Changing the Face of Entrepreneurship for Over 30 Years

Change is inevitable and the changes we have embraced in 2014 have been major. 

In June, we celebrated our 30th Anniversary with a kickoff event in Philadelphia at the WBENC National Conference & Business Fair. One of the highlights of this event a new editorial feature called "WBEs Who Rock" (and later, "MBEs Who Rock") and the unveiling of our new cover design. We will once again celebrate some rockin' entrepreneurs with the 2nd Annual "WBEs Who Rock" and 30th Anniversary Wrap Party during the WBENC National Conference in Austin, Texas, in June.  Contact us at anniversary30@mbemag.com for sponsorship information.

After 30 years, we made the switch from our signature painting to photographs. Based on the favorable commentary, we have made a move in the right direction, and we're not done yet! In addition to a new cover design, we expanded our discussion of global issues to include not only Canada, but the U.K., Australia, Nigeria and South Africa. We will continue to explore issues of diversity and inclusion in the international arena in 2015 and beyond. We have expanded our reach with an increased presence on social media via Twitter and Facebook. And, we also expanded our media offerings to include video and other digital media options. We encourage you to email us at advertising@mbemag.com to learn more.

Finally, we ended the year on an extremely high note with the culmination of our anniversary celebration during National Minority Supplier Diversity Council (NMSDC)'s annual conference. Over 500 guest and dignitaries joined us at SeaWorld in Orlando, FL to help us celebrate our last 30 years and launch us into the next 30. Check out our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/mbemag, to see all the fun.

And, what better time to receive recognition by NMSDC as the 2014 Supplier of the Year in Class 1?  

We couldn't have done it without the support of our many advertisers.  

As we move into the future, we are excited about the direction in which we are headed and the information we will be providing. You can expect cutting-edge new features that notches up the discussion about diversity and inclusion; and the continued commitment to excellence and reporting on issues critical to the growth and development of minority- and women-owned firms.

We have made many strides over the last 30 years, but there is still a lot that needs to be done as evidenced by the continued challenges to diversity and inclusion in the courts, in the boardroom, and on the streets.  

We will keep on fighting the good fight on behalf of economic equality for all communities, and we hope you will join us.

On behalf of Team MBE, I wish you and your families a safe and happy Holiday Season and a Prosperous New Year!

Cheers!

 

From Florida to Ferguson to New York City to Cleveland and other points throughout the country, we are being forced to confront the prevailing issue of race in our country. The images and voices of those involved in nonviolent protests and die-ins have filled our television screens and flooded our social media networks for the past few months. No matter where you stand on the issues of who is right and who is wrong, these incidents have thrust this country's racial problems to the forefront of everyone's mind. Conversations at water coolers, corner stores, living rooms, and most notably social media have all been about our problems.

While discussing racism and it's ugly siblings, unconscious biases and prejudice, can often be uncomfortable, it is necessary. In order for change to occur, we must be willing to talk about the issues. It is only in discussing them openly that we can come to understand our problems and, eventually, develop solutions. While these may seem like social issues and not boardroom issues, similar disparities in business are just as prevalent. There are no end of evidence to support the facts of gender and racial inequality in the boardrooms and on the payroll.

At MBE, we think it's important to continue the conversation and that's why we've launched a new section, “Real Talk”, which is designed to give voice to those topics and ideas that few are willing to address in today’s politically correct world. We hope to propose solutions that each one of us can take part in making a reality. We have also introduced the “State of the State” to give a snapshot of the environment in which our successful cover features do business.

We have always made it our mission to maintain a strong commitment to economic parity as a lasting solution to the ills of poverty and discrimination. We do that by providing a forum for dialogue that will move our world closer to that goal. We invite you to engage with us and let us know your thoughts on the thought-provoking articles within these pages. Cheers!

I have a grave concern that has been nagging at me for many years. It was brought front and center for me again recently when I attended the membership meeting of a local organization which advocates on behalf of its minority businesses in the state. I was at this particular meeting at the invitation of the leadership and also, their guest speaker was one I really wanted to hear from and meet. His organization is embarking on a major project that is expected to bring many jobs and more business to the region.

In the room were a handful of member corporations, a couple of newly-minted minority business members and a few active members, some of which I knew well. While I was late to the meeting, it soon became evident that I was just in time. The discussion had turned to the concerns of the leadership that too many of the recent bid opportunities preclude the ability of smaller operations from participating. The point is very valid given the current climate of “supplier rationalization” as discussed by our Real Talk guest, Todd Gray.

But that is a topic for another time. What caught my attention was the other elephant in the room, or not in the room—members. Where were the minority businesses? It’s not the first time I’ve witnessed this phenomenon and I’m sure it will not be the last. But, the leadership of this and other such organizations go out to the major businesses and work hard to get their attention and consideration. When they succeed and bring them to meet their members, why do so many not reciprocate by showing up?

Some would argue that it is supplier apathy or burn out. Too many times we have witnessed lip service in the name of outreach. And, maybe it is, for some. My concern is, if I pay my dues to belong to an organization that is supposed to advocate on my behalf, it is in the best interest of my business and pocketbook (I think I just dated myself) to support that effort by showing up at more than just the luncheons and dinners (which, by the way, cost extra).

By contrast, when I attend a membership meeting for our local women’s advocacy organizations, these women business owners are front and center. Could it be the marketing? I don’t think so. Maybe it’s the mindset. Regardless, the energy in the room is frequently palpable. We need to see more of this from our minority-owned businesses.

So, I challenge our minority businesses across this country to pay more than lip service to your local advocacy organization. They work for you and like any employee, need to see and feel your appreciation of the efforts they make on your behalf. You don’t have to be a part of the leadership to lead or contribute. Yes, sometimes the topic or speaker is not relevant or of interest, but many times there are other corporations in the room, and they are watching and waiting to see who shows up—in more ways than one.

Cheers!

This past February, I was privileged to be part of a small group of thought leaders, strategic partners, and minority businesses which were convened by the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) for its 2015 MBDA Stakeholder Summit in Washington, D.C. The Summit, entitled “Elevating the Narrative and Direction of Minority Businesses as a National Economic Priority,” was designed to raise the level of awareness, foster discussion, and develop a blueprint to help drive growth and global competitiveness for the nation’s minority business community.

While I’m not sure that developing a blueprint to drive growth could have been accomplished in one day, we certainly had spirited discussions that highlighted some of the needs of the minority business community. As a group, we all agreed that access to capital plays a huge role in the ability of minority businesses to scale up. So what to do? External access in most cases depends on the personal credit of the owner(s) but there are opportunities available via Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and other small independent organizations in pockets around the country. The challenge is to educate these businesses about these access points and how they can prepare themselves to take advantage of opportunities these points represent.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker’s remarks to the group at the Summit highlight a stark reality:
“[the MBDA] faces shrinking budgets, growing demands on its resources, the demand for better data and faster technical assistance, and the need to open up more markets domestically and abroad for minority firms.” She emphasized that it is incumbent on all of us who are in the know to “work together to ensure that everyone advocating for [minority business enterprises]—from MBDA to your organizations to your colleagues across the country—is adapting to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

Interestingly, that same week, I began a 10-week course of study in the 3rd National Cohort of the Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses (10KSB) program at Babson College. I was not quite sure what I had gotten myself into except that I had heard good things about this program and wanted to take advantage of the opportunity it presented to grow our business. Four weeks in and I am feeling the pressure but also learning what I didn’t know and how to put it into action. There are several 10KSB programs in local markets around the country run by community colleges. I encourage you to apply or talk with a CDFI to learn more about what it takes for you to access the capital you need to grow your business to scale.

These pathways to capital are not the only options available to minority and women business enterprises wanting to scale up, so MBE magazine will do our part to educate you about where to find these options. If you know of any who fit this profile, send an email to mbewbe@mbemag.com with their contact information and we will share it via our online Resource Page on www.mbemag.com.

It is with pleasure that I welcome another guest editorialist to this page. Dr. Fred McKinney has been a great friend to the minority business community over the years and is the managing director, MBE Programs, Tuck School of Business . Cheers!

And I am reminded of all those folks who had to count bubbles in a bar of soap, beaten trying to register voters in Mississippi, risked everything so that they could pull that lever. So if I hear anybody saying their vote does not matter, that it doesn’t matter who we elect—read up on your history. It matters. We’ve got to get people to vote.— President Barack Obama at the Congressional Black Caucus Dinner, September 18, 2016 (https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/09/18/remarks-president-congressional-black-caucus-foundation-46th-annual)

I understand that the 1800 presidential election between Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr, Charles Pinckney, and incumbent John Adams was a particularly vicious campaign. Each candidate used the media to portray their competitors as morally and professionally unfit for the office. You can trace the final and fatal duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr to this election.

While so far there have been no duels involving fire arms, this election season has been like no other in recent memory. The only consensus that seems to characterize this election is that there are hard core supporters for each of the two major protagonists, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump ; and there is a significant portion of the electorate that is not firmly in either camp. Ironically it will be those in neither camp and those that don’t vote that will determine who succeeds President Barack Obama.

Minority businesses have a great deal at stake in this election, arguably more than any recent election, including the historic election of Barack Obama. The direction of the Supreme Court hangs in the balance. The next president will nominate and Congress will confirm a new Justice of the Supreme Court. And with that, the Court will either move to correct the errors of past Courts or put the law on the side of minority business development. We tend think that the law is settled on things like Croson, Adarand, and other cases that eliminated or shackled public sector supplier diversity. The law is rarely settled. It is conceivable that a Court with a “liberal” majority will revisit some of these cases or the cases that are sure to present themselves on the topic of minority business development.

But it is more than the direction of the Supreme Court that will be determined in this election. The next president will be in a position to expand federal support for minority and women-owned businesses. The next president will influence whether more federal funds go into community development or prison development. The next president will set the tone on how corporate America interacts with the diverse business community. The next president will influence whether we have a tax system that is fair, efficient, and supportive of small business development. The next president will determine whether we become a forward looking nation or a backward looking one. The next president will determine whether this country continues to move towards greater equality.

Minority businesses must lead our larger community to resist complacency and cynicism. There are 15 million minority and women business owners. We must have our voices heard. Our voice is the vote. Minority business owners must vote, and more importantly, they must encourage their employees, suppliers, and customers to vote. It gets tricky for employers to engage in active promotion of one candidate over the other, but there is nothing that prevents owners from showing their patriotism by putting up signs inside and outside their offices that simply say VOTE!

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MBE Resource Center

MBE's Business Opportunities resource covers business-related financing, consulting, and programs available for the Supplier Diversity community and M/WBEs. Updated monthly.

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MBE's M/WBE Resource Directory is a comprehensive list of resource organizations (including links) that support the Supplier Diversity community and M/WBEs.

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Refer to MBE's Acronyms & Terminology list for frequently used acronyms and terminology and an overview of the major organizations supporting the Supplier Diversity community.

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