This February, instead of celebrating black history and black accomplishments, instead of recognizing the lasting effects of slavery and segregation, we were all treated to news of politicians in Virginiawho wore blackface in their pre-politics youth and a new Gucci sweater that gives new meaning to racist and tacky.

How did either of those things escape notice for as long as they did? Was no one looking at yearbooks when Gov. Ralph Northam ran for office? How did something like the Gucci product (a sweater that pulls up over the face with a cut-out mouth) even make it to the marketplace?

Lack of diversity — that’s how. When there’s a lack of inclusion, businesses make critical, offensive missteps that harm their brands, and politicians get elected who should have been vetted more carefully. Both become news items for all the wrong reasons.

The Colorado Springs Business Journal wants to change the local conversation by bringing a business spotlight to the most culturally and ethnically diverse section of the city: Southeast Colorado Springs. While the Colorado Publishing House (CSBJ’s parent company) recently launched a nonprofit newspaper there, the CSBJ is doing its part by creating business opportunities in zip codes 80910 and 80916.

It’s known as the Southeast Business Plan competition, and we’ll be awarding a series of business boosts to the winner. It works like this: People with ideas for a new business — or who have a business that is less than 2 years old — can apply for the competition. (No pawn shops, marijuana shops or payday lenders, please.) The winner, as judged by a panel of business executives, receives a package of pro bono help, pretty much anything needed to start a business. The requirement: The business must be located in Southeast Colorado Springs.

It’s something we’ve done before, back in 2016. Melissa’s Hair Therapy was the winner, and her salon is now a Southeast success story. She found a location, hired employees and is well on her way to achieving her business dreams. It might not have happened without the competition, which provided everything from legal help to real estate advice — and more.

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Aspiring entrepreneurs take note! This is your opportunity to receive business expertise from successful companies. And established businesses, it’s time to beat the bad news at the national level and prove that here in the Springs, everyone’s welcome.

This year, we’re partnering with the Colorado Springs Diversity Forum at the luncheon to celebrate the business plan competition. They’ll be announcing the winners of the Diversity in Business Awards, and we’ll be highlighting Southeast businesses during an expo before the event.

The Business Journal believes in celebrating diversity, encouraging entrepreneurship and creating a level playing field for everyone in Colorado Springs. We believe in continuing the legacy of Fannie Mae Duncan whose business was open to everyone, regardless of who they were or what they looked like.

Join us in celebrating diversity and business on Thursday, April 25, at the Hotel Eleganté. (Go to csbj.com/events or csbj.com/nominate to sign up.) The fun starts at 11:30 a.m. You don’t want to miss it — it’s a chance to highlight the city’s dedication to inclusion and support positive change in Southeast Colorado Springs. 

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