Next week is the National Minority Supplier Development Council’s Conference and Opportunity Fair in San Antonio, Texas. Angelique Solorio, our Corporate Outreach Diversity Manager, will be attending along with Fran Garfinkel, one of our Account Executives. We’ve been a member of the NMSDC for over 20 years and our pending attendance at the conference got me thinking about being an MBE and the importance of organizations like the NMSDC.
When my wife Maria and I started ATR International, Inc., Maria had previous experience in recruiting and job placement through a program that helped people without a high school degree find work. I had experience from the other side, so to speak, having worked as an engineer on contract assignments for several years. I saw there was a need for a firm that specialized in placing technology and engineering consultants, for the benefit of both clients and contractors. With our combined knowledge and experience we felt we could create a successful company that filled a business need.
Still, having a good idea and creating a successful company are two different things. In between is a lot of hard work. Maria worked two jobs for the first few years, and we both worked long, long hours. For our daughter, Andrea, ATR’s office became a second home. I can confirm what many of you suspect and some of you already know – starting a business requires a huge leap of faith and a little bit of crazy. If you knew what you were getting into at the start maybe no new businesses would ever be created! Thank goodness there are always people willing to take that leap and ignore the doubts. New businesses are the backbone of the continued growth of the economy and MBEs are an important part of that; they accounted for 50% of the growth for all new businesses in the US between 2002 and 2007. We all have a vested interest in supporting and encouraging new business creation.
New businesses are generally small businesses in the beginning – even corporate giants like Starbucks, McDonalds or Walmart started somewhere as a single enterprise. New business owners need support, and smaller businesses benefit greatly from assistance and advice as they are starting out. Programs that help level the field against larger more well-known businesses, help new enterprises establish a foothold and gain traction to grow. MBEs, like all small businesses, benefit from this assistance. The truth is that no one succeeds alone. I think any business owner will agree that help from mentors, colleagues and industry peers – just to name a few – was invaluable in getting their business off to a good start and remaining successful.
When we started out it was just the two of us in an office and now we are a much larger company, with multiple offices across the US. Our growth and success was possible in part because of the support we received from the MBE community. Tapping into the collective knowledge of other owners through participation in various industry groups was instrumental. Utilizing corporate and government programs that helped explain and train us for navigating the somewhat complex processes involved with working with Fortune 1000 companies and their procurement departments was vital. The NMSDC is one of the key resources for MBEs.
We’ve been a member since 1992 and are still benefitting from their services. Whether it is attending a local chapter event or the national conference, taking advantage of their resources, or becoming certified through their program, if you are an MBE, you should work with them. Established businesses that want to work with MBEs will also find the NMSDC a great partner in linking them to reputable, qualified MBEs that can meet their business needs. It’s a wonderful two-way street that benefits everyone. As a “senior” MBE in the community, ATR is pleased to share our knowledge and experience with others through many outlets, including NMSDC events.
More and more companies are recognizing that having a diverse supplier base is good business all around, not just some “feel good” or “nice to have” program. Companies see a diverse supply chain as a competitive advantage, providing goods and services at competitive rates, bringing in new markets and customers, and offering fresh perspectives resulting in new and better ideas that translate into efficiencies and dollar savings. One of the bigger obstacles for both MBE suppliers and buyers is connecting; finding the right companies to work with. NMSDC does a great job of facilitating this with practical online tools and information, as well as by giving MBEs and the companies that want to hire them opportunities to meet and network.
Angelique and Fran will be at the ATR booth next week in San Antonio. Please stop by and say hello!
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