Building The Next…
Debra Jennings-Johnson helms the 2018 Chicago Business Opportunity Fair
It took a minute to catch up with the ever-active Debra Jennings-Johnson, sr. director of Supplier Diversity for BP America, Inc., but it was well worth the wait. Jennings- Johnson is one of two honorary chairpersons for the 51st Annual Chicago Business Opportunity Fair (CBOF) scheduled for April 24–25, 2018. She holds this honor along with her colleague Doug Sparkman, chief operating officer, Fuels, North America, BP America. According to Jennings-Johnson, BP America has been involved with CBOF since its inception 50 years ago and, in fact, was one of the founding partners. For Jennings-Johnson it is an honor for her, personally, as well as BP America, Inc. to have been a part of this event for the duration.
BP America has been an active member in the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council (ChicagoMSDC) and National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) for well over 50 years. Jennings-Johnson shared that the council does a great job in recruiting and nurturing minority businesses, making Chicago a place where minority business enterprises thrive. What other community can boast more than 50 years of positive economic impact for minority-owned businesses? Of course, none of this would have happened if it had not been for the support and sponsorship of companies like BP America. She said that working with the other companies on the ChicagoMSDC board has helped create the successes the member minority business enterprises (MBEs) have enjoyed.
BP America is hosting workshops, a breakfast and will be participating in one-on-one matchmaking sessions at the upcoming CBOF. The theme this year is “Building The Next…” When asked the obvious question, “The next what?” Jennings-Johnson responded that the “next” is building on the foundation that has been laid; preparing for future opportunities with advanced technologies; and, staying relevant. The “next” could be tied up neatly in relevance. Organizations like NMSDC and its regional partners like the ChicagoMSDC must stay relevant by always searching for the “next” in order to best support their MBE and corporate constituents. Minority business enterprises must stay relevant by always searching for the “next” in innovative products and services.
Jennings-Johnson and Sparkman understand the need for helping foster minority businesses, supporting innovation and providing relevance for the organizations that have been key to the development of economic successes of minority-owned businesses in Chicago for the past 50 years. Here’s to another 50 years of success for the ChicagoMSDC and its MBE and corporate members. Small business is the key to economic growth and empowered, successful minority-owned businesses are leading the way.