A “Celebration of Diversity” was the theme as the Mid-South Minority Business Council (MMBC) Continuum held its annual Robert R. Church, Sr. Achievement Awards luncheon and celebration at the Holiday Inn – University of Memphis last week (Nov. 16).
The tone was set at the outset as MMBC President/CEO Jozelle Booker emphasized the significance of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the business sector.
DEI efforts are essential to MMBC, an economic development accelerator for minority and women-owned business enterprises. The organization provides technical assistance, access to capital resources, and business-to-business opportunities for its membership.
In an interview with The New Tri-State Defender, Booker said, “Diversity equates to minority owned-businesses, equity relates to minority and women-owned business enterprises (M/WBEs) being ‘ready, willing and able’ and inclusion connects M/WBEs to procurement opportunities. …
“Building relationships with potential buyers is another aspect for procurement opportunities.”
Amplifying, Booker said while some may prefer online shopping, others may want to see, touch, and try on a product before making a purchase. It was her way of emphasizing the importance of establishing a relationship with a potential buyer before an invitation to bid opens up.
The keynote speaker, Ken Yearwood, associate partner with McKinsey & Company in Chicago, delivered a virtual address, drawing upon research from a business diversity and inclusion whitepaper.
The report indicated that MWBEs can have a positive impact on the economy if there were more supplier diversity programs for the finance, information technology, legal and engineering sectors.
Professional and business services, real estate, finance, insurance and IT accounted for about 40 percent of the GDP in 2020, an increase from 35 percent in 2000, according to the report.
The whitepaper offered recommendations for next-generation supplier diversity programs: partnerships, strategic relationships, joint ventures and investments, and industry groups. Essentially, creating a diverse business ecosystem.
The Robert R. Church, Sr. Achievement Awards saluted excellence: Corporation of the Year, MBDA Business of the Year, Scalable Business of the Year, and Quality Assurance Business of the Year.
“He was an entrepreneur, a forward thinker, a risk taker and visionary,” said Booker, noting that Church was “instrumental in saving the city with the first bond after the yellow fever epidemic.”
Action Janitorial Paper and Safety received the M/WBE Quality Insurance Award.
“Teamwork, attention to detail, customer focus, excellent work environment, and smart people are just a few reasons ACTION JPS has won the Business of Year Quality Assurance Award the last three years,” said Charles Barnes, the company’s president and CEO.
Pete Mitchell and Associates, Inc. received the Scalable Business of the Year Award after being recommended by a client.
“To be recognized as the winner of this great award is humbling and very much appreciated,” said President/CEO George Hilliard.
Memphis Shelby County Schools was selected as the Corporation of the Year.
Joyce Douglas, manager of MSCS’s Minority and Women-Owned Small Business Enterprises (MWSBE), credited the leadership of MSCS board members and Interim Supt. Toni Williams, the district’s chief financial officer. She also pointed to “a great collaboration with Procurement Services and our divisions.
“At MWSBE, opportunity is our business. We believe when we ‘do business’ with local minority and women-owned small business enterprises we are investing back into our economy.”
W&T Contracting Corporation was awarded the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Business of the Year Award.
The family-owned business is guided by twin brothers Wiley Richards and Terrell Richards, who serve as co-presidents. Their website advances their mission:
“Our purpose is to improve our built environment and improve communities.
“Our vision is to exceed stakeholder expectations while fulfilling our purpose.
“Our way of achieving these goals is through continuous improvement and implementing best practices early and often.”
(To learn more about MMBC Continuum, visit www.mmbc-memphis.org.)
(Paula Anderson is a freelance business journalist. She can be reached at [email protected].)