New ABL chair wants to continue to grow, scale Black-owned businesses in metro Atlanta
At 32, Ryan Wilson will be one of the youngest chairmen in the organization’s 90-year history.
By Allison Joyner
On Tuesday, Jan. 31, the Atlanta Business League (ABL) starts its 90th-anniversary celebration with a new board of directors chaired by the CEO and co-founder of The Gathering Spot Ryan Wilson.
“I’m focused on Black folks. Focused on finding ways to connect Black folks and that’s at the Atlanta Business League,” Wilson said.
Wilson, also the Chief Community Officer at the digital banking platform Greenwood, is not taking this opportunity lightly. He is excited to be in this leadership role and looks forward to working with the new board and ABL members.
Founded by Booker T. Washington during the turn of the 20th Century, the ABL’s purpose is to support businesses owned by African Americans and to help implement programs, policies and legislative initiatives to help foster those businesses and Black entrepreneurs.
Now, 90 years later, one of the South’s first business organizations continues to fulfill its mission.
“We have entrepreneurs that are just starting, entrepreneurs that are in the middle of their game and folks that have retired and are still around telling us about what they did,” Wilson said.
He has already hit the ground running to implement his goals while in office.
“Any organization that is on the front lines of making sure that we are trying to help companies start and scale [their businesses] was something that I wanted to be a part of,” Wilson said. “I knew that if I was in that environment that would help our business too.”
He told SaportaReport that his first goal as chairman is to help close the wealth gap in the city by continuing to grow Black businesses — an essential part of the city’s economy.
“We’ve got to protect Black-owned companies in the city and make sure that they still are part of the engine that drives the city in the way it has for a long time,” Wilson said.
When Wilson and his business partner, TK Petersen, had to close their members-only workspace during the pandemic, they continued their focus on people, building connections and constantly networking which was the catalyst for how they could keep their business alive.
Connecting and networking helped open their second and third locations in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles.
“I’m grateful the community stuck with us. We were not getting smaller as an organization through COVID, which is a tremendous blessing,” Wilson said, “but it’s part of what helped us move forward by staying focused on the thing that we’ve always been focused on.”
Whether it’s adjusting to life in a COVID world or other trials and tribulations that come with starting a company, Wilson always believed that if he focused on what is helpful for African Americans, that would get him through whatever challenges that may come.
“We were focused on the problem we were trying to solve, not the symptoms of another issue,” Wilson said. “It was helpful because we dedicated the time to build more clubs.”
Wilson is now focused on continuing the legacy of the ABL and celebrating its 90th anniversary. He plans to maintain the informative events and seminars they are known for but wants everyone to know that the work will continue.
“This is a working year and it’s not going to be a year of celebration,” Wilson said. “I look at the 90th year as an opportunity to talk about our past and specifically emphasize our future, knowing that the challenges for Black-owned businesses are not getting smaller.”
Wilson added that he refuses to be part of a generation that watched a meaningful organization, like the ABL, deteriorate in front of his eyes. Instead, he wants to preserve it for the generations ahead.
“I see myself as a part of a continuum and a part of a long history of people that have been doing this work for a long time,” Wilson said, “and it’s just my time in that chain to continue to push the effort forward.”
He wants to encourage all Black business owners, creators and entrepreneurs to consider joining the ABL community.
“Whether you’re looking for a community of people that can help you grow and scale your own business or you want to be a part of a community where you can give back to the folks around you leveraging the things that you’ve learned, this is the organization that needs your participation,” Wilson said.
Click here to find out more.
Leave a Comment