A Business Brunch Vision Board Network Social at The Aria

Shawanda Johnson and Rob Pasker

Sojourner’s Truth Staff

It was all business on Saturday, February 27 at the Aria Banquet Hall on Telegraph Road – the business of real estate, mental health, insurance, home mortgages, assistance for growing businesses, among other topics.

Confidence in a Cup, a TaShara Brown enterprise, organized, once again, a business brunch, network social and brought together a host of expert guest speakers to inspire an audience of about 100 attendees.

Brown (a/k/a Elysian Adore) is an entrepreneur, health and wellness advocate, business coach who splits her time and ventures between Toledo and Charlotte, NC.

The attendees, primarily local Black entrepreneurs, were treated to a brunch by Chef Michael Gaston comprised of salad, smoked salmon and cream cheese on crackers, an entree of crab cake atop a gumbo and rice combination along with a bread pudding for dessert.

Also present were displays by vendors such as DRIP, Legacy Homes (the nation’s largest Black-owned mortgage lender), Still Art Photography and MANN Insurance, among others.

The highlight of the brunch event were the talks by assorted experts in a variety of disciplines.

Sandy Spang and Robert Smith

Reanna Stevenson, a fashion expert, spoke of the need to feel comfortable and the need of “being confident in yourself, and being confident in yourself – if you look good, you feel good.”

“Fashion is multiple things and as long as you feel confident, someone will be impressed.”

Shawanda Johnson, of F.A.M.E.D. Studios, spoke of her drive to reach out to the younger generations.

“I tell kids, I’m just like you – my message is to be able to reach out to all our kids,” she told the audience.

Johnson describes herself as an actress, model, mom and teacher who started F.A.M.E.D. Studios 10 years ago. The Studios offer lessons in hip hop dance, majorette, fitness and modeling classes, acting lessons, ballet and much more.

“We have worked with over five thousand youth in the city – it’s a safe place where they can come and mold their craft.”

Danielle Blyden, a mental health expert, spoke of the services her company, Bloom, provides for teens and young adults. She offered three concepts for her listeners to consider: breaking the stigma of mental illness; prioritizing the need entrepreneurs have for mental health services in light of the demands such work entails and protecting the legacy of mental health for the next generations.

Brad Fields of Coop’s Toledo, Donnetta Carter, the Social Butterfly_ Safety Director Brian Byrd_ Taylor’s

Sandy Spang, from the City of Toledo Economic Development Department, brought a message of the numerous types of services the city offers for small business owners. She suggested that her audience take up three challenges as they attempt to grow their businesses. First, expand the vision by revisiting original concepts laid out in the business plan. Second, find resources to help move businesses onto the next plateau especially now that capital is available – “never a better time to access capital than now,” she said.

Third, “Make more money,” said Spang. Don’t settle for simply being good community members. Take up the challenge to become more profitable and reach out to the City for help in doing so.”

“One of the biggest wins you can have for yourself is home ownership.” Said speaker Wayne Whitmore of Legacy Homes.

Rob Pasker, founder and owner of Pasker Real Estate, delivered the keynote address and the most important message of the afternoon – the importance of building wealth, generational wealth, and the best way to do so – by homeownership.

Reanna Stevenson

“We need a revolution and the revolution means building wealth,” said Pasker. “We’ve been legally and socially liberated. Now we need economic liberation … my goal is to make sure you have the knowledge and the resources to get your dream home.

“There is nothing but opportunity here in Toledo,” he said in a nod to the many entrepreneurs in the audience. “American was made for entrepreneurs. We’ve got to continue to elevate.”

Brown then presented her Who’s Who award after explaining to the audience why she had selected this year’s three nominees: Marcus Goodwin, Donnetta Carter and Fletcher Word. She told those gathered how each had impacted and assisted her. This year’s Who’s Who awardee was Word.

Brown will continue her quest to bring entrepreneurs together both in Toledo and Charlotte with events planned over the course of the next several months.