For(bes) the Culture celebrates Tulsa’s Black entrepreneurs

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A Forbes magazine initiative focused on highlighting leading Black entrepreneurs landed in Tulsa this week to celebrate Black Wall Street business owners.

Fifty advocates from For(bes) the Culture, a Forbes division, arrived in Tulsa Tuesday to connect with some of Historic Greenwood’s most popular entrepreneurs.

For(bes) the Culture: Journey to Wealth is a three-day immersive experience dedicated to joy and reflection “on the resilience of black business and entrepreneurship.”

“Tulsa’s best days are not behind it. Tulsa’s best days are yet to come,” Black Tech Street founder and CEO Tyrance Billingsley II said Wednesday night at a For(bes) the Culture event.

As a panelist, Billingsley II urged those in attendance to activate their businesses for solutions to black communities, particularly in Tulsa, 101 years after the city-sanctioned massacre in the nation’s wealthiest business district.

For(bes) the Culture, under the Forbes umbrella, focuses on Black Wall Street

Each year, For(bes) the Culture nominates 50 champions, successful black entrepreneurs who are making a difference in their communities. This week, FTC 50 champions were flown to Tulsa to tour Black Wall Street and engage with a new generation of local leaders trying to rebuild a legacy.

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Venita Cooper did not grow up in an entrepreneurial family. Her father was a black soldier and her mother was a Korean seamstress. However, with broad community support, Cooper went from schoolteacher to Black Wall Street owner of Silhouette sneakers. She now operates one of Greenwood’s most popular stores on the property that was once a shoe store before a white mob burned 36 square blocks in 1921.

As one of Wednesday’s panelists, Cooper said that the community’s connectivity and willingness to support an ecosystem of entrepreneurs was instrumental in its success.

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“That’s Tulsa,” Cooper told the audience.

Make Tulsa a blueprint for black entrepreneurs in the US

Between panel discussions, networking events and a game night to wrap up the three-day experience on Thursday night, the FTC 50 Champions got a taste of the resilient spirit that makes Tulsa’s black entrepreneurs unique.

Dougie Roux is an entrepreneur who moved to Tulsa from Houston to attend the Tulsa Remote program, an incubator that pays $10,000 to young professionals so they can move to Tulsa and start their businesses. Attending Wednesday’s panel, Roux said he was grateful for the experience.

Focused on developing an app that uses data to secure funding for more mobility infrastructure in underserved communities, Roux said the Tulsa community is more supportive of him as an entrepreneur than Houston is.

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“I made a conscious choice not to be a part of certain things that I didn’t feel were worth my time so I could be in Tulsa more to do things like that. To connect with the community and meet people who are doing the work,” Roux told the Black Wall Street Times.

Tyrance Billingsley II, himself a former FTC champion, challenged members to help solve problems through entrepreneurship.

“How can we not only expand the history of Tulsa, but also help make a blueprint of what’s happening in Tulsa,” said Billingsley II. “We want to show you what’s possible, but we would also.” I’d love for you to use your creative skills to help us solve these problems, because I love that.”

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