Minority businesses ‘level-up’ at MMBC forum, June 18-20

Growth opportunities surge as MMBC celebrates 30th anniversary


Capital resources, technical assistance, networking and scalability – each of these topics is vital for minority entrepreneurs seeking growth. They’re equally important for major corporations seeking supplier diversity.

The Memphis Minority Business Council (MMBC) Continuum will highlight these topics and more during the 2019 Economic Development Forum (EDF). This year’s EDF is set for June 18-20 at the Guest House at Graceland. Registration is required for the conference, now in its 12th year.

In a recent YouTube video promoting the 2019 EDF, MMBC president and CEO Jozelle Luster Booker notes the forum theme, Building a Diverse and Inclusive Economy: The Path Forward for Sustainable Growth.

“This year’s forum is ‘the place’ to start a conversation that could make a difference,” Booker said.

As one of the largest economic development conferences in the Mid-South, EDF attracts thousands of participants annually, including Fortune 500 CEOs, purchasing executives, prominent speakers, elected officials, national thought leaders, minority and women business enterprise (MWBE) owners, and young aspiring minority entrepreneurs.

In addition to breakfast speakers, luncheon keynotes and seminars on a wide range of innovative strategies, a key feature of the forum is the opportunity for networking on the final day. “The Power Zone,” is an all-day exhibit hall and hub for meeting corporate decision makers and civic leaders that could become partners in joint ventures.

In 2017, Booker took the helm at MMBC, which was originally established as part of the Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce in 1973. By 1989, MMBC had become a well-respected, independent organization with its own board of directors and new strategies for minority business development.

As MMBC celebrates its 30th anniversary, Memphis is experiencing a rebirth in construction development, with $3 billion in new investments and fresh commitments to supplier diversity and inclusion from city leaders and local corporations.

MMBC Continuum, an economic development accelerator for Stage II MWBE owners, tracks and drives local, regional and national growth opportunities.

Minority entrepreneurs who join MMBC gain access to multiple services, including strategic business advice, technical assistance, loans, partnering opportunities and help with becoming a sought-after “certified” MWBE through the Unified Certification Agency and listed in the MMBC directory.

MMBC Continuum operates Tennessee’s only Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) under the U.S. Department of Commerce. That makes MMBC one of only 43 centers in the country providing assistance with public and private sector opportunities at the national level in addition to offering local resources, services and networks.

According to a survey by Small Business Trends magazine, small minority business ownership grew by 45 percent across the U.S. in 2018, up from 15 percent in 2015. Memphis, which is 64 percent African American, is positioned to significantly expand its minority business base through MMBC and other programs including (but not limited to):

The 800 Initiative – Launched in 2018, the City of Memphis plans to grow revenues of 800 minority-owned businesses (with paid employees) by $50 million in five years. Led by the Office of Business Diversity and Compliance, the initiative is funded by $500,000 from the City and $1 million by FedEx.

Inner City Capital Connection – Launched in 2015, this tuition-free leadership training program prepares minority entrepreneurs for long-term, sustainable growth through capacity training, one-one-one coaching and capital sourcing. The ICCC partnership includes FedEx, Regions Bank (which provides capital coaching), City of Memphis and Memphis Regional Chamber.

EPIcenter – Launched from the Memphis Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle in 2014, this agency provides equitable access to networks, capital, ideas and customers, and is working to develop 500 new businesses by 2024. EPIcenter is committed to growing an inclusive economy that benefits all Memphians in the city’s diverse population.

MMBC collaborates with these initiatives and many others to strengthen the Mid-South’s economy through minority business growth.

Sponsors and exhibitors for the 2019 EDF include: MMBC, MBDA, FedEx, Autozone, International Paper, ServiceMaster, First Tennessee Bank, Baptist Memorial Health Care, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, iHeartMedia, Inc., and Memphis International Airport.

(To register for the forum, or to secure exhibitor space, visit http://buildmybiznow.com or call 901-525-6512.)