On Aug. 18, OWN: The Onyx Woman Network will honor 20 distinguished business owners and business advocates in Pittsburgh’s African-American community.

“It’s important because I don’t think we’ve really shown our appreciation to so many people, not just those that are in business, but those who are advocates of minority business,” said Ola Jackson, OWN founder.


The event at the Hill House Kaufmann Center’s Elsie H. Hillman Auditorium will celebrate leaders in the business community and those who have supported minority business ownership over the years.

The celebration will also commemorate the 20th anniversary of OWN. The communications group encompasses a business magazine and a television talk show that focuses on financial empowerment, career advancement, entrepreneurial development and wellness.

Jackson was inspired to launch the company on Mother’s Day 1991 by her husband and son, who had recently been diagnosed with autism. After deciding to stay at home to spend more time with her son, Jackson’s family pushed her to become self employed in order to fulfill her career aspirations.

“Just the fact that I was able to accomplish my personal objective by being able to start a business has been important to me,” Jackson said. “And to see (my son and my company) both growing parallel and they’re both sustaining.”

Jackson has received several awards including the SBA Minority Champion Award and the New Pittsburgh Courier’s Women of Excellence Award. Now she will take the time to honor others in the business community and those who have helped her and others to reach career milestones.

A special award will be presented for Robert Lavelle, Dwelling House Savings and Loan. The event is co-sponsored by E. Holdings, LLC, FedEx Ground, PNC Bank and Fifth Third Bank.

The other honorees are Janai Williams, principal, E. Holdings, LLC; Ruth Byrd-Smith, Department of Minority, Women & DBE; Grace Robinson, State Farm Insurance; Chris Moore, radio and television personality; Doris Carson Williams, African American Chamber of Commerce; Rod Doss, Editor and Publisher, New Pittsburgh Courier; Eric Strong, Strong’s Cleaners; Lynne Hayes-Freeland, The Lynne Hayes-Freeland Show; Rosemary Crawford, Crawford McDonald, Esq.; Connie Portis, The Pittsburgh Black Directory; Bev Smith, The Bev Smith Show; Vice Chancellor Robert Hill, Public Affairs University of Pittsburgh; Me’chelle Humphries-Hayes, Center of Attraction Hair Salon; James and Pamela Johnson, African-American Music Institute; William Pryor, Pryor Furs; Wrenna Watson, solicitor to the Allegheny County controller; William Robinson, County Council member; Debra Hickman, Giant Eagle Franchise, East Hills; Phillip Petite, Equal Opportunity Review Commission, City of Pittsburgh; and Ronald and Judith Davenport, American Urban Radio Network.

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