On a breezy night during the celebratory month of black excellence and history, a wonderful workshop is occurring in downtown Schenectady. William Rivas is sitting at the front desk of Urban Co-works at 433 State street on the 4th floor, graciously waiting for guests to arrive at this magical event. Cracking a million-dollar smile as he greets everyone professionally and by name, you immediately feel warm and as if you belong at this entrepreneur night out. “good evening, Mr. Richards, please come and sign in.” Rivas stated as he greeted me and we shook hands. The two of us knew about each other but never met face to face. However, when I finally met the efficacious and brilliant man I instantly felt like I knew him all my life.
William Rivas is the Orchestrator of the Entrepreneur night out in downtown Schenectady. He is the CEO and founder of Save our Streets Inc. He is also the creator of 518 talks that occurs frequently at Urban-Co works. Rivas wears many more hats as a man of the community who prides himself on creating environments for people to come together and “share their resources.”
” This event was amazing as a new entrepreneur, very informative, good speakers, and its nice to see people that look like you, doing their thing. I’m excited to be here” -Kim Wallace
” As a current entrepreneur, I think it’s really inspirational to see people who look like me up there speaking about their ups and their downs, and the challenges, and their gumption to just keep going, and not giving up because they see a need and they want to fill that need, fill the void specifically in our community of brown and black folk, it’s extremely important to see this, the optics are so, so freaking important for brown and black people young and old to see that there’s still people out there trying to make a difference”- Thearse Mccalmon
When asked about this event and its purpose, William quoted that Entrprenuer Night Out was designed as a ” space to create friendships and business partnerships.” This event did that and so much more. The event began with an hour of networking and mingling. Rivas and his crew provided some wine and good pizza for those that attended. It was a warm and welcoming space for people of color especially, something that is lacking in Schenectady. However, Entrepreneur Night felt like this was an abundant creation. You immediately acquiesce to the space as people are willing to share their stories and network with others.
” It’s good to see our black business community come out and other business owners and entrepreneurs to come out, to listen learn and engage in a community of black and brown in upstate New York“- Tony Gaddy
A community together
At the scene were vendors selling body care products, hand-knitted blankets and scarfs as well as t-shirts. Two of the vendors were actually under the age of 18 seeking to garner ground in their early entrepreneurial journeys. Rivas wasted no time making sure they were recognized. As we all settled in and prepared for this brilliant night, Rivas presented the two entrepreneurs and allowed them to present their works. The first, Nevaeh Bies Is a young entrepreneur that has a queen like presence at a young age. There was elegance and pride in her speech.
” very helpful for the community, bringing people together in a happy way to help each other’s business grow” –Nevaeh Bias
” This event was amazing, it really changed my life it really and it really impacted the way do my business. “ Jeremiah Davis
The second presenter was a young and humble teenager with a brilliant idea. He sells t-shirts titled Love City designed to touch people and to love their city. The inspiration behind the idea was because of the negative connotation that the city of Schenectady has been clouded with. The desire to ” Love City” or to spread love for a city that has many brilliant parts to it, as well as be able to be worn in any city has massive implications that will affect people in a myriad of ways in the future.
“This event was very interesting, very informative it’s very nice to see different people at different levels of business. It was a lot going on which creates a lot of opportunities for many different things to happen. space was super dope, I think it was a great vibe and everyone brought something different to the table. I look forward to the next one”- Meralys Collazo
The most amazing part of this all was that Rivas, without hesitation held a mini-auction amongst the crowd for these young entrepreneurs’ products.
He even put his own money into the sale. Thearse McCalmon, a brilliant woman who ran for mayor with a powerful spirit and fervor to help her community instantly bought both of the youth’s articles in abundance.
It was with this that one could instantly understand the power of a community and how everyone was willing to support one another. It takes a coalition of people to build a community with the vigor to be great, and on Friday night, we did just that in Schenectady, New York.
Inspire one another
After the moving auction, Rivas turned the night over to the amazing and beautiful Rosemary Andrews who eloquently hosted this event. Her sass and presence enhanced the already uplifting tone of the night with spicy speech and coordination of the itinerary. First, She introduced Trent, an inspiring entrepreneur and adaptable businessman.
Trent told us his story, being a previously incarcerated person he climbed his way to a managerial position in the hotel business. Trent delivered a heartwarming and inspirational story about growth, learning, adaptation and never fearing failure. The entire time you could witness the crowd grow more and more in awe learning about the trials and tribulations he went through on his life journey.
A great take away from his speech comes from the concept of adaptation. Trent mentioned how ride-sharing put cabs out of business and how he adjusted his business to drive vans and busses for people in hotels to keep up. A slight change that proved to be a great business move in the long run. When asked about the event afterward, Trent shared his sentiments.
” I felt like today’s event was very informative, great networking opportunity a lot of good people, great to see a lot of minorities in the space being successful and doing good things.” – Trent
After Trent, We had a brief break and then went to have a panel with several entrepreneurs who discussed their journeys.
The panel was presented excellently, With Tony Gaddy, leader of the upstate Black Chamber Of Commerce leading the way with questions. This conversation focused on professionals who provided information intended to assist entrepreneurs either start-up or keep steady in their journeys. There were many different people on the panel that shared their stories and provided unique gems to stay the course. Tony played a masterful mediator in asking questions to the panelists as well as allowing the crowd to spark some answers from the panelists.
When the panel questions concluded, we came together, continued to mingle and take pictures, wrapping up a well-rounded event that connected many people from all ages around the capital.
” I truly deeply appreciate William Rivas for being the person to gather all of this and all of the people of our community and of our color to come together and enlighten each other on the ups and downs of being a business owner, and supporting each other, I especially appreciate the fact that he encourages the youth to do so he gets everyone here involved in support the youth so that they can continue to grow and not lose sight of their goal because a lot of times they don’t have a good support system” Starkeya King
” it was great for networking and getting inspiration, even for myself who already has a business and LLC. It made me want to prioritize what I want to do with my business plan and it was great for networking.” Rosemarie Andrews
The place behind the pines is a peculiar small city living in the shadow of Albany. Its black and brown community is even overshadowed more by a number of issues that drain them daily. Often times, the brilliance of this community is darkened by the clouds that surround it. However, people like William Rivas and everyone who showed up to Entrepreneur Night Out reveal the power this community doesn’t fully realize it has yet. The ability to come together and support one another is constantly overlooked by a plethora of issues that plague our communities.
However, on Friday, we were able to witness what could become if this event were be frequently featured. That is because events like this are Because it is frequent, we just don’t highlight them in our community. In a place where “we’re conditioned to believe we can’t do anything” -Rivas, we were allowed to visualize what occurs when we’re told we can. Rivas is a master of ceremonies that desires to bring his community together to create positive outcomes.
“I created the 518 talks last year to create a platform for people to come together and share their resources, how we start? young people that come from our community. By supporting economics, and create the opportunity for us to destroy generational poverty. I create the space I don’t control it” William gives people the capacity to share and learn together in a warm experience for the community. This here is the Schenectady we don’t see often. However, it is here, hidden within the pines of our beloved city. -Rivas
all images are credited to CC Miller Media 2.0