For minority and women supplier diversity business entrepreneurs

In this, our 30th Anniversary issue, I thought it appropriate that we hear from our founder. So I asked Ginger Conrad to once again grace the Publisher's Page with her thoughts. -Barbara Oliver

 

I am seldom at a loss for words, but I now find myself wondering what of value I might say after a 3-year absence from the day-to-day concerns of publishing. How do I express what 30 years of this magazine has meant to its readers? Perhaps a look back to the beginning might be in order. 

Equal opportunity for minority and women business owners was a relatively new idea in 1984 when I decided that starting a business would be easier than looking for a new job. After doing a bit of research, it was clear that the issues confronting businesses that were government contractors, large and small, were not going to disappear without some "affirmative" action on their part. This was a topic that I thought was worthy of discussion in the press-hence, MBE magazine. 

As with any path in life, it was often a bumpy road. But we were committed to supporting the cause of equal opportunity for small, minority- and woman-owned businesses. Following the lead of Congressman Parren Mitchell and other stellar leaders, progress was made, not mile by mile, but inch by inch. Ralph Thomas, Anthony Robinson, Hank Wilfong, Harriet Michel, Susan Phillips Bari, and many others stepped into the fray and kept the momentum going. It was an exciting time and we are happy to have been a part of it. 

Yet we wonder if the zeal has diminished. Have we become complacent? Who continues to fight for the cause? Who are our leaders of tomorrow? Who will answer the call to action?  

It is my fervent hope that every reader stands up and says, "I will. I will do my part. I will do my best to meet the challenges and carry the torch for minority- and woman-owned businesses." 

I am sure that everyone on the staff of MBE magazine will work to continue to tell the stories, report the progress, and discuss the issues. MBE will be around until the job is done…whenever that is…as long as it takes. For now, on this 30th Anniversary, we will salute the past, treasure the memories, and keep marching forward.

 

--Ginger Conrad

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Wow! What a month June turned out to be! We debuted a new look on the cover of our May/June issue and the response was nothing short of amazing. Everyone was very complimentary. 

Then, we had a rocking 30th Anniversary Launch Reception during the WBENC National Conference and Business Fair in Philadelphia. Our thanks once again to co-host Mortgage Staffing Solutions, entertainment sponsor, Grady Health System, and WBENC.

 

Out with the old…

This response to our new look and subsequent conversations prompted us to make the decision to use photographs for our covers going forward-beginning with our September/October 30th Anniversary Issue. The painting of a minority and/or woman business on our front cover has been one of our signatures for the last 30 years but it is time to make a change.

We have had several artists over the years but the most recent, Robert Sherrill, has been with us for the last 10 years. While in high school, Robert competed in regional shows and did scenic backdrops for school plays. He got a job as a technical draftsman following graduation. He then entered Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, to further his perspective. Painting was where Robert's passion lay, so he began having art shows anywhere possible-antique stores, cafes, etc. Then some commercial opportunities revealed themselves in the form of designer and art director. As he said, "It was fun and prosperous, but not painting." Now, he paints upon commission, figures, landscapes and urban areas.

This issue's cover portrait is Robert's last for MBE magazine and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors, wherever they may take him. I encourage any of our cover features since 2004, who have not already done so, to reach out to him at rsherrill@earthlink.net, find out how you may purchase your portrait. Thank you, Robert. You have been a true asset to our publication.

Please visit our Pinterest page, www.pinterest.com/mbemag, to view our cover portraits from the past 30 years. And, be sure to keep an eye out for your invitation to our 30th Anniversary Experience at SeaWorld Orlando on November 1.

Cheers!

 

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I had the pleasure of speaking with a young woman from one of the Eastern European countries earlier this month. She told me of her start in business. She came to the U.S. as an adult, having no knowledge of English. The only job she could find was at the 7-Eleven. But this was not her American Dream. She worked hard to learn the language but still could not find a job that satisfied that dream.

So, she decided to start her own business. According to her, "Since I was the only one who wanted to hire me, then I decided to hire me."

What does it take to be an entrepreneur-to strike out on your own and hire yourself?

Well, you need courage to face the uncertainty of the future-courage to overcome the internal voice that tells you that failure is likely, courage to step out from under the security umbrella that comes with having a steady job. It takes a person who is brave enough to take the first step toward an endeavor and be the final say-to know that their success (and often the success and security of others) relies on them entirely, to know that the buck stops with you.

That's the kind of courage that Hiten Patel (Going All In) had when he acquired the company that is today known as Collabera. He took the chance, left the corporate world, and braved the unknown. But, courage alone is not enough. It also takes vision-the kind that Hernan Etcheto (An Incredible Edible) had when he looked at an egg and saw more than meets the eye. He saw the potential for improvement. And so he went out on his own to make that improvement. His new product represents a major step forward for the food sciences with benefits for our service men and women and many others living in places where fresh food isn't a luxury that they can afford.

It takes tenacity-the kind Lisa Michelle Chretien (Making Moves) showed when she burst into an industry dominated by men with little experience running a business. Chretien, who today has contracts with some of the most impressive trade show regulars, didn't throw her hands in the air and give up in the face of S-corps and C-corps, neither did she when she looked around the room and saw few female cohorts. She was going to start her own business in the trade show industry, and that was final. If tried and failed-fine. But she was going to try.

Most of all, I believe it takes a strong belief in one's self and the willingness to work hard. That's what these entrepreneurs had and that's what they did. That young lady is very successful now and I hope one day soon to be able to tell her story in our pages. Until then, we will continue to celebrate your successes through courage, vision, and tenacity, by telling your stories. But, remember, we won't know them unless you share them with us. Go ahead and connect with us via social media or just drop us a line when you have something to say. 

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Did you notice anything different when you picked up the magazine today? Perhaps, a new cover design caught your eye. So, now that you've seen this special cover, what do you think?  

MBE is innovating but deeply rooted in a rich tradition of brand that brings the supplier diversity community to life. So, no, we are not changing our signature look. However, we are excited about this month's cover design because we wanted to reflect the bold and creative visions of the enterprising women that are covered inside this issue's pages. These women, along with the subjects of our profiles and others mentioned here, represent the next generation of supplier diversity. 

They are smart, bold, confident, and fearless. They have been possessed by a vision of their businesses and made moves to pursue it. These women do not take no for an answer-and they know how to leverage their certification and relationships to build alliances. 

This is our Women's Issue and we have it packed with a lot of progesterone. It's a woman's world, after all-and this becomes truer every day. Perhaps the most inspiring theme that emerges in story after story is one of collaboration and teamwork. Competition, while still a reality, has taken a back seat to an attitude that seeks to win contracts and tackle tasks in conjunction with their peers, and not against them. 

The theme of a common struggle and working to make the world more accessible for minorities and women, who will be pursuing their own dreams of business ownership in the future, is as consistent as collaboration. These women are cognizant of their own battles and work not only to make their own way in the world, but also to prepare that way for other entrepreneurs. 

From Donna Stevenson's successful software solution for MWBE contract and compliance management to the resounding successes of the 14 WBENC Stars, you'll find the stories of the remarkable industry leaders within these pages will inspire you, educate you and entertain you. So, enjoy the new look, read and share our stories. This is our tribute to the women of our world.

Cheers!

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Do diversity suppliers make an effort to do business with each other?

That's the question a member of the Alliance of Supplier Diversity Professionals LinkedIn group asked about three months ago. The question intrigued me, so I posed it to MBE's LinkedIn group members as well as our local Minority Business Enterprise Input Committee (MBEIC) LinkedIn group. A consensus emerged in the responses-while many diverse suppliers make an attempt to do business with one another; there is a tremendous amount of room for improvement.

Much of the focus within the supplier diversity community is on doing business with major corporations-selling products and services to them, becoming a meaningful part of their supply chain. If we ever hope to walk the walk with one another, we have to start to talk the talk with one another. One of the easiest ways to start to develop new minority- and woman-owned (M/WBE) business-to-business connections is by bringing those business relationships to the same level of conversational prominence as business with corporations.

Supplier diversity is not an end in and of itself-it is only good in so far as it accomplishes the building of wealth in underserved and underutilized communities, only good if it brings the people in the margins out of them. Integration into the corporate supply chain is an excellent way to accomplish that goal, but it shouldn't stop there. If, as a community, we expect others to utilize our services, we ought to be the first to utilize them for our own businesses.

As part of this effort, we need to develop the tools to make sure certified M/WBE suppliers are just as accessible to other certified M/WBEs as they are to major corporations. With technology as an ally, no one should be left to wonder if they could have hired a diverse supplier but didn't because of a lack of information. The local and national councils are perfectly positioned to accomplish this.

The Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) has always made access to its certified WBEs available through its WBENCLink website. There, corporate members and WBEs alike are able to search and find WBE partners and suppliers. Is it any wonder there are more WBE-to-WBE connections being made every day? Now, the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) is poised to do the same for its corporate members and certified minority businesses.

Perhaps then these new relationships can develop into business partnerships whereby M/WBEs can start to bid on contracts that would be too large for many smaller, individual firms. Using these newly formed partnerships, M/WBEs can take on major projects not as buyer-supplier-but as peers working together toward a single goal.

There is a real opportunity for the sum to become something greater than its parts. So, to paraphrase a slogan, BUY DIVERSE!

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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