NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Black Diamond Weekend kicks off Friday in Newport News. The annual three-day conference is hosted by Black BRAND, the Black Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.

“Our annual three-day conference is all about equipping Black-owned businesses with the education, the resources, the networking opportunities that they need to thrive. And not just that … it is the ultimate celebration of the success of our business community,” said Blair Durham, co-founder and president of Black BRAND.

The goal is to help Black-owned businesses network and learn more about marketing and funding.
This year the theme is “Diamond University: It’s a Different World.” Dominion Energy is sponsoring the event.

It’s the sixth-annual event for Black Diamond Weekend and will feature 55 hours of educational sessions presented by guest speakers. The classes range from business, real estate, investing, nonprofits and much more.

“As you know, there’s a tremendous gap in terms of access to resources for minority entrepreneurship. We see this convening as an opportunity to move the needle to ensure we get the content, connections, and community we need to scale our businesses, be sustainable, as well as to engage with the corporate community. There’s so many opportunities for smaller businesses to larger businesses. This year, there’s a huge emphasis on that,” Durham said.

Eighteen percent of businesses in Hampton Roads are Black-owned, according to Durham.

“That’s a pretty huge chunk but it’s interesting, though, because 8% of Black business in Hampton Roads scale and become sustainable, bring on staff, grow to be a larger company,” she said. “That’s part of the reason why Black BRAND exists. That’s why we do Black Diamond Weekend.”

While Black businesses took a hit during the first few months of the pandemic, Black entrepreneurship was able to increase.

According to the Census Bureau, 28.5% of Health Caren and Social Assistance businesses were Black-owned.

“Many businesses did need to close at the start of the pandemic but the pandemic created a huge opportunity. Healthcare is one of the industries where Black-owned business is more than indexed. It’s where we’re particularly concerned about taking care of our community. You see a number of healthcare businesses emerging and expanding to provide on-site COVID vaccines and all these different things. We see a lot of pivoting in the area on what can be done online, things in the entrepreneurial spirit of providing courses online. So, I’m excited to see us grow in that regard,” Durham said.

Participants can sign up for classes online. The event is fully hybrid, both online and in-person tickets are still available.

Classes start at 8 a.m. on Friday. Friday night there is a welcome party. On Saturday night is The Black- Diamond Affair and awards ceremony.

Then on Sunday, a commencement ceremony is planned. Thomas Nelson Community College is offering continuing education units as well as an entrepreneurship certificate for participants that complete courses.

“They will be able to get that commencement experience. Get that certificate then engage with our celebrity host,” Durham said.

Masks and a negative COVID test are required, regardless of vaccination status.

For more information and to sign up, click here.