the chamber and its economic impact on Greater Cincinnati.