Changing the Face of Entrepreneurship for Over 30 Years

In recent years, many minority and women business owners in the United States have seen significant contracts with their customers fade away. With relentless supplier consolidation and offshoring, contracts to low-cost suppliers abroad have increased, and extensive outsourcing has become a standard way of doing business in many industries. This is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.
Low-cost suppliers in distant countries provide a competitive alternative, and many of these suppliers are also run by entrepreneurs of color. Yet, corporations that are a major source of contract opportunity for U.S. minority- and woman-owned businesses still seek suppliers that contribute to higher performance, lower costs, and higher profits. So, how can domestically based business owners respond? What approaches can be substituted for resignation or a futile retreat from global competition?

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At just a tad over five feet tall, Necole Parker is a high-heeled, fast-moving ball of energy whose stature in project management belies her physical height. In less than a decade, Parker has exhibited a boldness, resilience, perseverance, and faith that have helped build her firm, The ELOCEN Group, into a multimillion-dollar business in what is traditionally a male-dominated industry.

“Women have to walk three times as fast,” she says. “That means staying ahead of the game, staying ahead in your business, and actually staying ahead in the market—being in the know, being able to network in the right places, and being able to be the only woman in the room.”zs

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At Shell, we believe that the business case for diversity and inclusion—that an inclusive team produces better business results—applies to both our workforce and our supply chain. For almost 40 years, Shell has had a commitment to supplier diversity, and has stayed on the leading edge of evolving practices to drive for an inclusive supply chain. Now, that commitment has led us to a paradigm shift in the way we approach supplier diversity.

First, let me say where we are right now. We have added over $150 million in new small, minority and woman-owned business (SMWBE) spend over the past three years, mainly through a focus on supplier development and capacity building.

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As a 25-year veteran of economic development programs aimed at leveling the playing field in strategic sourcing within the government and commercial sectors, I have participated in countless meetings where major organizations address their game plan to improve parity in workforce, supply chain, and organizational culture. Every so often I witness a game changing strategy that disrupts the status quo by ushering in an effective leadership approach to deliver measureable outcomes. Among the big four professional sports leagues in the U.S., Major League Baseball (MLB) is at the top of the leaderboard with its Diversity Business Summit, which will be held March 8-9, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona, and is co-hosted by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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Whether starting or growing a business in Toronto, Canada or Tokyo, Japan or in Tanzania, East Africa, most women face daunting forces in the process. In particular, due to the historic effects of apartheid, women business owners in South Africa, and especially black women business owners, still struggle to break down the barriers to doing business with government and private sector organizations in their country and abroad.
Several government and private organizations now exist in South Africa to help women legitimize their status as business owners and strengthen their position with local and global suppliers. The South African government is in the process of implementing its Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) program. Delegates to last year’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit held in Washington, D.C. gave a nod to the efforts of women business owners in both countries. 

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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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