Tawana Bain, founder of the Derby Diversity & Business Summit | Courtesy of DDBS

When Insider Louisville caught up Monday with Tawana Bain, the founder of the Derby Diversity & Business Summit, she reported having only a 1% charge on her phone. It was go-time for Bain and a huge team of volunteers to do last-minute preparations for her annual summit, which starts on Wednesday, May 1, with a new cultural event, hence, the battery drain.

After she charged up and over stealth bites of a late lunch, Bain explained why the diversity summit is timed for Derby Week.

“The reality in this world, for things to change, people have to have access to each other,” she said. For so long, the Derby was not an event that all felt welcome, she added. “The only way to change that perception is to be present.”

Theo Edmonds | Courtesy

The new kickoff to the summit is called GENXYZ, which came together with help from Theo Edmonds, director of the University of Louisville Center for Creative Placehealing, as a way “to catalyze support for Ohio River Valley region entrepreneurs who are people of color, women, and LGBTQ,” they said in a news release.

“This event is everything DDBS stands for, business people from all walks of life collaborating to ignite innovation,” Bain stated.

Edmonds said the idea for it percolated after he hosted a panel for last year’s diversity summit, which “surfaced the importance of intersectionality for business success in the 21st century.”

His research at UofL focuses on understanding the cultural drivers of innovation, Edmonds noted. “Taken together, Tawana and I thought it important to begin modeling an approach for private sector growth that moved beyond diversity and toward truly inclusive economic expansion across age, gender, race, sexuality, disability, and more.”

Arlan Hamilton, founder of Backstage Capital | Courtesy of DDBS

Headliners include the founder of Backstage Capital, Arlan Hamilton, and the entrepreneur and former United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Matthew Barzun.

According to Edmonds and Bain, GENXYZ is an intergenerational event that aims to find the path forward for entrepreneurship in the region across three themes: expanding power for diverse founders, advancing culture toward inclusion and igniting innovation through university-community-private sector collaboration.

“It’s a known fact that diversity enhances productivity, creativity and success for companies and cities,” Bain said.

The program includes a welcome by Terrez Marriott Thompson, vice president of global supplier diversity for the Coca-Cola Company; insights into the UofL Center for Creative Placehealing’s work to create a Cultural Wellbeing Index; presentations by Gen Z social innovation teams from Jefferson County Public Schools who are part of the Aspen Challenge; lightning talks exploring the intersection of creativity, social justice and entrepreneurship; a conversation with Hamilton; and a discussion facilitated by Barzun of Louisville Magazine, with a group of national and regional VCs, economic advocacy organizations, accelerator leaders and diverse founders.

For Louisville and the region to expand an ecosystem of diverse founders, Edmonds said, it requires a change in the mindset of what a successful entrepreneur looks like.

“Gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, educational attainment, and age are things that accidentally exclude many from being valued as contributors to our region’s innovation economy. GENXYZ marks a culturally responsive expansion of economic opportunity for diverse entrepreneurs who are crucial to our region’s future growth,” he said.

The event will take place on Wednesday, May 1, from 3:30-6:30 p.m. at the Galt House as part of the Derby Diversity & Business Summit. A day pass for the Summit’s May 1 events, including GENXYZ, can be purchased at derbydiversity.com.

Mickey Meece
Mickey Meece is a native of Louisville, a Kentucky Colonel and a graduate of the University of Kentucky. She worked at The New York Times for 13 years in various capacities on the business and features desk, including assistant to the editor, small business editor, weekend editor and staff editor. Mickey served as executive editor of USAA Magazine, the Money magazine for military families, and was an editor for the American Banker newspaper, where she reported on the credit card industry.