NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Black Diamond Weekend kicks off Thursday through Saturday.

The Black business conference invites entrepreneurs to learn how to take their business to the next level. This is the 8th year of the major networking event, organized by the Black Chamber of Commerce’s Black BRAND — Business Research Analytics Networking and Development.

“There is just a good feeling when you’re in the room with a lot of entrepreneurs,” said Blair Durham, Black BRAND president. “Entrepreneurs take risks — in order to create a profit, in order to do something for the community. That energy is very contagious.”

In total, there are 53 sessions with 72 speakers set to takeover in Town Center in Virginia Beach. There are several free sessions, including: ‘757 bias,’ an affirmative action town hall, content creator tent, cooking with AI, an opportunity fair and a pitch contest.

A March 2022 study shows Black-owned businesses are underrepresented in Hampton Roads at just 5.4%, according to data from Equitable Growth in Hampton Roads, Harvard Kennedy School.

Black residents are severely underrepresented in the Hampton Roads business community. Despite representing more than 30% of Hampton Roads’ population, Black-owned businesses account for 5.4% of the total firms and 2.1% of total jobs created in the region.

— Sam Pressler, Equitable Growth in Hampton Roads, Harvard Kennedy School, March 2022

“It is very difficult for a Black-owned business to become an employer firm. Most Black business owners are their solopreneurs,” Durham said. “It’s just a single person doing every function inside the business. That’s a gap that we are happy to stand in … it is full circle to Black Diamond Weekend.”

Kisha Moore, the Hummingbird Dessert Boutique owner, is the proud Black Brand consultant and ambassador.

“I love the engagement,” Moore said. “The excitement around seeing the fire and energy. Not just the [businesses] that are starting, but even the ones that are on the journey and the ones that are transitioning. I love to see creative minds, entrepreneurial minds and professional minds coming together. The exchanging of ideas and possibilities … and the party … which is networking.”

Moore admits there are ‘unique challenges’ with being a woman and Black business owner.

“There’s so much value in each human being that [if] someone cuts that access off because of the color of your skin or because of your gender… it’s shameful,” Moore said. “While those disadvantages are real, they help us to create advantages for other people.”

Moore is hopeful the community will “continue to build bridges together.”

“Thank goodness for Black Brand and other organizations that continue to help promote the richness that is our culture,” Moore said, “and how beautiful it can be for us to be able to partner together.”

Black Brand weekend is open to all business owners.