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Black Women’s Expo Celebrates 20 Years

Lee Edwards | 4/2/2014, 4:12 p.m.
An estimated 30,000 patrons visited the 20th Annual Black Women’s Expo this past weekend. The popular expo, which ran from ...
Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts (left) and City of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel both spoke at the Black Women's Expo this past weekend about the strength of African American woman owned businesses. Lee Edwards

An estimated 30,000 patrons visited the 20th Annual Black Women’s Expo this past weekend. The popular expo, which ran from Friday to Sunday, at McCormick Place, 2301 S. Lake Shore Dr., boasted dynamic speakers, riveting entertainment, and most importantly, dozens and dozens of exhibitors--who all happened to be entrepreneurial women. Notably, Good Morning America’s (GMA) anchor Robin Roberts served as the event's keynote speaker.

“I have found for me that women have just this knack when it comes to being an entrepreneur and being so creative,” Roberts told the Chicago Citizen Newspaper.

During her keynote speech, Roberts, encouraged attendees to reach out to one another stating, “Put yourself in an environment like this to be able to get new ideas and be able to network. It’s so important to have these type of events and to see that they continue to grow as they are.”

Roberts was joined on the stage with City of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“Minority women owned businesses are starting and growing at six times the rate of small businesses in America,” said Emanuel. "Look at the size that’s happening here, the energy, the ideas, the inspiration, the contacts that are happening, this is an incredible forum.”

“I’ve never seen anything like this before for minority women. .  I don’t think if I worked at this a year I would get as many clients as I got here today.  For a business person, they have to be here.” - Carmen Dooley.  (Dooley (left) is pictured here with her daughter, Yemi Marie, who performed several times at the Black Women's Expo.)

“I’ve never seen anything like this before for minority women. . I don’t think if I worked at this a year I would get as many clients as I got here today. For a business person, they have to be here.” - Carmen Dooley. (Dooley (left) is pictured here with her daughter, Yemi Marie, who performed several times at the Black Women's Expo.)

Over 200 local and national vendors presented their wares to the enthusiastic crowd. And for the first time at the Expo, international vendors were invited to attend including business owners from Haiti, Africa, Caribbean, and Brazil.

Returning vendors recognized the value of the Black Women’s Expo, which is celebrating an impressive, two decades of existence, as a game-changing boon for their business and a fantastic networking opportunity.

“With the theme ‘Celebrate Strength,’ we salute the millions of strong African-American women who often are the backbone of our communities and in our homes,” said Merry Green, founder of the Black Women’s Expo. “As we have done for the past 20 years, the 2014 Expo will put emphasis on the strength, opportunities, challenges and aspirations of Black women. That is and always has been our priority.”

Recognizing that literally thousands of potential customers would be passing by, Carmen Dooley, owner of Medical Professionals for Home Health Care, 7928 S. King Dr., who exhibited for the second time at the Expo, expanded the size of her booth from last year by adding a second adjacent booth. Dooley also manages her daughter, recording artist, Yemi Marie, who performed several times at the Expo.

“This year, I can afford a larger space and get my message out even further so for me it’s been a great networking opportunity,” said Dooley. “I’ve never seen anything like this before for minority women. It allows me to network with other female minority entrepreneurs and I think that’s a fabulous opportunity because I’ve already met at least 50 business owners that can feed into what I do that I would’ve not known. I don’t think if I worked at this a year I would get as many clients as I got here today. For a business person, they have to be here.”

Latrice Mosley-Smith, owner of The Ice Cream Lady - Haute Fishnet Hosiery, and also a returning Expo exhibitor, shared Dooley's sentiment.

“This was great exposure for my business, I was here last year,” said Mosley-Smith. “I had a single booth and I expanded to a double booth [this year]. I look at as not being booth 725 but block 725. I think we had the busiest booth here.”

The Black Women’s Expo was sponsored by State Farm Insurance (title sponsor) and by Walgreens (presenting sponsor).