10 Black Business Leaders You Ought to Know (And Meet at BE’s All-New,…


Entrepreneurs assemble! In 10 days, BLACK ENTERPRISE will unveil what promises to be our most powerful, impactful business conference yet – FWD (for ‘FORWARD’). And at the event will be 10 black business leaders who represent some of the most successful, influential business leaders on the planet. Following their guidance and connecting with them at FWD may result in multi-fold growth in customers, market share and revenues

FWDOur team has developed this event, which will be held at the Charlotte, North Carolina Convention Center from June 19 – 22, as a forum for instruction, inspiration and connection for businesses at every life cycle, from side hustles to second-generation enterprises. You will access the roadmap – including financing and certification – to successfully LAUNCH your venture. You will discover how to design strategic partnerships and scale-up strategies to GROW your business. You will learn the value of applying AI, VR and 5G and other tech tools to INNOVATE your company NOW!

One of BE’s event trademarks has been our exciting line-up of high-profile speakers – and FWD is no exception. This year you will hear success secrets from Isiah Thomas, former NBA Hall of Famer who serves as Chairman & CEO of Isiah International; Wendy Williams, the daytime talk show host who operates Wendy Inc., her diversified holding company; John Henry, partner of venture firm Harlem Capital and Viceland’s reality TV show, Hustle; Judge Glenda Hatchett, long-time television personality and founder of The Hatchett Firm; Ryan Leslie, Grammy-nominated artist and producer and creator of SuperPhone; Angela Simmons, a reality TV star known for being one of Rev. Run’s daughters who has grown into a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist in her own right; Malinda Williams, actress of Soul Food fame who along with tech maven Tariq M. Walker designed travel destination platform This Is Leaving; and Karen Civil, one of the nation’s top social media marketers/influencers.

Check out the profiles of 10 black business leaders who will be speaking at FWD – and go to our FWD Speakers Page to discover more entrepreneurial standouts.


10 Black Business Leaders You Ought to Know


Evens Charles, President & CEO

10 black business leaders

At the age of 25, Charles executed his first small transaction that required an out-of-pocket investment of $1,000 resulting in a $25,000 profit six months later. Today, he operates Frontier Development and Hospitality Group, one of the nation’s largest black-owned businesses with annual gross revenues of more than $50 million. As such, he controls a BE 100s company with a hotel portfolio of Marriott, Hilton and IHG hotels in urban and secondary markets such as Atlanta, Nashville, Tennessee, Columbus, Ohio, and the Washington, D.C – Baltimore corridor that’s worth more than $200 million. For entrepreneurs with a specific interest in real estate development, property management and hotel franchising, his session on “Open House! Turning Property into Profit” is a must-attend BE Talk.



Cheryl McKissack Daniel, President & CEO, McKissack & McKissack

10 black business leaders

McKissack Daniel is a civil engineer by training who comes from a long line of architects and builders and today runs a 114-year-old family business. She has grown this BE 100s company into a powerhouse in the construction industry that’s involved with some of New York’s largest projects including JFK Terminal One; LaGuardia Airport’s Central Terminal building redevelopment; Pacific Park/ Atlantic Yards Barclays Center and two of the city’s iconic African American-oriented landmarks, MART125 Cultural Center and The Studio Museum in Harlem. To learn more about general contracting as well as the longevity of multigenerational companies, FWD attendees should meet and listen to McKissack during her panel session, “Why You Need a Succession Plan.”



Mahisha Dellinger, Founder & CEO, CURLS Beauty Brands

10 black business leaders

Dellinger realized the need for products for her curly hair and transformed that desire into a multimillion dollar business. After leaving her post as Marketing Manager at Intel Corp., she developed the line of organic haircare products and gained shelf space at retailers such as Target, Sally Beauty, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Walmart and CVS over the past decade. As such, she lists Halle Berry, Alicia Keys, Issa Rae, Nia Long, Tia Mowry and Blair Underwood among her celebrity customers. She has used her success as a platform to inspire other entrepreneurs of color through conference and media appearances as well as her OWN Network television show, Mind Your Business with Mahisha. She will share her vital, business-building tips on the FWD Panel, “Growing Pains: How to Achieve Scale.”



Ash Cash Exantus, CEO, MindRight Money Management

10 black business leaders

This 15-year banking veteran, motivational speaker and best-selling author helps clients get on the wealth-building track through his financial education and media company, MindRight Money Management. He enables them to achieve their life goals by blending psychology and personal finance with music, pop culture and relevant news. He also delivers his message of fiscal responsibility, entrepreneurship and wealth empowerment as a regular speaker at national conferences as well as host of his eponymous radio program, The Ash Cash Show, which has a current reach of 2.2 million listeners. He will share his powerful message on the panel, “Solopreneurs: How to Set Up and Run a Business on Your Own.”



Charis Jones, Owner, Sassy Jones Boutique

10 black business leaders

Jones created an award-winning accessories brand deeply rooted in the belief of helping women feel confident about themselves. Leaving her position as a top-ranking corporate sales professional, Jones has built Sassy Jones into a multimillion dollar accessories brand in just two years. The key to her whirlwind success: Using digital technology to bolster relationships with her female clientele and showcase hand-crafted, global creations of women artisans. FWD attendees should find out more about her customer-engaging marketing strategies at her session, “e-Commerce: Global Reach Through Your Smartphone.”


Damian Mills, President & CEO, Mills Automotive Group

10 black business leaders

Mills started in the auto industry in 1992 as a salesperson while attending North Carolina A&T State University. Today, at 46, he’s one of the youngest innovators and most successful African American auto dealers in the nation. With 13 franchises in three states, Mills Auto Group has consistently been among the top five dealers on the ‘BE Auto 40’–BLACK ENTERPRISE’s yearly list of the largest black-owned businesses in the auto industry–and represents one of the largest black-owned businesses in the Charlotte metro area. Fittingly, he will receive the BE Auto Dealer of the Year Award at the event-capping Entrepreneurs Awards Gala.


Monique Idlett Mosley, Founder & Managing Partner, Reign Venture Capital

10 black business leaders

Mosley operates an early-stage investment firm that focuses on women and minority-led startups. Prior to becoming a VC, she served as CEO of Mosley Brands and Mosley Music Group, home to a multi-platinum roster of artists, including the iconic producer Timbaland, One Republic and Nelly Furtado, among others. Hear her BE Talk on “The Art of Collaboration.”



Michael Thompson, President & CEO, Fair Oaks Farms, LLC

10 black business leaders

Thompson, a corporate food services management veteran, has elevated Fair Oaks Farms into the nation’s largest minority-owned meat producer. The company is the considered the “gold standard” supplier of pre-cooked sausage, bacon, and other meat and poultry products for some of the world’s leading restaurant chains and retail companies, including McDonald’s and Walmart. Under his guidance, revenues have increased more than 300% and staffing has grown threefold, from 100 to nearly 300 employees. Particularly for those FWD attendees who aspire to build or expand eateries, distributors and manufacturers within the sector, you will be captivated by his participation on the “Delicious Dollars: Building a Food Business” panel as well as Fair Oaks Farms recognition as the BE 100s Company of the Year.



Adrienne Trimble, President & CEO, National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC)

10 black business leaders

Every attendee should try to connect with Trimble, who runs this leading supplier diversity and inclusion organization that matches more than 12,000 certified minority-owned businesses to its network of 1,750-plus corporate members. A known thought leader for advancing corporate diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, she has served as General Manager, Diversity & Inclusion at Toyota Motor North America. During her tenure at the automaker, she led its supplier diversity program from 2005 – 2012 and grew its diverse vendor base to reflect more than a 300% increase in total spend, topping nearly $3 billion. Who better that Trimble to discuss how to “Get Your Piece of the Billion-Dollar Pie” with leading supplier diversity managers.


Willie Woods. President & Managing Director, ICV Partners

10 black business leaders

Woods is the co-founder of this top-notch BE Private Equity Firm with $1.4 billion in capital under management. For close to 20 years, ICV has built its reputation for stellar management and growth by acquiring a range of lower middle-market companies in sectors as diverse as healthcare, food production and business services. Moreover, it has played a critical role in diversifying high finance through its recruitment of  African American Wall Street professionals and corporate managers who have proven adroit at maximizing the value of portfolio companies to produce superior returns. Attend Woods’ session on “The Art of Uncovering Alternative Finance” to discover different ways to raise capital for your business as well as join our salute to ICV as the 2019 BE Financial Services Company of the Year.


Learn more about FWD speakers and sessions that will boost your business at the BLACK ENTERPRISE FWD conference in Charlotte, North Carolina; June 19-22, 2019 at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, NC. 

Register for FWD today!



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