Tawana Bain created the Derby Diversity Business Summit to bring together all diverse small business groups.
“To be visionary is to imagine a better future. To be a leader means putting that vision into action,” says Tawana Bain, the founder and visionary behind the Derby Diversity Business Summit (DDBS), an event where the inaugural year drew an international group to Kentucky during the week of the Kentucky Derby—all focused on the “Power of Intersectionality.”
Bain is both a leader and a visionary who started her first business when she received a $4,000 check for back payment on child support. Receipt of that money found Bain at a crossroads—continue to work for someone else or invest in herself and her vision for a business. Like many entrepreneurs, Bain went with her instincts and bet on herself by founding New Age Communications (NAC), a telemarketing company based in Louisville, Kentucky. And, like other business owners, she was hit with the stark realization that paychecks don’t arrive automatically.
Business was good, but Bain needed a regular income. So, she looked for a job that wouldn’t interfere with building NAC. In the process of interviewing for a position, Bain impressed the hiring company with her ideas so much that they hired her as a supplier and not for the job. With that anchor client, she was able to focus on her vision for NAC and build a successful business, simultaneously.
The story doesn’t end here. Ten years later, NAC lost a major client, which made Bain realize that her business was dependent on only a handful of clients. Facing employee layoffs, Bain decided to diversify. She looked for business channels with high transaction rates for immediate and steady cash flow. NAC transitioned from telemarketing to a project management firm with concentrations in marketing, events and promotional products.
While repositioning NAC in the marketplace, Bain helped her son launch a cutting-edge clothing line—All for Men Threads. He eventually left the business, but Bain teamed up with Dr. Ashley Anderson, an international model, nurse practitioner and wife of former NBA star Derek Anderson, to launch AFM for him. For her, a boutique styling men and women for all occasions…from “uptown to downtown.” AFM for Him. For Her is a collaboration of sisters…two women who have a passion for fashion!
Bain wasn’t finished yet. As a minority- and woman-owned business, certified by both the National Minority Supplier Development Council and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, Bain attended supplier diversity conferences on behalf of her clients and her own companies. In the process, she recognized a void. There was no intersectionality of groups at any conference, no way to meet other diverse small businesses without dipping into the various silos. She discussed her observations with representatives from each diverse group, friends, colleagues and relatives. The feedback to create one high-end event that would be inclusive of all five diverse small business groups was overwhelmingly positive.
Because she wanted to show the world that diversity is embraced and welcomed in Kentucky and especially in Louisville, she chose Derby Week as the backdrop for the conference which is aptly named, Derby Diversity Business Summit. Churchill Downs became an early partner because they recognized Bain’s mission to demonstrate that the face of wealth is changing.
The first DDBS corporate partner was Procter & Gamble. The company’s supplier diversity procurement manager at that time, Andy Butler, understood the need for intersectionality and said, “If not now, when? If not us, whom?”
The mission is simple: to intersect diverse-owned businesses and to promote diversity within the executive workforce and supply chain. The DDBS is an assembled group of inclusive and elite suppliers and executives spanning all diversity categories—minority business enterprises, women’s business enterprises, LGBT business enterprises and veteran’s and disabled business enterprises. Corporate partners have access to businesses with annual revenues that exceed $10 million and many of the country’s top diverse executives.
The DDBS goes a step further in supporting various diverse small business organizations. A portion of the 2019 Summit proceeds will be donated to launch Civitas, the first National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce affiliate in Louisville. This will be the first and only chamber for the LGBTQ community in Kentucky.
Bain could say “mission accomplished”, but her work is far from over. She’s growing her personal business portfolio with a restaurant and bar on 4th Street in Louisville, with ample event space to support her other businesses. And, she is continuing to follow her passion and mission to bring intersectionality to supplier diversity through the DDBS.