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Inner City Advisors gets Oakland entrepreneurs “All In” at the Fox Theater

on May 25, 2012

On Wednesday evening, the Fox Theater was filled with people excitedly discussing the night’s festivities. Inside, hors d’oeuvres and small burgers provided by local company Prather Ranch Meat were served with complimentary beer and wine. Hip-hop music could be heard playing in the background. However, the night was not about seeing a play or concert; it was dedicated to helping local businesses grow in Oakland.

Inner City Advisors, a nonprofit organization that works to create jobs and equity for inner city residents, hosted the event called “All In for Local Entrepreneurs” which brought together local business owners from across the Bay Area to network. There were over 500 entrepreneurs in attendance, as well as luminaries like Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Mexican-American astronaut Jose Hernandez. Entrepreneurs—wearing everything from jeans and sneakers to three-piece business suits and cocktail dresses—could be heard discussing the pros and cons of their business models.

“In order to be successful, you really have to know your target market and partner with someone who can balance out your strengths and weaknesses,” said Gentry Cain when asked about advice for young entrepreneurs. Cain owns Precious Metal Brokerage in Oakland, a trade company for gold, silver and platinum.

Cain says he is self-taught and ran a consulting business from 2002 to 2007, until he decided to sell the business off and enlist in the Marine Corps. Cain used the money he saved while in the armed forces to jump-start his current business. “I did two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, but during that time I planned out my next moves,” said Cain. “Plus I like everything tangible, so I researched investing in real estate and being open to trying something new.”

Jose Corona, CEO of Inner City Advisors, kicked off the evening’s presentation with two short videos profiling local businesses and the group’s recently launched website. During his presentation, Corona discussed the group’s 2012 impact report, which concluded that over 2,400 jobs were created in Oakland last year. Out of those jobs, 60 percent were created by minority owned businesses, 73 percent were created by businesses owned by women, and 72 percent of those employees had health benefits, according to the report.

Omoregbe Omobogie works at the Center for International Trade Development in San Bruno, which consults with small business owners by helping them obtain loans and improve their budgeting. He came to the event to find other young entrepreneurs who would be interested in working with his business.

“If you go to something based off money, you limit your learning and growth,” said Omobogie of his business philosophy. “If you’re passionate about something, become skilled at it and the money will follow.”

Michael C. Bush, president and founder of 8 Factors, was the keynote speaker and warmed the crowd up with a few jokes before beginning his speech about how to be more effective in business. 8 Factors is a business curriculum for entrepreneurs and small business owners that combines real world experience with MBA knowledge. The course is available online and lesson plans include topics such as the difference between profit and cash, identifying and capitalizing on opportunities for growth, and choosing an operating discipline. Bush formed 8 Factors to create a community network for small business owners looking to find new partners, vendors and opportunities

Many of those attendance could be seen taking notes during Bush’s speech about business models and managing finances. After the event ended, many entrepreneurs twere still talking about what they had learned.

“I feel that with the skills that I’ve learned, it’s only right for me to tell my community and make them aware to being business savvy,” said Nenna Joiner, who owns the Oakland adult retail store Feelmore 510. Joiner heard about the event through a friend and decided that it would be an opportunity to share her ideas with other business owners.

Joiner grew up in Las Vegas where she says her grandmother owned a chain of grocery stores called Rita’s Grocery. She watched how her grandmother ran the stores and admired her financial independence. “Oakland has the opportunity to create a new image, so why not create a strong sense of community among local business owners?”  said Joiner.


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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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