Businesses that ‘light the way’ event is Oct. 5

By Laura Carr

Herald Contributor

The Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce hosts an annual Black Business Hall of Fame as a tribute to African American business owners who are ‘lighting the way’ for others. Each company has overcome obstacles in sustaining their business success.

“The companies honored this year include women and men who have lifted others as they strove to grow their businesses,” says African American Chamber President and former Ohio Senator Eric Kearney. “The African American Chamber is one the largest of its kind in the State of Ohio. Our growth has allowed us to continue to advise minority-owned businesses, expand contract opportunities, forge friendships and business partnerships and create wealth.”

The 2018 Black Business Hall of Fame Inductees are:

Cynthia Booth. Photo provided

Cynthia Booth is the president, chief executive officer, and owner of COBCO Enterprises/McDonald’s, a privately held company that owns eight McDonald’s franchises.  She was formerly one of the highest-ranking females at Firstar Bank, currently US Bank.  In 2016, she received the University of Cincinnati Goering Center’s Family & Private Business Award; in 2008, George W. Bush honored her at the White House as an outstanding businessperson; and in 1999, she was recognized as a YWCA Career Woman of Achievement.

Calvin Buford. Photo provided

Calvin Buford is a partner in the corporate department of Dinsmore & Shohl, where his practice encompasses general corporate and business law matters, with emphasis on mergers, acquisitions, and other transactions.  While maintaining his partnership at Dinsmore & Shohl, he served for three years as a loaned executive to the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber where he led the Chamber’s regional economic inclusion initiatives as vice president of economic inclusion and director of the Minority Business Accelerator.

Karen Cooper. Photo provided

Karen Cooper is president & CEO of Onebridge.  With almost 20 years of industry experience and a passion for recruiting, Karen launched her company as SmartIT in 2005 while balancing her career and the demands of a single mom caring for two children, one with special needs.  Since 2010, Inc. 500 has ranked Onebridge as one of the fastest growing privately-owned companies in the country.  With almost 500 employees and consultants, Onebridge is one of the largest woman-owned and minority-owned businesses in Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

Howard Elliott. Photo provided

Howard Elliott is a partner in the management consulting firm, WEB Ventures, where he works to ensure the residents and businesses of Uptown and other urban communities share in the economic benefits of Uptown’s multi-year development initiative.  He is founder and president of Elliott Management Group, a consulting firm providing expertise in supplier diversity and economic inclusion to regional healthcare organizations for the past 20 years.  When Howard retired from Procter & Gamble, his teams had provided more than $4 billion in spend with minority and women owned suppliers.

Clarence Howell. Photo provided

Clarence Howell grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, where he shined shoes to put himself through school.  He moved to Cincinnati when he was only 19 and did double-duty as a crane operator for Cincinnati Milacron while running a shoe repair business on the side.  In 1988, his shoe business had grown to the point where he was able to open shop in St. Bernard with a profitable flow of business. He now holds contracts with major upscale retailers in Kenwood and Amberley Village, and prides himself on treating every customer with personalized service.

The Black Business Hall of Fame dinner, Lighting the Way! is Friday, Oct. 5 at the Sharonville Convention Center, 11355 Chester Road. Corporate sponsors include UC Health, Spectrum, Cintas, Kroger, Dinsmore, XLC Services and Eric and Jan Michele Lemon-Kearney.

The evening begins with a reception at 6 p.m. followed by dinner and program at 7 p.m. with an after party from 9 p.m. until 10 p.m. Business attire is appropriate.

Registration and tickets for the event are available online at More information about the event can also be found on the African American Chamber’s website.

“We gratefully acknowledge the depth and breadth of support from the city of Cincinnati, corporate, community, small and minority businesses and the African American Chamber members,” said Kearney.


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