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Nurturing homegrown Black entrepreneurs in the Midwest

Offering an annual small business pitch competition, networking opportunities and more, Omaha’s Midland African Chamber lifts up local talent

Along with other areas of the country, large parts of the Midwest face a “brain drain,” as highly educated and creative residents – especially those of color – leave for other states.footnote1 What’s the solution? One answer may be to nurture and support local entrepreneurs with big ideas but little funding and few connections. In Omaha, that’s the goal of the Midland African Chamber’s annual Pitch Black conference and competition, which since 2021 has set out to foster Black entrepreneurship in diverse communities in Nebraska and across the Midwest.

In the video below, Midlands African Chamber CEO Karine Sokpoh discusses how Pitch Black exemplifies the organization’s mission “to champion, empower and connect Black businesses.” In addition to awarding up to $15,000 in cash prizes to the winner of the competition — like Xavier Jackson, owner of Local Art Plug, a fine art tech company featured in the video — Pitch Black provides business owners with access to mentors and potential investors as well as networking opportunities. In addition, an accelerator program helps educate owners in subjects such as finance and marketing. “The services we provide help entrepreneurs become investor-ready,” Sokpoh says.

From entrepreneur funding and expanding home ownership to professional skills training and healthcare access, Bank of America continues to partner with innovative leaders to help communities implement solutions to society’s important challenges.


United States Joint Economic Committee, “Losing Our Minds: Brain Drain Across the United States,” 2019.


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