Expanding innovative programming to enhance value for minority businesses.
History, it has been said, repeats itself—even amidst fractious political agendas, demographic upheaval, and a devastating global pandemic. It’s an adage Adrienne Trimble knows well.
Named president and CEO of the New York-based National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) in 2018, Trimble is determined to kick-start a national economic agenda that, for minority-owned businesses, has all but stagnated.
“The cry we heard in the 1960s is the same cry we’re hearing today,” says Trimble, who previously held diversity and inclusion and supplier diversity leadership positions during her 18-year career at Toyota Motor North America. “The same racial barriers and issues of inclusivity, diversity and racial injustice still exist. But this time, we’re hoping the difference will be in how we address their root causes so all businesses can participate in the marketplace.”
Achieving that goal requires resetting the way NMSDC does business. Under Trimble’s leadership, NMSDC has begun executing a new strategic plan for refreshing its longterm vision focused on economic inclusion, enhancing its value for its more than 13,000 certified minority businesses and approximately 1,500 corporate members, and updating its infrastructure to better support 23 regional councils.
“When we talk about economic inclusion, we’re moving away from just supplier diversity. We’re talking about the impact, such as job creation, these businesses have on underserved and underrepresented communities,” explains Trimble. “It’s important we have our voice at the table with policymakers and leaders, so they understand the challenges minority businesses face and implement policies that eradicate those barriers.”
The global pandemic provided an opportunity for NMSDC to exercise its voice. Working with other advocacy groups, NMSDC successfully lobbied the White House and Congress for $10 billion in Paycheck Protection Program stimulus funding to be channeled through Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), which generally are more responsive to local community needs than midsized and large banks. Minority-owned businesses, argued NMSDC, not only produced more than $400 billion in economic output that created or preserved 2.2 million jobs, they also generated $49 billion in tax revenue.
NMSDC has also launched its own programs to help minority businesses recover from pandemic-related shutdowns and last summer’s civil protests. One of those programs, In This Together, has already raised $2 million in corporate funding. Separately, the NMSDC Business Consortium Fund, a CDFI, in partnership with Midwest BankCentre, has provided $8 million in loans to minority-owned microbusinesses.
“Given that everything today is political and about racial justice, we have the opportunity to reposition minority businesses as being of paramount importance to the U.S. economy,” says Trimble. “It gives us the opportunity to lay the groundwork for them in terms of resources, capability, capacity and innovation for the future.”
That groundwork goes beyond NMSDC’s standard offerings, such as minority business enterprise (MBE) certification, networking, matchmaking and education. It includes best practices and innovative programming that enhance the value NMSDC provides minority businesses and its corporate members. The organization is assessing the programs its 23 regional affiliates are conducting to identify best-in-class programs that can be quickly replicated nationally. For example, programs offered by the Southern Region Minority Supplier Development Council, which serves Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, have excelled at engaging the next generation of entrepreneurs and seasoned business owners.
NMSDC’s programs also extend internationally. The Global-Link International Program, a partnership involving five organizations spawned by NMSDC, replicates NMSDC’s operating model and focuses on sourcing and partnership opportunities in Australia, Canada, China, South Africa and United Kingdom.
With such a broad portfolio of programs and services, technology will be increasingly important in helping NMSDC adapt to a new operating environment. A good example is the October 2020 NMSDC Conference and Business Opportunity Exchange, which moved from a destination-based event to a virtual one.
“We knew that, because of the pandemic, the connection between corporate members and MBEs would be more critical than before,” says Trimble, a graduate of Wilberforce University, a private historically Black university in Ohio. “Because of the technology we adopted, primarily Zoom, we recruited speakers and secured resources that we otherwise would not have been able to access. Removing travel barriers made the event more accessible.”
Trimble plans to adopt other technology to improve NMSDC’s regional and national operations, specifically in its networks, databases and systems. The organization also has begun evaluating a shared-network strategy for cost-effectively purchasing accounting, insurance, marketing and other outside services.
Being recruited to lead NMSDC through this transition was a natural for Trimble. “The leadership positions I’ve held prepared me for this,” she says, referring to her experience with business process improvement. “They’ve taught me how collaboration and consensus help us move forward. And they’re now helping me shape an NMSDC for the future.”
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