The agenda included business start up basics, understanding financial statements, business marketing and credit and debt management. The host – the NAACP. The program - TILT Forward: Keeping the Dream Alive on Main Street for Micro-businesses – was the first of its kind in Alabama. The conference was a collaboration co-hosted by Florida based, Community Enterprise Investments, Inc. (CEII) and Washington D.C. based, Association of Enterprise Opportunity (AEO), “the voice of micro-enterprise”. The purpose of TILT, according to promotional material, was to “inspire would be entrepreneurs” and “improve business performance or access to capital”. President of AEO, Connie Evans, added to the objectives of the conference commenting that “It boils down to leveling the playing field by giving them (micro-businesses) the access they need and deserve”.
Grover Brown, Jr., loan officer representing CEII, described the event as a major push in the south east region for micro-enterprise, small business and entrepreneurism. CEII has a particular interest in developing small business through providing finance, often difficult to come by for start-up businesses. CEII also hoped to facilitate relationships outside of Florida with its participation in the conference.
Alabama already boasts a healthy and micro-enterprise and small business start up rate. The SBA Office of Advocacy, in a February, 2013 news release, reports a 16.3 percent improvement in self-employment in Alabama over the last decade with minority self-employment seeing the largest growth. Women started businesses at about half the rate of men. The report also reported that small businesses in Alabama account for 49 percent of private sector workers. The report named small business as key to Alabama’s economic recovery.
The NAACP - best known for its civil rights activism - intends to move forward with more conferences like TILT. According to Bernard Simelton, president of the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, economic growth has always been an NAACP focus. Now that legal foundation for equal access has been laid, education and mentorship in business start-up is appropriate and possible, he said. Although no definite dates have been determined, the national office of the NAACP is in talks with Wells Fargo and Bank of America to host additional seminars. “We want to expand the micro-business sectors.” Simelton says. “It’s in our national mission statement.”