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Here's what people are saying about Mighty Dream Forum

We spoke with attendees and organizers about their hopes for the three-day long business event and their thoughts on the first day.

NORFOLK, Va. — Pharrell Williams’ Mighty Dream Forum began Tuesday morning in Downtown Norfolk, bringing three days of entertainment, networking, panel discussions, and lots of opportunities for local entrepreneurs.

The Grammy Award winner and Virginia Beach native took the stage with the President of Norfolk State University to welcome everyone and set the tone for the event. He said the goal is for people to network, share ideas, and have a direct dialogue about positive economic outcomes for everyone.

Then, the forum kicked off with the Black Ambition Demo Day, where Black and Latinx entrepreneurs shared their story.

The NEON District and areas around Granby Street are buzzing with activity as business leaders from Boeing, Google, Columbia Records, Chanel, and many more are expected to make appearances, along with big names in music like Thundercat, Saba, Joe Kay, and Kaytranada.

Other panels on topics, such as addressing opportunity gaps and uplifting business ideas in Black and brown communities, were the focus of day one. 

13News Now Digital Producer Jenna Pierson spoke with attendees, organizers, and more as the day unfolded at various places across downtown. Here's what they're saying about Mighty Dream.

Donovan McFadden

Attendee of the Mighty Dream Forum and realtor with AtCoastal Realty in Virginia Beach, VA 

Credit: Jenna Pierson
Donovan McFadden is attending the Mighty Dream Forum to discuss his hopes for challenging the housing crisis

"We're here to help overcome housing insecurity for anybody in the city who is noticing our growing and bustling opportunities that we have here."

"For me personally, this means opportunity. I'm originally from the West Coast... what I see is that this city and this area is on the cusp of great opportunity and wealth. So I told my team to make sure that we were here in numbers."

"My hope is that small business and entrepreneurship continues to grow and develop because small business is the backbone of the American economy. Without us, there is no U.S." 

Jeanie Carr

Restaurant owner in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Credit: Jenna Pierson
Jeanie Carr is here all the way from Milwaukee. “A mighty dream is the vision God gave you.” She told 13News Now how important it is, as an entrepreneur, to be in the right rooms with the right people.

"I am so excited to be here, this is actually my first time coming to Virginia... I just wanted to be in the right rooms with the right people learning about entrepreneurship and access to capital, which is very important for us being underrepresented." 

"Mighty Dream means to me that your dream is mighty. Just because you don't have the resources, the vision that God gave you... [it's about] you believing in what you've been told, in the vision God gave you." 

Carr looks forward to pitching investment opportunities in her soul food business during day two. If she could tell him, she would also let Pharrell know that she makes music, too. 

Emanuel Perez

Entrepreneur from Virginia Beach, Virginia 

Credit: Jenna Pierson
Emanuel Perez is an entrepreneur from Virginia Beach. He told 13News Now a lot about the importance of his time at Norfolk State, and how an event like this is so important for the area and local growth in the future.

"Before I can talk about Mighty Dream, I want to talk about Black ambition... I'm a graduate of Norfolk State University, a proud HBCU right here in the heart of Norfolk. The community that fostered my growth and the village that contributed so much is due to Norfolk State."

"So Pharrell coming out here and being in the same city... helping other entrepreneurs from Black and Latinx communities and also HBCUs it's like this opportunity was literally calling my name. I am grateful to him and everybody who has contributed."

"I'm really excited to meet some new trailblazers who have come from all over the world to our state and contribute to this energy. It's really special. The Hampton Roads area is where I've lived for the majority of my life, [and] to see this innovation and growth is mind-blowing." 

"More opportunities like this need to be exposed, especially to the younger generation, who may not know." 

Perez wanted to mention his gratitude for his former classmate at Norfolk State who has since passed away. He says she encouraged him to pursue his business dream. 

Adia Rad 

Representative with Grow, a digital agency headquartered in Norfolk

Credit: Jenna Pierson
Adia Rad is with a local organization called Grow. They’re looking forward to finding innovative ideas to support, and they’re excited to see all of the growth and potential that comes from this event in a minority-dominated city.

"We're super excited to be here... we believe that there is some great innovative talent here in Virginia, and we're looking to help foster more opportunities." 

"I'm hoping that [Mighty Dream] will bring businesses here. Innovative businesses, creative businesses, tech businesses so that our community can thrive. Since we are a minority-majority city, that would bring a lot of opportunity to those people." 

Rachel McCall

Vice President of Downtown Norfolk Council 

Credit: 13News Now
Rachel McCall

“The NEON District is hosting the business block party, and it’s really special that the local businesses are providing food and drink and participating … we’re really excited to show off the neighborhood and all our public art… we’re thrilled Pharrell picked the NEON District for that event!” 

“It’s really cool to see all these business people coming into downtown and flying in from across the country, all the opportunity here for Black and brown communities to get a seat at the table in the business world.”

Olumuyiwa Aladebumoye (left) and Tevin Harrell (right)

Co-founders of Taxx Wiz from Birmingham, Alabama 

Credit: Jenna Pierson
Olumuyiwa Aladebumoye (left) and Tevin Harrell (right) attending the Mighty Dream Forum to pitch their business

"I think this is kind of the whole entrepreneurial spirit that Pharrell envisioned... being in underrepresented communities, being able to get a $50,000 grant to take our business to the next level and really help more people. I think that's one of the best things in the world." 

"I think it's huge to see the different founders, the different investors who have been successful in their own right and they look like us. They're Black, they're brown, and I think that speaks volumes. Because when you see people who look like you, that encourages you."

Armonda Davis (left) and Nicki Ekhomu (right)

Co-founders of Equalizer

Credit: Jenna Pierson
These two are at the Mighty Dream Forum to be surrounded by like-minded individuals

"This is our first funding, actually, so this is a great stepping stone for us."

"Connecting with like-minded founders, [sometimes] I think it's tough with networking. Being around individuals who have that same drive and who you can bounce ideas off of." 

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