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Since 2011 the Entrepreneurs Forum has brought entrepreneurs, business owners and influencers together to network, share ideas and discuss the issues that matter most. The forum provides numerous opportunities for learning, growth and connection, featuring world class speakers, quality networking, exhibitors, breakfast and lunch. Our theme this year is Opportunity Knocks and will focus on new opportunities for entrepreneurs as well as how entrepreneurs can create their own opportunities. Get the latest in marketing, funding, technology and contracting. 

Full conference registration $97. NEA member discount available with promo code. Parking is free.

Questions? Call 248-4167278

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Sponsored by


2024 Keynote Speaker Awenate Cobbina

CEO of Bedrock Manufacturing Company 
Topic: Driving Growth in Entrepreneurship


Awenate Cobbina is the CEO of Bedrock Manufacturing Co, which owns Shinola, the Detroit-based watch brand, and Filson, a 127-year-old clothing brand based in Seattle. As CEO, Awenate oversees the growth trajectory and long-term viability of well-known American icons that design, manufacture, and sell products consumers value for their quality, craftsmanship, and unique character. He is also responsible for driving Bedrock’s growth initiatives, including building on the Shinola Hotel’s success by further expanding into hospitality. Awenate lives in Detroit. 


Previously, Awenate was the Vice President of Public and Business Affairs for Palace Sports & Entertainment (PS&E) and the Detroit Pistons, as well as the Executive Director of the Detroit Pistons Foundation. In those roles, Awenate worked on PS&E’s business deals, including the Pistons move to Detroit, and all aspects of the Foundation, including fundraising, grantmaking, and reporting to the Foundation’s Board. Earlier in his career, he served almost six years in the White House, including roles in the Chief of Staff's Office, Office of Legislative Affairs, and Office of Mgt and Budget. 

At the 2024 Entrepreneurs Forum you'll learn how Shinola grew to become one of America's most successful lifestyle brands along with proven strategies to scale your business.

2024 Kickoff Speaker: Award 
Winning Entrepreneur Cynthia Kay

Speaker|Author|Small Business Leadership Expert
Big Business is Waiting. Where are You?

Cynthia Kay is a passionate spokesperson for small business- speaking, teaching and coaching small business owners… all while running an award-winning company. For more than 25 years, Cynthia Kay and Company has produced high-quality communications that are used on the national and international scene. The Company serves businesses and organizations from the Fortune Global 100 to small business and non-profits.

A graduate of Michigan State University, Kay also holds a Master’s Degree in Communications. She has been honored four times as one of the 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan. The company has been named twice as one of West Michigan’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies. She serves on the Board of the National Small Business Association (NSBA).

Her book "Small Business Big Success" was published in 2024.


At the 2024 Entrepreneurs Forum, Cynthia will discuss opportunities for small businesses to partner with corporations during her talk, Big Business is Waiting. Where are You? The products and services of many small businesses are a perfect fit for big business. Yet, so many small businesses miss out on opportunities with big business because they simply don’t know how to attract and serve complex customers. Cynthia explores why big businesses like to work with smaller companies and their expectations.

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2024 Featured Speaker: David Tessler

CEO and Co-Founder of Michigan Funders
Topic: Smart Small Business Funding Options to Grow Your Business Faster

David Tessler is the CEO and Co-Founder of Michigan Funders and an angel investor based in Metro-Detroit. With extensive experience in alternative financing, including Crowdfunding, Angel, VC, and Debt Financing, David has played a pivotal role in helping companies raise millions of dollars. A serial entrepreneur, David has a track record of success, having generated over a quarter billion dollars in revenue for his companies. He serves as the managing partner of Recraft, a boutique real estate development firm in Detroit. Additionally, David is the Co-Founder of Jabs Gym and Jabs Gym Eastern Market, as well as the Co-Founder of Rain Marketing, a Global Casino Marketing Company, and ZaBot Pizza Robot, an Automated Pizza Company. At the 2024 Entrepreneurs Forum David will share funding options.



Register Now and You'll Be Entered into Our Grand Drawing to Win a Brand New

Dell Computer and Other Cool Prizes!!!!


Questions? Call 248-4167278



SESSION DESCRIPTIONS (partial listing) 

Panel Discussion: Opportunity Knocks: How to Create Your Own Opportunities

Speakers: Pamela Mack, Vickie Lewis, Colleen Budde, Dennis G Shaver

Summary: Creating something out of nothing is one thing that successful entrepreneurs have always been good at. This panel of dynamic entrepreneurs will share how they successfully took their careers into their own hands and the strategies they used to do it.  

Key Take Aways:

  • The Art of risk taking and mitigating loses.

  • Financial strategies to drive growth and scalability. 

  • Build and market your brand more fffectively.

  • Taking advantage of the Latest in technology.

  • Overcoming challenges and staying motivated.


Panel Discussion: Entrepreneur and Small Business Resources 

Speakers: Dr. Janice Cardwell, Lee Hotchkiss, Anothny Lewis, Jasmine Pattion, Michelle Carley 

Summary: There are numerous organizations that offer free and/or low-cost assistance to entrepreneurs and small business owners. During this session you will get an in-depth look at who offers what and how to take advantages of these services that can help you grow your business more effectively.  

Key Take Aways:

  • Learn how to access free resources for your business.

  • Meet resource providers who can help you grow.

  • Get your questions answered by experienced professionals


Panel Discussion: Build Big Business: Writing Your Own Book

Speakers: Dr. Mary Segars, Lynne Golodner, Queashar Halliburton 

Summary: Did you know writing a book can establish you as an expert and help build your business? A panel of authors and writing coaches share how you can write your own book and provide resources to help make the process easier to navigate.

Key Take Aways:

  • Learn step by step process for publishing your own book 

  • Learn how to decide on the best topic/topics to write about 

  • Gain resources that can help you publish your book faster

Take Your Business to New Heights with Minority and Women Certification

Speaker: Jacqui Showers, Business Certification Consultant

Summary: Becoming a Minority or Women Owned Business Enterprise can open up contract opportunities to do big business and work with corporations. Certification can be an arduous process but it does not have to be when you understand what is expected. Learn if certification is right for you. 

Key Take Aways:

  • An understanding of what certification can do for your business

  • Steps to prepare for the application process

  • Discover new business, educational and networking opportunities

Content Clarity: Define and Market Your Message for Social Media Success

Speaker: Jesse Cole, Speaker and Author

Summary: Ready to take your social media game to the next level? Join us for an empowering session focused on defining and marketing your message with confidence and clarity. Learn how to cut through the clutter and connect with your audience on a deeper level. From identifying your unique brand voice to creating impactful visuals, this session offers practical tips and actionable strategies for maximizing your social media impact.

Key Take Aways:

  • Develop content that elevates your message & connects with your ideal client.

  • Find the authentic aspects of your brand that make you stand out.

  • Attract high-quality leads to support business growth.

The Confident Entrepreneur: How Your Energy Can Create New Opportunities

Speaker: Van Allen, Founder of Van Allen Video and Audio Productions

Summary: Feeling good about yourself makes it easier to reach your goals and grow a successful business. During this session you'll learn how your self image impacts everything you do along with unique ways to increase confidence and attract new business.

Key Take Aways:

  • Understanding of how confidence is vital to your success.

  • Ability to implement strategies to overcome imposter syndrome.

  • Discover and remove old triggers and create new ones. 


Money Management Strategies for Small Business

Speaker: Michael Wynn, Founder of Wyngate and Associates, LLC

Summary: As an entrepreneur, understanding how to manage money is vital to the success of your business. Hiring a good accountant is not enough. You must know your numbers, understand cash flow, credit, tax laws and more.

Key Take Aways:

  • How to create a budget for your business

  • An understanding of healthy financial habits

  • The ability to plan for unexpected expenses

Harnessing AI: Effective and Ethical Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses

Speaker: Melissa McClary Davis, Founder and CEO of Wise Digital Marketing

Summary: This session is designed to empower small business owners with the knowledge to leverage AI technology responsibly and effectively. Melissa will discuss the importance of ethical concerns while showcasing some practical examples of AI uses in small and mid-size businesses. She will highlight the critical role of using human marketing knowledge with AI.

Key Take Aways:

  • Practical AI Applications with case study examples

  • How to use AI to elevate small business marketing

  • Understanding the ethical considerations as the foundation of trust  


Dr. Geneva Williams

CEO of Dr. Geneva Speaks

Opportunity Knocks Panel Discussion Moderator

Geneva Williams is CEO of Dr. Geneva Speaks and creator of The Vibrant Life Blueprint©, which helps entrepreneurs and executives achieve extraordinary success and happiness. After a 40+ year career as an award-winning, nonprofit leader, raising millions for business and community causes, Dr. Geneva reinvented herself as an entrepreneur, author, and international speaker. Crain’s cites her as one of Detroit’s most influential women, NAWBO named her a leading businesswoman, and she received the Urban League’s Distinguished Warrior Award for Lifetime Achievement. Dr. Geneva is Chair of the Governor’s Michigan Women’s Commission, a commercial television actress, and host of Ignite2impact on iHeart Radio.

Vickie Lewis

Founder | CEO of VMX International

Opportunity Knocks Panel

Vickie Lewis is the Founder/CEO of VMX International, a Total Waste Management firm, headquartered in Detroit. With a staff of 50+ employees, VMX currently manages various environmental, workforce management and recycling/disposal projects for commercial, governmental, and industrial clients in North America. As an environmentalist and award-winning executive, Vickie Lewis is a visionary passionate about advancing the circular economy, innovation, and growth in the environmental industry. She is poised to be a “Clean Energy” leader by opening the first independent EV battery repurposing facility in Detroit. Launching her newly created division in 2023, VMX Green, Lewis will become the first U.S. minority-owned recycling firm working to repackage/ distribute EV batteries for consumer and commercial 2nd life use. A native Detroiter, Vickie Lewis is the wife of Pastor David Lewis of St. Mathew Missionary Baptist Church and the proud mother of Dr. David Lewis, Jr. Anesthesiologist, and Vice President of VMX Green.

Dennis G. Shaver

Director of Product Development, Centrepolis Accelerator Lawrence Technological University 

Opportunity Knocks Panel 

Dennis G. Shaver is a Product Development Director & Entrepreneurship Catalyst, empowering new product innovators to vet, validate and navigate creative ideas into commercially viable products. With 30+ years of experience working in key manufacturing positions at General Motors, Clorox Corporation, PepsiCo/Frito-Lay, and several startup businesses, Dennis specializes in innovation, product development strategy and successful entrepreneurship. As a Director of Product Development at the Centrepolis Accelerator on the Lawrence Technological University campus and an internationally recognized keynote speaker on entrepreneurship and innovation, he empowers early stage and growth stage business ventures with sustainable growth strategies. Fueled by unwavering determination, Dennis conquers personal challenges, including six marathons and pacing in the Leadville, CO 100-miler. His enduring commitment to excellence drives him to push boundaries and inspire others. Dennis is also a 2x Amazon best-selling author on Innovation & Entrepreneurship.


Pamela Mack

Founder of The Mack Law Group

Opportunity Knocks Panel 

Attorney Pamela Mack is the founding member of The Mack Law Group, a boutique Bloomfield Hills based law firm providing corporate transactions and estate planning for business owners and their families. Pamela enjoys the distinction of being a Top 100 National Black Lawyer. This honor is given to only the top 100 African American lawyers, in each state or region, with reputations for providing excellent legal representation in their respective practice areas. Pamela brings over two decades of in-house corporate experience to her position as the top lawyer at the Mack Law Group. Pamela has serviced as Senior in-house corporate and real estate counsel. Pamela is a published children’s book author, mom of one, and award-winning entrepreneur.

Colleen Budde

Owner of Auburn & Main | Co-owner of Office Evolution

Opportunity Knocks Panel 

Engineer by education, entrepreneur by choice, Colleen Budde is the owner of Auburn & Main, an ecommerce boutique, and co-owner of Office Evolution, a coworking space, in Troy, Michigan. Colleen earned two degrees in mechanical engineering from Oakland University but very quickly into her career realized the engineer life was not for her. Dabbling for years in the ecommerce space, it wasn't until meeting and marrying her eventual business partner that she was able to leave the corporate 9-to-5 and open Office Evolution, a coworking business center on the Million Dollar Mile in Troy, Michigan. A compulsive networker, Colleen is right as home owning and operating OE Troy where she spends her days meeting and helping other entrepreneurs and small business owners scale and grow their businesses.

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Jesse A. Cole Jr.

Speaker | Author 

Content Clarity: Define and Market Your Message for Social Media Success

Jesse A. Cole, Jr. is fueled by a passion for helping leaders gain deeper confidence, significance, boldness, and authenticity in their work and life. The author of 6 books, Jesse understands the power of sharing concepts that encourage and equip his audience to strengthen their leadership philosophy. His most recent book, “Kingdom Confidence: Demonstrating the Power, Authority, and Influence of God In Your Life and Business” (Available on Amazon) has allowed him to be featured in over 150 publications, including FOX40, FOX28, NewsNet, Digital Journal, Town Hall Finance, and International Business Times. Among the notable companies he has spoken for include: Ford Chaplains, Deloitte, Michigan State University, Teach for America, National Microloan Conference, Black Executive Directors of Detroit, and Michigan College Access Network. Jesse’s personal interests include reading, spending quality time with his wife and kids, and watching documentaries. 

Lynne Golodner

Author | Writing Coach | Marketing Entrepreneur

Build Big Business Writing Your Own Book 

Lynne Golodner is the author of nine books and thousands of articles as well as a marketing entrepreneur, writing coach and host of the Make Meaning Podcast.

After working as a journalist in New York and Washington, D.C., Lynne returned to her native Detroit to pursue a freelance writing career and teach writing. In 2007, she created Your People, a marketing and public relations company with a focus on storytelling that guides authors in building their brands and marketing their work. In 2023, Lynne founded Scotia Road Books, an independent publishing imprint for women over 40. A former Fulbright Specialist, Lynne graduated from University of Michigan (BA, Communications/English) and Goddard College (MFA, Writing) and earned a Certificate in Entrepreneurship from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at Wayne State University. She is the mother of four young adults and lives in Huntington Woods, Michigan with her archivist-husband Dan.

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Michael D. Wynn

Founder & CEO Wynngate and Associates, LLC

Money Management Strategies for Small Business

Michael D. Wynn, is a habit success strategist, financial expert, author, and speaker. Michael's diverse experiences motivated him to become certified as a financial literacy trainer, fraud examiner, and authenticity coach, to empower individuals to be accountable and consistent with habits. As the founder and CEO of Wynngate Associates, LLC and Coach Win, LLC, Michael connects with leaders, business teams, and organizations that thrive on a winning strategy through repetition and growth development. Prior to Michael’s retirement from the State of Michigan, he conducted financial audits and compliance oversight reviews totaling over $22 billion. Michael authored two bestselling books and has been featured in several publications. Committed to raising financial literacy awareness, Michael received the 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Office of the President of United States, and the 2006 Outstanding Financial Literacy Award from the Michigan Accounting Aid Society. Michael and his wife Joyce reside in Michigan.

Jacqui Showers

Founder of The Me Place Institute

Take Your Business to New Heights with Minority and Women Certification

Jacqui Showers is a visionary and business encouragement coach, boasts over two decades of experience coaching emerging to mid-sized businesses in various facets including business development, marketing, branding, and certification compliance. As the founder and owner of JASSAI LLC, The ME Place, and JASSAI Publishing, she has left an indelible mark on the entrepreneurial and business landscape, which stands as a testament to her unwavering commitment to empowerment and leadership. With nearly five years as a Business Certification Consultant with MMSDC and certification consultant, she has guided numerous minority and women-owned businesses through the intricate certification process. A serial entrepreneur, master coach, author, and publisher, Showers employs an integrated holistic approach to nurture entrepreneurs, leaders, and individuals alike. Through individual consultation, workshops, seminars, webinars, conferences, and her books she ignites success across business, professional, personal, and spiritual realms. 

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Anthony Lewis

Outreach & Marketing Specialist 

Michigan District Office U.S. Small Business Administration

Entrepreneur and Small Business Resources Panel Discussion

Anthony Lewis, an Outreach and Marketing Specialist, is the newest additional to SBA Michigan District Office team. Anthony represents the district office to a 29-county territory including Wayne County, Macomb County, and central Michigan. Anthony works to educate and inform small business owners about SBA services. He also works to build the SBA ecosystem with chamber of commerce and economic developments organizations. Prior to his service with the SBA, Anthony was employed by the US Congress and Macomb County.

Melissa McClary Davis

Founder of Wise Digital Marketing

Harnessing AI: Effective and Ethical Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses

Melissa McClary Davis is the Founder and CEO of Wise Digital Marketing. Melissa has established herself as a leading expert in the digital marketing industry with over 30 years of digital marketing experience with Fortune 500 companies in a diverse range of industries including Coca-Cola, AT&T, Ford, State Farm, General Motors, Hallmark Cards, Lane Bryant, Best Buy, Facebook and Instagram.In addition to serving the top corporate echelon, Melissa’s passion for problem-solving and teaching has also led her to provide top-tier marketing consulting/agency services to small business owners to support them in successfully navigating digital marketing. As a result, her clients achieve noteworthy sales conversion and high ROI Melissa is currently working on a book to assist the small business owner in how to use marketing when you have a small budget effectively.

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Van Allen

Speaker | Entrepreneur | Founder of Van Allen Productions

The Confident Entrepreneur: How Your Energy Can Create New Opportunities

Van Allen is a speaker, coach and lifelong entrepreneur. He began his career in investing over 25 years ago. His primary investments include real estate and blue chip stocks as well as numerous entrepreneurial ventures. He is an award winning motivational speaker and former cable talk show host. He has received numerous speaking awards including first place in the District 28 World Championship of Public Speaking Contest for Toastmasters International. His signature presentation “Are You a Winner” encourages audiences to step out of their comfort zone to reach their true potential. He attended Henry Ford Community College and Wayne State University. He is a Master NLP Practitioner and founder of Van Allen Productions which specializes in video and audio projects. 

Dr. Mary Segars

CEO of Segars Consulting Group

Build Big Business Writing Your Own Book

Dr. Mary Segars is the Founder and CEO of Segars Consulting Group.  She is committed to providing entrepreneurs and businesswomen the needed tools to be the best leaders in corporate and personal environments.  She is a certified John Maxwell Coach, Speaker, and Trainer. Dr. Segars has published best-selling books including “Power Talk begins with Power Thought,” and “Wake up the Leader within You.”  Her desire is to help people tell their stories and speak their truth. Dr. Segars’ Awesome Publishing Company has coached over 40 authors to become published in her four Anthologies. She is a global speaker and was a keynote speaker in 2019 at the Women’s Leadership Conference in Bangkok, Thailand and a featured speaker in Cairo, Egypt in 2020.  She is Host of “Wisdom Wednesday Podcast,” which provides wisdom ‘nuggets’ for everyday living with stimulating conversations with guests weekly. She has a doctorate from Destiny Christian University.

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Michelle Carley

Founder of Big E-Z Bookkeeping System

Entrepreneur and Small Business Resources Panel Discussion

Michelle Carley has served small businesses throughout the U.S. for the past 30+ years, helping them to set up and customize their bookkeeping systems. Her DIY accounting software empowers small businesses to take control of their books. Today, customers all over the world use the Big E-Z Bookkeeping System—whether through the Google Sheet Add-on, the Excel-based desktop version, or even the original paper system. Her company won the Most Needed Product of the Year award from the National Association of Women Business Owners, as well as the Outstanding Business Practices award from the National Entrepreneurs Association.

Jasmine Patton

Executive Director of Southfield Area Chamber of Commerce

Entrepreneur and Small Business Resources Panel Discussion

As a Chamber Executive Director with over 5 years of experience, Jasmine Patton is passionate about connecting communities and supporting local small business owners. With a professional background encompassing 15 years in the non-profit sector, she brings extensive dedication to the role. She adopts a collaborative approach aimed at bridging generational gaps, promoting leadership equity, and developing innovative programs. Jasmine firmly believes in the importance of continual two-way communication between the business community and local leaders, serving as the foundation for her work. Throughout her tenure, Jasmine has strived to create an inclusive environment where all voices are valued, contributing to a more dynamic and supportive economic landscape.

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Queashar Halliburton

Founder of Queashar Detroit Publishing

Build Big Business Writing Your Own Book

After 22 years in Corporate America—working in every field from public relations to education, automotive sales, construction management, real estate, and insurance sales—Queashar knew it was time for a shift. Blazing the trail for many, she founded Queashar Detroit Publishing in 2017. In addition to producing her fair share of best-selling literary works, she works diligently to provide tools, resources, and motivation for new authors nationwide, positioning them to tell their stories excellently and excel in the marketplace. Queashar has been featured in Speakers Magazine, Courageous Woman Magazine, Glambitious Magazine, and Voyage Michigan. In addition to serving as a member of the Black Speakers Network and the Nonfiction Authors Association, Queashar served as a contributing writer for Advance Magazine and Publish Magazine. 

Lee Hotchkiss

Small Business Group Manager at Comerica Bank

Entrepreneur and Small Business Resources Panel Discussion

Lee Hotchkiss is a small business group manager at Comerica Bank, boasting over two decades of extensive banking expertise. Driven by passion for nurturing small businesses, Lee firmly believes they are the lifeblood of our local communities. Lee is committed to empowering small businesses to flourish and thrive, ensuring their pivotal role in driving community prosperity.

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Angelia Sharpe

Senior Loan Officer at Detroit Development Fund

How to Get Your Business Projects Funded

Angelia Sharp is the Senior Loan Officer at Detroit Development Fund (DDF) located in Midtown Detroit. Prior to working at Detroit Development Fund Angelia spent over 28 years working in the financial industry at a Super Regional Bank where she had the opportunity to grow and lead high performing teams. In addition, Angelia is a Army veteran where she served at Fort Liberty formerly known as Fort Bragg in North Carolina. After completing her tour of duty she earned a MBA, BBSM and a Certificate in Human Resources all from the University of Phoenix.

NEA 2023 Panel Discussion

*Pics from 2023 NEA Conference

Entrepreneurs Forum Event Highlights

  • 2 Dynamic Keynote Speakers

  • 8 Breakout Sessions

  • Power Packed Panel Discussions

  • Numerous Business Resources

  • All Cohort Class Reunion

  • Exhibitors/Vendors

  • Breakfast Buffet

  • Power Networking Lunch

  • Giveaways

Questions? Call 248-4167278

Venue: Hollywood Casino Hotel Greektown

Address:555 East Lafayette Street, Detroit, MI 48226

With a beautiful skyline and river view, this is the perfect venue for an entrepreneur conference.


Amenities include:

  • Free Parking

  • Stunning Guest Rooms

  • Wifi Available

  • Fitness Center with Gym

  • Bar / Lounge

  • Casino 

  • Entertainment

  • Taxi Service

  • Business Center

  • Internet Access




Pictures from 2023 NEA Entrepreneurs Forum

Attention entrepreneurs and professionals! Don't miss the opportunity to connect with our amazing exhibitors and vendors, representing a variety industries with awesome products and services. Some are experts that provide services to support your business while others are entrepreneurs that you can support in their professional growth and development. Make sure you visit them in the main hall outside of the Grand Ballroom.

2024 Exhibitors/Vendors Include

  • Comerica Bank

  • Cynthia Kay and Company

  • Dell Technologies

  • In the Mirror Photo Booth

  • My Econ Inc.

  • National Entrepreneurs Association

  • QT Business Solutions

  • Small Business Administration

  • Virtual Real Estate Services

  • X Trade Corporation

  • Wynngate and Associates, LLC

  • YTI Office Express

Questions? Call 248-4167278

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