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VOL. 11 | NO. 36 | Saturday, September 8, 2018

Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum Helping Local MWBEs Connect, Grow

By Michael Waddell

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For local minority- and women-owned business owners like Will Graham, becoming a member of the Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum (MMBCC) has been a critical piece of her company’s growth. She joined the MMBCC to help connect her medical device special processing business with local medical device manufacturers, suppliers and other medical professionals.

Jozelle Luster Booker, president and CEO of the Mid-South Minority Business Continuum, outside MMBC's office on Madison Avenue. (Memphis News/Houston Cofield)

“They were very helpful in introducing me to senior management at the hospitals and to the medical device OEMs,” said Graham, president of Global Quality Solutions International LLC at 3777 Winchester Road. “They helped with open houses and invited me to a lot of excellent medical device seminars, and as a result of one of their two-day financial seminars I ended up meeting the first banker (First Alliance Bank) who would give us a loan.”

As an economic accelerator of minority- and women-owned businesses, the MMBCC operates with the overarching goal of connecting its members with major CEOs and corporations, mayors and municipalities, the U.S. Department of Commerce, other levels of government, and regional economic development agencies.

The organization counts more than 650 women- and minority-owned business members representing a broad spectrum of industries, along with more than 120 corporate members, partners and strategic alliances.

“Whether you’re a minority or woman-owned business or any business in the general marketplace, we find out what those requirements are for corporations, and then we as a membership organization provide training, scalability, growth opportunities and strategies, and connectivity so that members of our organization can meet the corporate demand,” said MMBCC president and CEO Jozelle Luster Booker.

M/WBE services include training and development, strategic consultation, joint venture opportunities, strategic fits & connections, certification & onboarding, an incubator for underserved industries, best practice information, industry data & trends, strategic business adviser (advocacy), and a business resource gateway.

“That could be anything from sustainability to quality programs to type of IT cybersecurity infrastructure,” Booker said. “So, we work with corporations to find out what they need from any supplier, not just minority or women, and then work with our members to train them so they’re able to compete in the greater marketplace with anybody and be able to provide corporations with products that meet their quality standards and are price competitive.”

Graham’s company, GQSI, offers services like laser marking, cleaning and passivation, and inspection and packaging for medical devices.

“I joined the MMBCC because I knew I wanted to be affiliated with a minority organization because I’m an African-American and also a woman,” Graham said. “Of the industry I’m in, I’m the only black female doing what I do. And from the moment I joined the MMBCC, they embraced me.”

Graham is expecting to see a big uptick in business in the next year due to new medical device mandates on the way requiring barcodes on each device.

Another example of the work done at the MMBCC might be working with developers and general contractors to set up pre-bid meetings with MMBCC members, and then working with members to know when to bid on projects.

The MMBCC got its start in 1973 as the Mid-South Minority Purchasing Council, a department in the Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce that was created after a jobs conference was held in the city. In the late ’80s, GOALs for Memphis, a think tank of 14 Memphis CEOs and senior executives from various industries, decided the department should be pulled out of the chamber and become its own organization.

It was set up as a 501(c)6 membership organization just like the chamber.

“It was started to become a repository of minority businesses that corporate Memphis could tap into and connect with to do business and purchase goods and services,” Booker said.

Over time it evolved, and another organization was created called the Uniform Certification Agency that certified minority-owned businesses and later added women-owned business services to its offerings.

“By working directly with local corporations that were interested in buying goods and services from minorities, we identified gaps in service delivery, training – the kinds of things of that small businesses don’t have access to — so we created a 501(c)3 organization that does all of the training and development for our businesses,” Booker said.

Today, the MMBCC works with its corporate members to identify the goods and services they need, and it works with them on M/WBE requirements for certain organizations or projects.

“Another thing that makes membership in our organization attractive is that everything we do with the corporation is confidential,” Booker said.

The MMBCC also operates the Minority Business Development Agency, an incubator where only ethnic minorities that have businesses with annual revenues in excess of $1 million can become clients. Through that office, the MMBCC has connections to 42 business offices around the country.

Minority Enterprise Development Week takes place Nov. 12-16, and the MMBCC plans to inspire conversations across the community about local companies’ engagement with ethnic minority businesses.

“Those companies that embrace diversity and inclusion perform better with all of the indicators and metrics corporations use to define success,” Booker said. “So we want to create these conversations.”

PROPERTY SALES 0 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 0 131 1,047