John Akpan wants his fellow students to know there are resources available to help black professionals and businesses owners succeed in Iowa.
To highlight that, the University of Iowa sophomore has helped organize a dinner and panel discussion about black-owned businesses in the state. The event, called “Powernomix: Demonstrating the Power of Black Business,” is at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the John Pappajohn Business Building in Iowa City.
The event is free and open to the public. Tickets are available here.
The challenges facing black professionals and business-owners in Iowa are well documented. Just 1.5 percent of Des Moines area businesses are owned by African Americans, according to the financial research firm NerdWallet, which gave Des Moines the lowly ranking of 84th best city for black business-owners.
Another financial news outlet, 24/7 Wall St., ranked Des Moines and Waterloo-Cedar Falls as the ninth and 10th worst cities for African Americans.
Akpan, a graduate of Waukee High School who is majoring in business, said similar challenges exist on campus.
“I don’t see many faculty or mentors who reflect my background,” he said. “A lot of students struggle with that. It is hard for you to see yourself becoming successful if you don’t see people with the same background who have made it.”
Still, he wants students to walk away from the event feeling empowered.
“There are resources available. There are networks,” he said. “It is not impossible for black students to achieve in any sort of professional realm.”
Panelists include Carlos Grant, principal of Cedar Rapids’ Metro High School, business owner Alizabeth Jetter, Iowa Black Business Coalition President Ini Augustine and journalist Dana Boone.
The event is hosted by the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity and is sponsored by the Tippie College of Business and the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center.