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.

Sexual Harassment and the #MeToo Movement

Although this is our Black History Month issue, sexual harassment has featured so prominently in the news and my thoughts lately, I could not ignore the pull to weigh in on the subject. So, I enlisted a couple of voices from among my colleagues. Evelyn Olson Lamden and Audrey Dempsey recently shared with me their thoughts about the current #MeToo movement.

Olson Lamden: As a young professional back in the 1970’s, my experiences echoed many of those coming forward with other 40-year-old stories. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had not yet been formed, men were still in the driver’s seat in corporations and female managers were a rarity, especially in my industry, tire manufacturing. I had to learn how to be “one of the guys.”

Nevertheless, I decided to just be me and do the best job I could. I assumed there’d be sexual advances and innuendos, and considered it part of my job to navigate. But while the sexual inferences haven’t changed, the attitudes of women have. So, now I will say something that may not be popular…

I support the reason why #MeToo is necessary, but feel that some may have taken it too far. We have made men fearful to compliment a woman. I also believe we have different definitions of what constitutes sexual harassment, and that the punishments for real harassment should not be the same as for correctable offenses and occasional bad judgement on the part of most men. I don’t appreciate women who think it’s okay to destroy a man’s career over what might be a minor offense, but do support women who have legitimate claims of harassment and threats if they don’t comply.

Let’s keep #MeToo for the real victims, and not the rest of us who were slightly offended by improper actions. Let’s not water down the effectiveness of such a campaign and risk losing our credibility.

Dempsey: As someone who was raped as a teenager, I have my own take on the situation. I had to take some responsibility for what happened as I had too much too drink and couldn’t stop what happened. The worse part was that I told my mother the next day and she didn’t believe me. “He’s a nice Jewish boy that’s going to be a lawyer.” Through the years, I have had many instances where I was a victim of harassment but I always had the opportunity to say “no” and I did. As a true romantic who was always looking for love in the wrong places, I got into some tricky situations but somehow I still managed to say “no.”

My concern today is identifying the difference between inappropriate behavior and real abuse. I’m glad women are speaking up but I hope that their claims are real. It seems to have become a craze. If I tease a guy in fun and put my hand on his leg, is that abuse that should get me fired?/

I believe women and men should speak up when inappropriate behavior is happening to make it clear it is unacceptable. When someone says “no” and the situation continues, that’s a problem. People now have a platform to speak out until someone listens, but like anything else it should not be abused either. People’s lives depend on the truthfulness of these allegations. All of us need to examine our actions and motives and ask ourselves “Is this appropriate behavior?” The issue truly is about having respect for all people, including ourselves./

Thank you, ladies, for your candor. Much disadvantage has been taken, by men, of the attitude of male superiority perpetrated by previous generations. I agree that it is well past time for women to be taken more seriously in regard to their issues and complaints. They should not be shrugged off as insignificant but neither are they to be treated as one-size-fits-all. It is my hope that in the drawing of the line, the punishment fits the crime.

And here is where you come in. What are your thoughts? Do you agree? Is there a line and where should it be drawn? Tweet, Facebook or email me your response, #Me2Take2 #MBEmag, and we will share it with our readers and followers. Let’s keep the dialogue going. Evil deeds cannot thrive in the light of revelation.

Cheers!

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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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