First Published as “TriState Minority Business Outlook Filled with Change, Optimism and Opportunity” on CNN iReport

The summer of 2014 may very well be a turning point for a number of minority businesses across the country as they reevaluate and re-position themselves to be more of a force in the ever-growing diverse and globalized economy.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently announced that the unemployment rate is down 1.2 percentage points from May of 2013 to May of 2014. They further indicated that the unemployment rate held at 6.3 percent, following a decline of 0.4 percentage point in April. The number of unemployed persons was unchanged in May at 9.8 million. Over the year, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons declined by 1.2 percentage points and 1.9 million, respectively.

Corporate Partner Houston-Johnson, Inc., uses strong relationships and strategic planning to grow and expand their business network. (George Addison,

Although these numbers don’t seem impressive to the average person, they do have relevance for an entrepreneur seeking to hire employees to grow, develop, or expand their business.  Organizations like the TriState Minority Supplier Development Council (TSMSDC) and the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) demonstrate their commitment to supporting a more diverse and inclusive business culture from a “No Limits – Just Opportunities,” perspective by helping their minority business enterprise (MBE) members overcome and navigate the real and perceived barriers of business, while simultaneously embracing the unlimited possibilities.

TSMSDC and NMSDC key competencies. (George Addison,

The reason for such optimism, according to Cheri Henderson, President of the TriState Minority Supplier Development Council, is that “minority businesses have yet to collectively take full advantage of the opportunities garnered through their business networks and relationships.  The New consolidated TriState council which includes Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia has enhanced its ability to incorporate and expand services that greatly benefit its MBE and corporate membership while simultaneously positioning TriState for sustainable long-term success.”

NMSDC President, Joset Wright-Lacy, stated that she believes a new mindset is required by all who seek to obtain access to opportunity.  She added, “I think one of the things we have to do from a business mindset is to really embrace the “No Limits – Just Opportunities” concept.  However, it means that we have to apply ourselves to becoming more capable MBE’s. If we’re corporate members, we have to figure out how we build very robust supplier development diversity programs and that means commitment.  We’ve had a lot of changes within the last year that will, hopefully, make us more strategically focused on our four key competencies which are to first: Certify Minority Firms – and promote the value of certification; secondly, Develop our MBE and Corporate Member Network – and build capacity and capabilities; third, Connect our MBE’s to each other and corporate members; and finally, Advocate for the use of minority suppliers –and promote the value proposition of minority supplier development within the supply chain.”

The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) is known for its efforts to continuously advance business opportunities for Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American-owned companies and encourages mutually beneficial economic connections between minority suppliers, the public and private sectors in order to build a more equitable environment  and society for the promotion and support of minority business development.

Darryl Thompson, Manager of Economic Development and Supplier Diversity for Fayette County Schools (seated) listens to a prospective supplier. (George Addison,

Mark Lackey, Executive Vice President of Process Excellence and first time attendee to the recently held TriState MSDC conference in Louisville, Kentucky said his expectations for networking where modest but he found many businesses to be encouraging.  He added, “I knew there where corporations, suppliers and MBE’s that I’ve never had the opportunity to meet or introduce my business to; so, through networking and making new connections I’ve met several people who have been very open and have shown interest in my business as I am interested in their business.  As a result, my experience has been refreshing because they are such a welcoming group of people.”

Fayette County Public School’s Manager of Economic Development, Darryl Thompson, often takes part in networking events organized by TSMSDC and other similar organizations.  Thompson says these events play a key role in his organization’s strategic planning, adding, “This is a great opportunity to look at what we’ve done in the past, look at what we are doing and do something different.  Business is based on relationships and everything has connectivity.  So, what we have done is try to create a pool full of those in the workforce, vendors and suppliers that we can tap into in the future.”

Perhaps no one puts it into better perspective than George C. Fraser, Chairman and CEO of FraserNet, Inc. Fraser is a leading network guru and author quite familiar with building successful relationships via networking.  CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Black Enterprise magazine, Tavis Smiley and Stephen Covey regard him as a visionary and masterful teacher.  Known and recognized as a leading authority on economic development, networking and building effective relationships.

The author of three acclaimed books, Success Runs in Our Race; The Complete Guide to Effective Networking in the African-American Community and Race for Success; The Ten Best Business Opportunities for Blacks in America; and Click: Ten Truths to Building Extraordinary Relationships, Fraser has researched, written about and implemented many successful networking strategies throughout the years.

I asked him what entrepreneurs really needed to focus on.  He replied, “It takes teamwork to make the dream work.  Relationships are everything and business is about relationships; and without relationships you have no business.  Without relationships you have no business being in business.  In fact, the business we are all really in is the business of building relationships.  That should be what drives you.  Networking is about giving … not about getting.  That is one of the biggest mistakes people make, because they think it’s about getting.  Wrong.  You give first.  You share and the getting always comes later.”

Vetta Johnson, Director of Client Services for TKT-Nectir greets a visitor during the Tri-State MSDC Business Opportunity Fair held in Louisville, Kentucky. (George Addison,


Phil Stepteau of the Housing Authority of Louisville discusses available opportunities with an interested supplier. (George Addison,

TSMSDC President Cheri Henderson (3rd from left) and NMSDC President Joset Wright-Lacy (3rd from right) are joined by board members and corporate partners as they cut the ribbon to open the 2014 Business Opportunity Fair.. (George Addison,

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