Issa Rae Headlines American Express’ Business Class LIVE 2022 In New York City

Fear of a possible recession and rising inflation has small business owners thinking about how they might make prospective pivots sooner than later.

For its historic tenth installment of the program, American Express, a steadfast supporter of small businesses, is bringing back the famous Business Class LIVE conference. On July 20, a full-day event was conducted in the Javits Center in New York, and attendance in person or online was free of charge. This free event was created to inspire and support small business owners and leaders from all walks of life with strong connections and expert insights. It brings the energy and excitement of in-person panels and workshops with experts on cash flow management, marketing strategies, contracting opportunities, and workplace wellness for small business owners from all over the country..

The Business Class LIVE event series connects you with other business owners, helps you learn from industry experts and entrepreneurs, and gives you the edge you need to face the road ahead with confidence. Check out clips from past sessions below and stay tuned for information on our next event.

A star-studded lineup of speakers and panelists, all of whom were minority and female-owned business leaders and small business owners. Among which were:

  • Issa Rae, actress, producer, and entrepreneur, discussed her ventures (Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen, Sienna Naturals, and Raedio) and upcoming film and television projects while addressing the elements of authenticity in a keynote fireside discussion.
  • Jay Shetty, best-selling author, life coach, and podcaster, moderated a discussion on perseverance and harmony.
  • Maria Dueas Jacobs, the creator of Super Smalls and a former director of accessories for ELLE, participated in a panel discussion on being a self-made boss and managing the ins and outs of your business, including tips on marketing, human resources, and scheduling well-deserved breaks.
  • Lo Bosworth, former reality television star, founder and CEO of Love Wellness, and the author of Love Yourself Well, participated in a panel discussion on integrating work and life.
  • Necole Parker of The ELOCEN Group, a provider of program and project management in the built environment dedicated to enhancing the standard of living in our communities, participated in a panel discussion about supplier diversity.

For(bes) The Culture had the chance to speak with Clayton Ruebensaal, executive vice president, global B2B marketing at American Express, about what the conference comprised in addition to famed Insecure creator and star Issa Rae.

Ruebensaal spoke about how the company is committed to supporting small business and can discuss the state of small businesses, especially with supply chain issues, a high level of open employment opportunities and the possibility of a recession.

According to Ruebensaal Amex aims to help businesses do more business. “To address the most important issues facing small business owners, we created Business Class. We were aware that when the pandemic struck, we had to step up our efforts since small businesses were struggling with previously unexplored problems and lacked information. The conference, which was free to attend, is a ground-breaking, international initiative that redefines what business education is by providing small business owners with experiences and content that are more in line with their lifestyles. Its goal is to democratize access to the information that is most essential.”

Rae added her thoughts on the significance of the Business Class Live and expressed her excitement at the opportunity to represent small business owners.

“Just being able to look people in the eye is exciting to me. There is nothing more fulfilling than interacting with others and seeing their faces. I place a lot of emphasis on leveraging the individuals in your immediate surroundings. Being small business owners, we can all learn from one another and provide one another with advice because in a sense, we’re all in the same boat. I myself run a small business. It was an honor to obtain knowledge from the interactions I engaged in with the other minority business owners,” expressed Rae.

Ruebensaal, adds the event offers a fantastic opportunity to forge long-lasting connections, learn new skills, and build a reliable network that can be used long after the event.

“It will allow small businesses the chance to meet one-on-one with representatives from governmental organizations or large corporations to talk about actual, concrete business opportunities that could help them in significant ways.”

Rae is a strong advocate for making it easy for consumers to find black-owned businesses, but she also discusses how women-owned and minority-led businesses should support one another.

“You cannot be threatened by other businesses. We at Hilltop are located close to another Black-owned coffee shop. It costs us nothing to promote that other shop and tell customers to go there as is; in return, they will do the same for us. Sweet Life is the name of my show. Both Sip & Sonder and Hilltop have been used as locations, in addition to Haron coffee. Supporting one another as Black businesses will only benefit our businesses. While it’s good that we sometimes have a competitive attitude, it’s also crucial that we support one another,” Rae tells.

While Rae is well recognized for supporting everything and everyone Black, the objective is to get other larger corporations besides American Express on the trend to move the needle forward.

Rae tells us American Express has been very intentional over the last couple of years, highlighting black businesses.

“For many years, they have supported small businesses. I believe that other businesses should take a cue from this one and make this a year-round initiative rather than just something that happens during Black History Month. Amex has been very deliberate about keeping in touch with the business owners I recommend to them. It is crucial and might mean the difference between being able to feed your family or not to have a chance and a platform to attract fresh eyes and customers to their services or business,” expresses Rae.

Rae plans to help expand her small business, Hilltop Coffee to LAX. The coffee shop currently has 3 locations in Los Angeles, Inglewood, and Eagle Rock.

“I’m overjoyed right now. We’ll be at LAX as the go-to place whenever you’re hungry, need a coffee or a snack. Being able to represent LA at the airport as a local business is amazing. We’ll be close to Randy’s Donuts, another staple in Inglewood. It’s very satisfying to know travelers will recognize that the restaurant they’re purchasing from is an LA Black-owned establishment. I’m appreciative of this chance. It’s not always the case that we have access to these stores in that way. There was intention behind this move from the city of LA. We feel honored to be there,” explains Rae.


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