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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.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!
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with their contact information and we will share it via our online Resource Page on www.mbemag.com.
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.
MBE's Business Opportunities resource covers business-related financing, consulting, and programs available for the Supplier Diversity community and M/WBEs. Updated monthly.
MBE's M/WBE Resource Directory is a comprehensive list of resource organizations (including links) that support the Supplier Diversity community and M/WBEs.
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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