NEON's Upcoming Events
NEON hosts events throughout the year to highlight the importance of entrepreneurship in closing Minnesota's long-standing racial wealth gap. By creating a Culture of Entrepreneurship on the Northside, we are building generational wealth and transforming our community from a drive-through to a destination.
Our lively Community Conversations bring local and national luminaries together to discuss diversity, equity and inclusion programs, and policies that, when successful, can lead to a more equitable future of work, and other hot topics that impact the low- to moderate-income entrepreneurs we serve.
About Community Conversations
NEON’s Community Conversation 4.0 Series is fourth in our popular sequence of Community Conversations originating in 2020. Engaging nearly 1,500 community members through in-person and virtual viewership in the first three years, we expect to draw increased attention to and elevate our profile through the next Community Conversation Series, Version 4.0. Designed to spark strategic dialogue, the conversation series brings together BIPOC-owned business and entrepreneurs, NEON leadership, and guest speakers to address social and racial injustice, economic opportunity, and community support of NEON initiatives.
We are planning for dynamic speakers in 3 to 4 sessions taking place in the late afternoon this year, with networking receptions to follow. Thanks to excellent survey response and feedback we’ll plan to feature our own local entrepreneurs, corporate executives and known BIPOC-owned business owners with connections to food, sports and housing-among other business interests.
The series brings top donors and community partners together to support and learn more about NEON’s work with the Grow & Thrive campaign.
NEON's Community Conversation 4.0 Series
Session 1: Building Wealth— women business owners’ perspectives on what it takes to create flourishing businesses, take on strategic development operations, and create a plan for consistent future growth
On Thursday, March 23rd, Warren McLean will be joined by Gloria Freeman, Founder and CEO of Olu’s Home Inc., Anissa Keyes, Founder and Owner of Arubah Emotional Health Services and Creator of the Northside Epicenter: a Black Business Ecosystem; and Kenya McKnight-Ahad, Founder and CEO of Black Women’s Wealth Alliance for the first session in NEON’s Community Conversation 4.0 Series.
We look forward to gathering new insights from our esteemed panel in a conversation that will examine:
The challenges for BIPOC women entrepreneurs in developing and sustaining businesses
Current women-led ventures on the Northside and their impact
What success looks like and how to get there
We invite guests to attend the networking reception with hors d’oeuvres and beverages following the Conversation.
Thursday, March 23rd 2023
3PM – Registration opens
4PM – Community Conversation begins
5:15PM – Networking reception begins
The Metropolitan Ballroom & Clubroom
5418 Wayzata Blvd
Golden Valley, MN 55416
$50 per person (Conversation only)
$75 per person (Conversation plus reception)
Registration will close at 12:00pm on Thursday, March 23rd, 2023.
Day-of registration will be available at the door, $80 per ticket. Exact cash or credit card only.
Please call Kristina Britz at (612) 746-4150 with questions regarding registration.
4.0 Guest Panelists Include:
Gloria Freeman – Panelist
Gloria Freeman is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Minneapolis-based Olu's Home, Inc. and Olu's Beginnings LLC. In 1999, Gloria founded Olu's Home, a licensed care organization that provides residential and in-home services to persons with developmental disabilities, mental illness and older community members. In 2013, Gloria Freeman started collaborating with her daughter, Jessica Herod, to expand the business by establishing a holistic, intergenerational early childhood program. While developing her business, Gloria has continued her education by participating in the Small Business Administration's Emerging Leaders Initiative, an intensive MBA-level training program for executives of high-potential. In 2016, Gloria was named Minnesota Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration, and in 2021 was given the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal’s Women in Business Award.
Kenya McKnight-Ahad – Panelist
Kenya McKnight-Ahad is the Founder and CEO of the Black Women’s Wealth Alliance. She has extensive experience as a direct business service provider, lending facilitation and racial equity consulting. Kenya has served thousands of people across the U.S. and engaged in several key partnerships influencing millions of racial equity investments. Kenya has garnered several awards and honors. In 2019, she was dual honored as a Minneapolis & Saint Paul Business Journal “Top Woman in Business” and a Finance & Commerce “Top Woman in Finance.” She has several certificates of completion across cooperatives, housing developments with the City of Minneapolis and more. Kenya is also the owner of ZaRah, a business incubator and training center that targets Black women business owners within the health and wellness, food and beauty industries. Kenya has the only sit-down restaurant/outdoor space and commercial kitchen on West Broadway.
Anissa Keyes – Panelist
Anissa Keyes is the Founder and Owner of Arubah Emotional Health Services and the Creator of the Northside Epicenter, a Black Business Ecosystem. Anissa desires to help guide individuals and families into a space of healing, and provides support to people that are least likely to receive therapy, wellness, and support services. Anissa believes that through relationship and with love people can be fully restored after any challenges they are met with in life. Anissa loves spending time with her five children, is very involved in church activities and enjoys reading. In 2021, Anissa purchased the 20,000 square foot historic building in North Minneapolis to house the Northside Epicenter, an incubator for Black-owned businesses. Anissa believes that with good character, an unwillingness to settle for no, a grounded spiritual connection and the tremendous support of family, community members and community agencies, there is nothing that cannot be accomplished.
Warren McLean – Host
Warren McLearn brings more than 30 years of experience in finance, fundraising, strategic planning, and program development to NEON. Warren’s dedication to championing entrepreneurs has earned him recognition in 2023 as one of 200 Black Leaders in Minnesota by the Minneapolis – St.Paul Business Journal, one of Twin Cities Business Magazine’s 2021 “100 Minnesotans to Know In 2021”, also in 2021, The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal named Warren a “Most Admired CEO”. Warren has been President of NEON since August of 2018. Since joining NEON in 2018 the organization has grown significantly, serving more than 1,300 clients in 2022, creating a $1.5 million loan fund and acquiring its building as part of its Grow and Thrive Campaign. Prior to NEON, Warren was at CRF for 15 years, where he led their development work as Senior Vice President and Chief Development Officer. Prior to his work at CRF, Warren led the Metropolitan Economic Development Association (MEDA) as President and CEO for 10 years. Under his leadership, MEDA tripled its budget, solidified its financial stability, and built a $5.3 million loan program to support minority-owned businesses in the community.
For decades, he has shared his expertise as a board member with community organizations across the Twin Cities. He currently serves on the board of the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers, Four Access Partners, Steering Committee of Destination Northside Coalition, 927 Board and the Catalyst Group.
Tru Pettigrew – Moderator
Tru Pettigrew is the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the MN Timberwolves/Lynx, overseeing all four franchises including the Timberwolves, Lynx, Iowa Wolves, and T-Wolves Gaming. Tru is a celebrated author, an engaging speaker, and a committed community leader. With close to 20 years of experience at the nation’s top advertising & marketing agencies and contributing to the success of brands like Nike, State Farm, Heineken, Hennessy, Unilever, and Ford, he is an award-winning marketing executive. In 2012, Tru founded Tru Access, a consultancy for individuals and organizations to learn to bridge gaps across areas that cause division, dysfunction, and separation. His first book, “Millennials Revealed”, serves as a guide for countless individuals and organizations across the country to help them build meaningful connections across diverse generations. Tru is considered one of the country’s top Millennial Empowerment experts and cross-generational thought leaders.
Questions and Sponsorship Opportunities
Please email Kristina Britz at email@example.com with additional questions, concerns or to learn how to become an event sponsor.