Grow Your Business with MBE/WBE Certification

The federal government, local governments and large corporations all want to do business with minority owned businesses. There are a number of reasons, but primary among them are 1) Corporate America understands that minority consumers want to buy from companies that do business with minority-owned companies 2) Government knows that the growth of minority business is important to the growth and stability of the overall economy.

To meet their minority business goals, government and corporations look for capable minority suppliers through programs that have a formal certification process. If you are not certified, you can miss out on some great opportunities, such as matchmaking opportunities and opportunities to bid on contracts created specifically for small disadvantaged businesses.


What is a MBE/WBE?

An MBE (Minority Business Enterprise) or WBE (Woman-Owned Business Enterprise) is a business that is at least 51% owned by a minority or woman or, in the case of a publicly-owned business, at least 51% of the stock is owned by one or more such individuals. “Minority” in this case is defined as United States citizens who are Asian, Black, Hispanic or Native American.


Why Get Certified?

Unfortunately, getting a MBE/WBE certification doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to get new contracts. You still have to demonstrate your ability to fulfill the contract and fulfill it at the right price. But it can provide you with the thing that’s important to every entrepreneur…ACCESS. Here are a few ways MBE/WBE certification can help you get access to contracts.

Set-Aside’s- Set-asides award certain acquisitions exclusively to small business concerns. There are two types of set-asides: full and partial. Full set-aside’s mean the entire contract must be awarded to a small business; a partial set-aside means a certain percentage of the contract dollars must be spent with a small disadvantaged business. If you are not certified, you can’t compete for those contracts.

Price Evaluation Preference-  For government contracts being offered under full and open competition (that means anybody can compete, even the “Big Boys”) it is still possible for the certified small business to get a price evaluation preference. Price Evaluation Preference allows a qualified firm to win a competitive procurement even if its bid is up to 10% higher than an equally qualified large firm.

Networking Opportunities- Certification as an MBE/WBE gives you an opportunity to attend networking events that help you build relationships with corporate and government buyers. Some of these events are match-making events that bring out buyers looking to fill a need right now.

Inclusion/Access Into Database- Certification in one of these programs usually means you’ll be included in, and also have access to, a database that lists MBE’s and contacts for the companies/agencies that are looking to do business with them.


Which Certification Do I Need?

When I first started doing work relating to minority supplier diversity, I thought the certifications were one size fits all. But in reality, there are a number of different certifications- and which one you need is dependent upon who your target customer is. Is your target customer federal government, state government, local government or corporations? Each group has different certifications. Here are a few of the most popular.

Self-Certified SDB

Starting in October 2008, small businesses are able to self-represent their status as a small disadvantaged business (SDB). They do not have to submit an application to the Small Business Association (SBA) for SDB status. To self-represent as an SDB, all eligible firms have to do is register their business in the System for Award Management. No fee required and no documents needed, but if your status is ever challenged you need to be able to prove your eligibility.

SBA 8(A) program

The 8(A) program, run by the Small Business Administration (SBA), was designed to help small, disadvantaged businesses compete in the marketplace. The 8(A) program is a more comprehensive program providing specialized assistance to selected firms.

Minority Supplier Development Council Certification

NMSDC Certification is the most recognized standard for certifying minority-owned businesses by corporate America. This is the one you need if you want to target corporations instead of government agencies. Certification for this program is handled by regional affiliates. The Maryland/DC/Northern Virginia region is covered by the Capital Region Minority Development Council. You can find more information about their process here.

State DOT Certification

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s DBE (disadvantaged business enterprise) program provides an opportunity for MBEs to participate in state and local procurement. Although this program is administered by the state’s transportation department, it covers procurements for all state agencies. For more information about Maryland’s program follow this link. For any other state a quick google search for “[State's Name] MBE Certification” should get you where you need to go.

Local Government Certification

Many local and municipal governments also have their own procurement programs that you can take advantage of. Here are a few links to some of the programs in Maryland:

Baltimore City Office of Minority Enterprise

Baltimore County Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise Program

Prince George’s County MBE Program


What Do I Need to Get Certified?

There are companies that can help you get certified, but if you are like many entrepreneurs with more time than money, I would suggest doing this yourself. The applications are pretty straightforward and you would have to gather the required documents for your preparation company anyway. Although each program may have some different requirements, I’ve listed some of the things you will probably need to gather for your certification below.Please note this is not a comprehensive list of supporting documents but it will help you gather the documents you need before you apply.

  • Your firm’s signed and dated federal tax returns over the past three years (if your company is less than three years old, your personal tax returns should suffice)
  • Your firm’s financial statements for the past three years
  • Governing documents, signed by the principals
    • Bylaws, operating agreements, partnership agreements
    • Meeting minutes
    • Stock certificates and ledgers
  • For majority owners and firm managers:


So what are you waiting for? Go get what’s yours!  And if you still have questions feel free to contact me (kendrick.staley(at)civicgrind.com)


5 Questions w/ Will Holmes of Will Holmes Consulting

Will Holmes, founder of the business management and technology consulting firm of the same name,  is a constant presence in the budding Baltimore business community. Whether he’s assisting a client, hosting his popular meetup group for professionals and entrepreneurs, or  giving a talk at the Small Business Administration, you’ll often find him offering his expertise to help businesses grow.  

What is the 5 year Vision for Will Holmes Consulting?

We plan to grow our customer portfolio and further establish ourselves as the “go to” business management and technology consulting firm for growing businesses in Baltimore.  When you need a business plan that truly investigates your market, helps you better engage your customer, and develops your growth strategy, with full financial projections, call us.  When you are ready for a marketing process  that incorporates a robust customer database, highly functional and interactive website, and efficient marketing techniques, call us.When you need customized training for sales, customer service, or management, call us.  When you need a trusted advisor for your technology solutions, call us.  When businesses are ready to grow, I want them to call us.  In fact, they can call us at 410-914-7730 or contact us at  www.willholmesconsulting.com .

I also want to continue to develop the social, informational and cultural events for Baltimore’s Professionals and Entrepreneurs.  My meetup group, Baltimore Professionals and Entrepreneurs www.meetup.com/baltimoreprofessionals currently has over 500 active members.  We focus on learning and conversation in friendly, comfortable environments. Since 2012, we’ve had over 50 successful events for Professionals and Entrepreneurs.  Events have included leadership seminars,  marketing workshops, Entrepreneurs’ Open Forums, and networking socials at various quiet, high quality establishments that support good conversation and real interaction.

Additionally, I incorporate the speaking engagements, events, and training classes I do with the Small Business Administration, MECU, Black Professional Men, Inc., The Reginald F. Lewis Museum, The Greater Baltimore Leadership Association, and other organizations around Baltimore, onto our calendar.

will holmes- brian olds

What do you wish you had known when you got started?

I wish I had known the importance of humility and faith when growing a business.  Before I started WHC, I had a very successful 10 year career in business operations management.  I have been given opportunities to lead companies in various industries, including mortgage, debt management, debt settlement and digital performance royalty collection and distribution.  I’ve led lots of people and I‘ve had a lot of success.  My teams have always exceeded goals and we’ve received a lot of accolades.

But, being on my own, with my own business, I have learned that all that I do, and all that I get, come from God.  It’s not me.  And I have learned that if I am not humble and a good steward, God, will take it away from me.  So, when I start to feel all “Big Willy” when we get a payment from a new client, or an award from the city, or I get an appointment to a Board, or I get to rub elbows with fancy folks, I try to quickly correct myself.  I stop and thank God for what he is doing.  And I try and use these blessings and opportunities to help others.

What is your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge is maintaining the balance between completing projects for existing clients and following our continual process for securing new business.  My team is mostly made up of consultants.  And everyone works in the field, onsite with clients.  Me included. So, just like I teach my clients, I have to balance:

  • Continuing to deliver incredible service to our existing clients
  • Analyzing data and tweaking my strategy
  • Making new contacts, inputting them into our database and properly following up
  • Not  letting  good opportunities slip away
  • Maintaining a top notch squad

It’s a good problem to have, balancing new business and existing business.  But it requires constant attention and good technology.

What are 3 things every Entrepreneur should know?

1. Use your abilities to help a lot of people fill a need and you will be successful. 2. Your growth depends on how you duplicate yourself, build an efficient process and develop a good team. 3. It’s not about you.  It’s about the customers’ needs and who you can help today.

Why is your work important to you?

The reasons why I get up every morning, hustle to grow my business and work hard to provide outstanding service to my clients and community: 1. This is my gift and I believe God wants me to share my gift and help others. 2. My Son is watching me. 3. I love what I do. I’m good at it.  And I don’t want to do anything else.

Find out more about Will on his website or come through and meet other professionals at his monthly meetup group! Leave a comment or question for Will below. And be sure to check back every week as we feature other entrepreneurs on their grind!


Is Doing Good Good Business?

Fast food workers (and employees of other low wage companies like Wal-Mart) caught the headlines this summer as they protested for higher wages. Long gone are the days when the workers at Mickey D’s were mostly high school kids saving up for sneakers and cell phones. These days, low wage workers are just as likely adults running households. And a fast-food salary is not enough to make ends meet. (McDonald’s practically admitted this when it made a “Practical Money Skills Budget Journal”  for it’s employees, making certain to include a line for a second income, but forgetting to budget for necessities like childcare, gas, clothes and food.)

Now, while consumers are generally sympathetic to the plight of these workers and would like to see them earn a living wage, many people scoffed this August when employees in 58 cities walked off their jobs to demand an increase in the federal minimum wage. Why did this cause such a stir? Because the employees of KFC, Wendy’s and Burger King, and even retail employees like Macy’s and Dollar Tree, called for the federal minimum wage in the service sector be increased to $15 an hour from the current $7.25. That’s right. A whopping increase that more than doubles the minimum wage.

To a lot of people, paying $15 and hour to a fast food worker sounds ridiculous. And many business analysts consider low wages for certain industries a necessary evil. Margins in the restaurant industry are notoriously thin, so no one want’s to increase their biggest cost, labor.

Brian Parker and Harry Moorhouse, the co-owners of fast food joint Moo Cluck Moo, don’t think it has too be that way. They are confident that they can pay employees a living wage, and still be successful. When they first opened early this year, they started workers off at $12/hr. Inspired by the massive strikes in August, they upped the wage to $15/hr. Instead of taking advantage of Detroit’s depressed labor market, they went in the opposite direction. For Parker and Moorhouse, the benefits they get from paying a higher wage make up for the cost. They get more committed and skilled employees, the customers get better service thanks to the happy employees, and the business keeps a low turnover rate, saving time and money on hiring, firing and training.

Now just to be clear, paying workers higher wages isn’t a magic formula for guaranteed success. The owners take strategic measures to offset their high labor costs, through negotiating cheaper rents, increasing buying power and strategic staffing. And Moo Cluck Moo is a new restaurant with one location currently operating. But the lesson is still clear. Parker and Moorhouse decided from the beginning to pay their workers $12 an hour, and then designed a business that could run profitably at those wages. You can set positive goals or moral objectives for your business, then use human ingenuity and strategic decision making to ensure it’s a success.  Maybe doing good is good business after all.

Cassandra Vincent of Cassie Brown Project

5 Questions with Cassandra Vincent of the “Cassie Brown Project”

Cassandra Vincent, creator of The Cassie Brown Project (blog, apparel and more!) is a speaker, blogger and freelance writer. She writes about inspiration, people, personal liberation, perspectives as a brown woman , and occasionally provides comedic commentary on being 30-something & single. 

Why did you start the Cassie Brown Project (CBP)?

I started the CBP as a result of my need to communicate, create, engage an audience on a broader level about issues that impact women in my generation and me personally. The CBP is an evolving piece of work that is driven by a personal need to leave a legacy of love in the earth when my time is done here.

I also believe there is a need for more transparency around the issues we face as brown women and girls. There is a lot of talking at black women, telling us what we should do to obtain this or that. Mainstream attention seems to also be on the rise around issues among black women that highlights our experiences for purposes of entertainment and exploitation rather than celebrating us. On the other hand, I also love the exploding “self-love, be your natural self, my black is beautiful” conversation that is also taking place and growing daily. That is the conversation that I am inspired by and want to inspire others with.

On my blog, I share the awesomeness that I see around me daily, nuggets of inspiration from women who I know and those I meet, and in my weekly posts I find ways to share a bit of inspiration and humor from my personal experiences as well as keep my readers excited about the people in their community.

I am just really passionate about the well being of women, brown women in particular, our children, our men, our community.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

Time management. I have not accepted that I am not superwoman, therefore, I am finding myself overwhelmed [in a good way] with ideas, offers to collaborate with other wonderful organizations, and creating projects from ideas that are constantly coming to me. The biggest challenge is managing the time I have outside of my full-time job to really move the work to build what is becoming The Cassie Brown Project. It is a beautiful struggle though, to have a vision [plan] and to recognize that it’s simply a matter of time before it evolves into what you envisioned and planned.


Whats the best advice you have received so far?

I would have to say the best advice has come my father. He is not an entrepreneur, but founded and led a small church organization. His advice, when I expressed my desire to promote the CBP to as many people as possible was to “manage what you have, do not be in a hurry, and grow at a pace”. This advice has been a stabilizer for me.

My dad’s advice reminds me that numbers are great, especially in this day and time of technology, SEO, site views, etc. but my purpose in starting the CBP help, engage, inspire girls and women is far greater. I’m for numbers and getting the message out, but I am a die hard missions and values type of woman also. I believe that when we work from purpose, passion, and our God given gifts, growth is inevitable.

You have some cute t-shirts for sale…”I’m not Angry, I’m Liberated”. Tell us a little about that statement.

The Liberated Tees are inspired by a real life experience and conversation that I had with a girlfriend around my frustration with modern day dating. This extremely colorful, last straw-type of conversation started at extreme frustration and evolved into a liberating moment when I declared I would not become angry or frustrated anymore. It was also evident to me that other women are experiencing some of the same feelings that I had in that moment.

At that point I realized I wanted to share the message of personal freedom and liberation with other women who could identify. I figured statement tees was a great way to get that message out. During the process of creating the shirt, I knew that this concept could mean so many things for so many people and it needed more than a tee shirt, so I created the blog. I have wanted to create statement tee shirts for some years now and finally did starting with the CBP Liberated Tees. Taking steps to make my tee shirt vision reality was liberating in itself.

When you’re not working on the Cassie Brown Project, what things/place do you like to do/go?

Nowadays the CBP is pretty much my life, and I love it. However, when I ‘unplug’ I enjoy spending time with loved ones, travelling, and exploring the city to discover places I have never been. Some of my favorite places are Teavolve, Busboys & Poets, and anywhere that provides an intriguing, peaceful, and cultural experience.


Stop by and check out the Cassie Brown Project, grab a tee, and more importantly join the movement! 


C.R.E.A.M: Wu-Tang and Importance of The Financial Projections for your Business

Cash Rules Everything Around Me…C.R.E.A.M..Get The Money..Dollar, Dollar Bills Y’all

The adage rings true not only for the Wu, but for every entrepreneur. Money is the lifeblood of any organization, non profit and for profit, and without the proper circulation of it your business won’t survive long. One of the most important things you need to do to ensure that proper circulation of money is to plan for it. Financial projections help serve as a road map that helps guide you down the path to profitability.  That doesn’t mean that there won’t be challenges, unexpected situations and the need to make adjustments at times to your business model and plans, but it does mean you have a better chance to anticipate what’s coming down the road and take the necessary actions.

You Don’t Have To Be An M.B.A to Understand Your Numbers

One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is believing they don’t have the experience or aptitude required to do some basic financial projections.  Actually, all the math you needed you had learned before you left middle school. Now I’m not saying finance and accounting professionals don’t play a role in helping to build a thriving business, but understanding the numbers underlying your business is your primary responsibility. It is your obligation to your family who supports you, and to the investors and partners that you work with, that you have a clear picture of how your business both spends and makes money.

Two Templates To Help You Get Started

Fortunately there are a number of resources, many free or very inexpensive, that entrepreneurs can use to help them get started putting together their financial numbers. Here are three that I have used in the past that I think provide an excellent start. But don’t stop with these, a simple google search for “financial statement templates” will give you pages and pages of resources, there may be one you are more comfortable with.

1. SCORE Financial Projections Template

SCORE is “a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship.”  This year marks their 50th anniversary and they are one of the preferred partners for the  U.S. Small Business Association, so you know they know a little something about small business. They have created a very comprehensive, user friendly Excel workbook that will help entrepreneurs develop projections for up to three years.

Score Financial Projections Template

Screenshot of the Score Financial Projections Template. Download it here.

2. StartUpModels.com FinModel4

The FinModel4 financial model was developed by Mike Colwell while he was running the Business Innovation Zone (the BIZ, www.bizci.org) a business accelerator focused on high-growth-potential startups. The FinModel4 is one of the most comprehensive financial modeling templates I have ever used. Definitely the most comprehensive one I’ve ever found for FREE! If you need some added help he has a step-by-step guide available on Amazon for only $6.99.


startupmodels.com finmodel4 screenshot


Screenshot of the Fin4 Financial Model. You can download it here.

Talk To Us


MBA Minute: Push and Pull Marketing Strategies

Even though it took me a few years to complete my MBA, there are a number of things you can learn in just a few minutes that can change the way you look at your business. Check back often for more MBA Minutes, where we’ll briefly explore a topic or concept that can help you make better choices for your organization. ~ Keina

When talking about marketing strategies, we can split them into two major categories- push and pull. Both strategies are all about getting your target market in touch with your product.

Push strategies are those that take the product to the target consumer and make sure that they’re aware of it. They include tactics like doing trade shows to get retailers to stock your product, creating point of sale displays, designing your packaging in a way that makes people want to buy it, or direct selling your product at a fair or door to door.

Like when you’re at Trader Joe’s or Sam’s Club, and they’re cooking something right before your eyes and giving out samples. That’s an effective way for them to get the product in front of you, while you’re already at the point of purchase and say “Look how easy this is to prepare. And how delicious! Did I mention it was on sale?” That’s a classic push strategy.

Pull strategies are all about getting the consumer to come to you. They include tactics like advertising, customer relationship management, referrals, and sales and coupons. One of my favorite things is a good Happy Hour. And when it comes down to it, a happy hour is a pull strategy employed by many restaurants. Having specials and discounts during a certain time of the day is a great way to keep people coming back.

As the use of online and social media continues to rise, referrals and word of mouth grow in importance. These days, a public playlist on Spotify, a restaurant review on Yelp, or an Instagram pic from a style blogger is likely to influence purchase decisions more than an advertisement. So what’s the best way to make sure that word of mouth is working in your favor? Every time a consumer comes in contact with your company or your product, delight them. Every time.

Well, that’s a brief overview of push and pull marketing strategies. The balance that is struck between the two will be different for each organization.

Any other examples of push and pull strategies? Which have you found to be the most helpful to your organization? 


Grindsight: Black Girl Techies, Hot Desking and Open Culture

Grindsight is where we share things we’ve spotted around the web that you don’t want to miss! Feel free to drop your own interesting links in the comments.

Finding Your Voice

Kate Kiefer Lee of MailChimp (the e-mail marketing service) dropped by Design*Sponge  to share some tips on finding the voice for your organization. You want your readers to feel like they’re talking to a friend, so it’s important to be natural and relatable. But you have to keep things professional too. Check out Kate’s post on how to make sure your doing both and doing them well.


Open Culture

This site claims to have the best free cultural and educational media on the web…and they may just be right. In addition to creating their own educational content, they also keep track of free offerings around the web. For instance, a list of 725 free online courses from top universities, a nice collection of smart and culturally enriching youtube channels, and over a hundred free business courses! Whether your looking for a particular skill or just love learning, this site is a treasure trove of information.


Hot Desking



Latest trend in office design? Hot desking. Basically an alternative way to set up workspaces that ditches traditional desk and cubicle setups. Inc. looks a little closer at the trend and talks to five companies about their approach. Cool pics included.



Black Girl Techies

HuffPo features Black Girls Code (BGC) ,  an organization working to close the gender gap. There are a lot of new programs working to that end, but BGR focuses on African American, Latino and Native American young women. Why is that awesome? Closing the digital divide isn’t just about gaining a new skill. Founder Kimberly Bryant believes “that if effectively leveraged, access to technology can become the single greatest economic equalizer of the next decade. ” Check out the full post here.


Seth Godin on Social Change Marketing

We love entreprenuer and author Seth Godin because he always keeps it a hundred. In this particular post, he talks about a fatal flaw that promoters of social change often make. They try to get people to make better decisions, when in fact, most people’s actions aren’t based on decisions at all. Rather, they’re just doing what they’re used to doing as a part of the culture. Seth’s solution: Change the culture and change the world.


The Ballot or The Billfold: Black Economics in the Age of Trayvon Martin

There is a lot going on in Black america today. In Florida, George Zimmerman is free after “standing his ground” and shooting and killing unarmed teen Trayvon Martin, while Marissa Alexander is serving twenty years for shooting a gun into a ceiling to ward off an attack from her husband who had a history of domestic violence. Then there is the violence we suffer at our own hands- from Chicago to Baltimore murder rates are off the meter.




We have also seen an attempt to dismantle things like the voting rights act, healthcare and programs for the poor which were created to protect the most vulnerable in our society, many of them African American.

Not surprisingly, equality and empowerment have been hot topics lately in the Black community. There are many different conversations being held and solutions put forward as to how to make strides in these areas. Sadly, an economic development agenda, and more specifically cooperative economics, is rarely talked about as one of them.

Even when economics is discussed, it’s usually through the guise of expansion of affirmative action, business set-asides or business loan programs. But there are two very important economic factors that are often overlooked: Black consumers spend less with Black businesses, and Black businesses underutilize strategic partnerships as a pathway to larger contract opportunities.


Something Doesn’t Add Up

Imbalance of Trade

Communities are similar to businesses in many ways. Healthy ones take capital and turn it into more, while unhealthy companies drain money, making no profits. Communities/businesses that “leak” capital will have a difficult time surviving, much less thriving.

According to the 2007 Survey of Business Owners, African American Owned firms generated receipts of 135.7 billion dollars in 2007, even though African American buying power was estimated at 910 billion in 2009 by University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth. That means Black businesses earned about 15% of what Black people spend.

During that same period minority firms as a whole accounted for 1 trillion dollars in receipts, with buying power of 2.46 trillion dollars. That means as a ratio, minority firms earn about 40% of what they spend. How do non-minority firms (read white) compare? For non-minority firms, the numbers were 9.8 trillion in gross receipts off of 8.25 trillion dollars in buying power. That means as a ratio, white firms earn 118% compared to white buying power.

With disparities like those, it is no wonder Black communities are trailing other communities in terms of employment and wealth creation, and consequently social and political power. No matter what laws or government programs are created, it is difficult to see how the black community can grow if patterns like this continue.


Strategic Partnerships and the Trust Factor

Another factor that negatively impacts the growth of Black businesses and by extension the economic development of the Black community, is the fact that Black owned firms don’t use strategic partnerships and alliances to their full potential.

When I say strategic partnerships and alliances, I mean relationships that last longer than simply one transaction, long-term relationships based on mutual goals such as cost sharing/reduction, cross-promotion or capacity building.

According to a study entitled Increasing Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) Competitiveness Through Strategic Alliances:

MBEs seem most likely to enter into the simplest business relationship that will serve their immediate needs. But MBEs really need to consider the relationship that will best serve their long-term strategic goals.

That study further says:

MBEs should explore the opportunities that could arise from strategic alliances when reviewing their business strategy (which they should do regularly, given how dynamic markets are today). In addition to making the MBE more attractive to customers—perhaps even being a prerequisite for securing some contracts—strategic alliances can create the effect of larger size without investing the time and expense of growing a business to scale; they can extend the MBE from the domestic into the global business arena; they can provide an opportunity for learning and innovation; and they can foster lean enterprise advantages by eliminating duplicated functions and the associated costs.

Given these statements it is easy to see that strategic alliances must be an increased focus in the black business community if these businesses are to reach their full earning potential.


The Ballot or The Billfold

Marching and voting were two of the main tools our ancestors used in the civil rights movement, so they’re often the first actions on Black people’s mind when they think of seeking social change. I think any action you take to fight for a better society is a noble one. But I also believe history is to be examined, not necessarily lived in for perpetuity. I believe we honor our ancestors by examining the current and past strategies being employed on the journey for empowerment and tweaking those strategies to fit our times. In my opinion, a discussion about how we allocate our money (power) is of primary importance and should no longer be relegated to a side discussion. You can be respectful of the past and also know that evolution and adaptation is required for growth.

Let’s talks some numbers. There’s a strong correlation between violent crime and unemployment rates/poverty rates. Some studies suggest that on average 80+% of a privately owned companies’ employees look like the person(s) who started the company. In really general terms, white owned businesses tend to hire white people, Korean businesses hire tend to hire majority Koreans, and Black businesses tend to hire majority Black people etc, etc.

According to the last Survey of Business Owners by US Census Bureau, Black people own 7% of businesses in the U.S. but make up 12% of the population. Also, Black folk spend disproportionately less with Black businesses than all other ethnic groups spend with their group! What effect does that have? Well according to the Census Bureau, “If African-American-owned firms would have reached parity with their share of the adult African American population in 2007, there would have been 3.3 million firms (instead of 1.9 million) generating $1,400 billion in gross receipts (instead of $138 billion), and creating 7.1 million jobs (instead of 921,000).”

So what do you think we need to do to curb violence in our community? I think an additional 6.2 million jobs in our communities would be a great place to start.

The proof is in the pudding. One of the most effective ways to help our communities is by voting with our dollars. 


What Next?

Am I saying now you have to buy everything black owned and partner with every business around? Absolutely not. I don’t think that is feasible. But without a doubt, there is a lot of room for improvement in those areas. Just putting our attention on it would increase the likelihood it will happen. When you have the opportunity to buy Black, do it. In fact, you should put a little effort into finding those opportunities.

Here’s an easy one: When you get Cold Stone or Rita’s put it on your list to get some Taharka Brothers (here is a list of places you can get it click here). Not only does this company have a social mission of getting young brothers off the street, their ice cream was voted “Best of Baltimore” by City Paper in 2010. We can help out by occasionally substituting Rita’s and ColdStone…we all play a part!

Know of any other organizations doing great work that we should know about? Be sure to comment and leave a link to their website if they have one, we would love to hear from you!




For the Love of Networking

Sometimes it is overused, misused, and downright misunderstood. It is the art of successfully networking during an event.

I recall not long ago being invited to an after work networking soirée of sorts, and found myself enjoying art, meeting great people, and even sipping a few cool drinks but a few encounters made me stop and think about how some folks approach networking.

At one point, I sat through a 10-minute conversation as a business owner offered me four very different services from four of her businesses. The other questionable moment occurred after the networking event, where I exchanged information with a provider who I considered procuring services from for my organization. Ultimately, that turned into an episode of a salesperson badgering me for business, which resulted in me not wanting to do business at all. Talk about a business stalker moment, ugh!

Quite frankly, networking during an event in its simplest form is the art of engaging and becoming acquainted with someone, as well as sharing who you are in an extremely short time frame.

Exchanging ideas, contact information, and genuinely engaging the other person is how you network and build relationships. Additionally, people want to know how your service or product can help them be more effective rather than how well you sell them on that service or product.

Essentially, building relationships through networking should be a business practice to build your net worth. Network equals Net Worth. Get it?

In other words, in order for your network to grow you need people who are interested in what you are offering. You gain people by giving something of value as well as by investing time in getting to know the person and their needs.

Here are a few tips we should all keep in mind when we are networking for business or socially:
•Be present, available, & ready to meet new people.
•Value not only your service and/or product, but appreciate other entrepreneurs who may be able to help you enhance your business.
•LISTEN: Take note of what the other person is communicating because they are telling you how they may need your services or products.
•Can I get a word in edge wise? Please?! Do not control the conversation otherwise you may find yourself having a conversation by yourself and it is plain rude to out talk the other person.
•Stay Focused. Don’t overwhelm people with the 100 businesses or ideas you have, you may lose them.
•Be genuine.
•Follow-up after the event. Do not stalk the other person, but certainly connect to keep in touch and further the conversation.
•Make eye contact, be yourself, and have a blast adding new people to your network.

What have been some of your best (and worst) experiences at networking events? What’s a tip that has helped you be successful at networking?


Marketing Is Not Advertising: Why This Assumption Is Killing Your Profits

Ask the average person what they think marketing is, and often they’ll say “Advertising.” Or maybe, “The activities a business does to sell their product.” Maybe  “Your efforts to get new customers.” Well, that’s partly true, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Marketing encompasses a much broader spectrum of goals and activities. If you don’t start thinking about your customer until after you develop your product, you’re doing it wrong.

Marketing is the process that takes a product- your good or service- from concept to customer. It is the steps you take to create, communicate and deliver value. Marketing done right should start in the very beginning: when developing your product.

I know, I know, for many business owners choosing a target market is one of their least favorite things to do. Who do we want to sell the product to? Everybody. But trying to please everyone will almost ensure you don’t reach anyone. That’s why savvy entrepreneurs begin by identifying a target market, analyzing them, and figuring out how to meet their needs. You can’t develop a product that creates value for the consumer, that is useful and attractive, if you don’t know who your consumer is.


In fact, your target market is something to keep in mind in every marketing function. When deciding on the right price for your good or service, your consumer -and their perception of the value of your product- is a key consideration. Of course, that’s along with considering factors like the cost of manufacturing and competitor’s prices as well.

Once you’ve developed a product that creates value for your customer (and priced it accordingly), you can focus on communicating and delivering that value.  This requires a business owner to make research-based choices on which strategies, methods and channels should be used to inform, entice and engage the consumer.  In addition to traditional media, many small (and large for that matter) businesses have increased their reliance on its younger, more efficient and cost-effective relative..social media.

Marketing also involves choosing how and where to sell your product. In which places can your consumers access, interact with, and ultimately purchase your product? For example, should you have a brick-and-mortar location, use direct mail via catalogs or just sell online? Or perhaps a mixture of both?

As you can see, marketing is an important business function that touches many aspects and functions of an organization. Far more than advertising, it’s the strategies we develop and plans we carry out to create, communicate and deliver value.

Need some help developing your marketing strategy? No Problem! Just drop us a line, we would love to discuss your project with you.