The Lexington Minority Business Expo returns to the Lexington Convention Center Thursday and Friday with two renowned speakers who have messages of economic authority and empowerment.
Last year's expo celebrated its 10th anniversary with four speakers, 60 exhibitors and more than 550 attendants.
The conference theme this year is People, Purpose, and Power: Winning Together!
This year's speakers are Farrah Gray, 28, who was raised in poverty on the south side of Chicago and became a self-made millionaire by age 14, and Charla Young, a Louisville native who left her job in the height of the recession to help people using her business and TV show, The Power To Change.
Growing up in the Chicago projects with his mother and siblings, Gray had his first business at 6-years-old selling hand-painted rocks he found on the street as doorstops and paper weights. He made $50 from that business.
From there, he went into business ventures ranging from teen talk shows to prepaid phone cards while carrying business cards reading "21st Century CEO."
Gray and his friends co-founded the Urban Neighborhood Enterprise Economic Club (U.N.E.E.C., pronounced unique) whose members travel speaking about how to become successful.
"We were big ideas in small packages," Gray said about his first speaking business.
At 13, he opened an office on Wall Street, making him the youngest person in America to do so.
Still in his early years, Gray became owner of Farr-Out Foods, which generated orders exceeding $1.5 million.
"There is a difference between being hungry and thirsty. I've always been hungry," Gray said about his many entrepreneurship adventures. "And hungry people are rich from the inside out."
Gray said he looks to empower and encourage people at the expo, even during tough economic times.
"I grew up on the south side of Chicago, or as some called it Chiraq," Gray said. "I know what it is like to be in hard economic times, because the economy where I am from is similar to what a lot of people are going through, so I can speak to that."
Gray said he is not one in a million, but one of a million, but his wealth did not come without struggle.
He said he struggled with being a black man trying to be taken seriously.
"Racism is as American as apple or cherry pie," he said. "African Americans have to work three times as hard just to be considered the same way non-minorities are considered."
Gray also looks to reach the youth at the expo and encourage them to take advantage of their economic influence.
"Blacks have buying power, but we are not producing," he said. "Be producers versus consumers and begin to produce generational wealth."
Young also brings a proactive message to the expo.
"Helping people to tap into their full potential is right up my alley," Young said.
She said the expo is a away for minorities to better themselves and network in business, but also a way for people from all walks of life to connect and take on new ventures they may never have imagined for themselves.
The Power to Change is Young's talk show, which airs in Louisville, and will be coming to Lexington this fall.
The show began when she quit her job as a WAVE-TV reporter who exposed criminals on the air.
At the expo, she aims to share her 7 P's for success.
"It does not matter if you are President Barack Obama or Charla Young, everyone needs the 7 P's to be successful," Young said.
The 7 P's include power, persistence and purpose, Young said.
"Being a minority can sometimes be a hindrance or advantageous," Young said. "But I don't see myself as a minority business owner, only a business owner."
IF YOU GO
Lexington Bluegrass Minority Business Expo
When: Aug. 1-2
Where: Lexington Convention Center, 430 W. Vine St.
Admission: Regular participant: $50, $60 after July 30
Corporate exhibitor: $400, $425 after July 30
Small Business Exhibitor: $150, $175 after July 30
Learn more and see a schedule: lexingtonmbe.com or (859) 382-9501.
Anyssa Roberts: (859) 231-1409. Twitter: @heraldleader.