The benefits of networking and partnerships in business.
Ronda Jackson, founder and principal designer of Décor Interior Design, Inc., recently completed not only the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce (GLAAACC) Business Evolution Program (BEP), but simultaneously graduated from the Southern California Minority Supplier Development Council’s (SCMSDC) Centers of Excellence (COE) program as a mentee, all in the pursuit of scaling her commercial interior design firm.
Now that’s what Honda calls Challenging Spirit.
“This has been a real growth opportunity for me,” Jackson said. “It has allowed me to grow as a leader, and further empower my staff, so I could step away and be invested in both programs.”
Jackson, a Chicago native, who started her business in Los Angeles 23 years ago, holds a multitude of certifications such as Minority Business Enterprise from SCMSDC, Women’s Business Enterprise certified through WBEC-West, as well as Small Business Enterprise and HUBZone certified through the Small Business Administration.
“Certification helps you depending on your client base,” she said. “If I were starting over today, I would first look at who I want to do business with and then which certifications they acknowledge.”
Her portfolio, which includes projects for Warner Bros., U.S. Bank and the General Services Administration, has grown over the years thanks to her ability to adapt to changing market conditions. In 2008, she transitioned from a boutique residential firm to a predominately commercial clientele with a focus on office interiors and collaborative work environments. Jackson has also grown Décor Interior Design from performing strictly design work to a full-service specialty construction and facility maintenance company.
“Our breath of products and services is a unique combination, as well as the markets we serve,” Jackson said, referring to the firm’s experience with corporate clients, private industries, federal contracting and public works projects.
Jackson chose to apply for the BEP program after being a GLAAACC member for more than three years and saw the program as an opportunity for more corporate engagement and company growth.
“I knew someone else who had gone through the program, and I was impressed with her business transformation,” she said. “I considered it an honor to be selected.”
BEP is a hands-on program that’s focused on seeing businesses succeed.
“It had been a while since I created a formal growth program,” she said. “The business strategy portion of the program was huge for me and timely to ready me for the current COVID-19 pandemic.”
With close to 70% of her client base still closed, Jackson was able to continue forward without any layoffs.
As if Jackson’s plate wasn’t going to be full enough, Brian Butts, manager of Honda’s Procurement Inclusion and Diversity department, sponsored her for the SCMSDC-facilitated Center of Excellence Program, a year-long investment in certified diverse businesses to facilitate their development and growth, including helping minority businesses better compete in a global environment.
“She had the most potential to grow, and she was extremely receptive to the rigorous curriculum we set forth,” said Butts. “Ronda was engaged from day one, learned what her blind spots were and strengthened them through the program’s curriculum as well as through examples of challenges that participating business owners were also facing. The benefit—all participants learned from the program’s mentors as well as from each other to scale their business for increased success.”
Butts, who also serves on the Board of Directors for GLAAACC and BEP Committee Chairman, reflected on the program co-developed by GLAAACC and Honda almost 20 years ago.
“It’s incumbent upon us to strengthen the supply chain with suppliers that are now stronger as a result of participation in these programs,” he said. “We’re continuing to be good corporate citizens by solidifying a supplier’s business through coaching and mentorship, not only to potentially earn business from Honda, but from anyone in need of their goods or services.”
The COE program started just two months after BEP, but Jackson felt ready to take on both programs. “I drew on the potential Honda saw in me and my company to take on both programs at the same time, and once I was in it, there was not any duplication; instead, one enhanced the other,” said Jackson
JACKSON WITH THE 2019 COE COHORT AND THEIR MENTORS.»
Having the benefit of peer-to-peer programs like COE, Jackson believed, allows business owners who are experiencing similar pain points to connect with one another. She also appreciated having structure so that both the mentors and mentees are on the same page and could follow up on goals and important milestones.
“The accountability component is big,” she said. “I have new tools, new additions to my rolodex and support I can count on beyond the programs.”
While BEP historically selects one business owner to go through their detailed, strategic curriculum to help scale their business, Butts is excited that next year’s program is evolving to have a greater reach by having a cohort where multiple business owners will participate in the year-long program simultaneously.
The biggest benefit to both programs is the opportunity to network. Programs like COE and BEP give diverse business enterprises the opportunity to build relationships and further themselves into something that benefits themselves and the businesses they partner with.