“Be Present,” one of the messages delivered during the March 8 Eastern Minority Supplier Development Council’s R.O.A.R. Conference and Matchmaker event, held in Pittsburgh for the first time.
EMSDC’s Return on All Relationships (R.O.A.R.) activities carrying the theme, “What’s All the Noise About?” consisted of an array of speakers, workshops, the Stellar Awards Luncheon, one-on-one matchmaking meetings, corporate roundtable discussions, and opportunities to network. An audience of over 350 diverse businesses and corporations participated in the all-day affair.
EMSDC President and CEO Valarie J. Cofield, said major purposes of the day were development and connections. “Our focus is building an ecosystem of entrepreneurs ready to meet the short- and long-term needs of the supply chain. Whether consumers facing B2B, we are stronger, more profitable, and innovative, when all are empowered to participate in a robust economy. R.O.A R. Pittsburgh draws on the power of relationships to influence and impact the growth of diverse businesses. It is where vision meets progress.”
Keynote speakers were author and noted expert in building sales culture, Todd Cohen, and CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Stefani Pashman.
Cohen served as breakfast speaker, presenter and the Stellar Awards Luncheon Master of Ceremony. In his energic, engaging and humorous style, he prepared participants to get the best from the conference. In his presentation, “Are you Present,” he reminded that the purpose of the conference was to build relationships and, well, to be present. “Being present means to stop thinking about other things and focusing on the person you are communicating with. Relationships begin with engagement,” he said. Cohen is the author of “Everyone’s in Sales and Everyone’s in Sales: Stop Apologizing and Start Selling!” In his books and during his presentations he emphasizes that to sell more, people must engage more.
Pashman, the first woman to head the 44-year-old conference, told the audience that she admires the mission of EMSDC. “The work your organization is doing to diversify the supplier networks not just here but in other regions is invaluable.” She pointed out that the one-on-one matchmaking is an effective way for the corporate community to engage with businesses that otherwise would not be a part of the broader communications. “In that end the relationships turn into partnerships and builds the kind of collaboration that is very much in the fabric of Pittsburgh,” she said.
Repeating what she has been communicating to other African American audiences, most recently during the February African American Chamber of Commerce PowerBreakfast as reported in the Feb. 21 New Pittsburgh Courier, agenda items through the conference are to work to improve the economic disparities within the African American community as well as to expand workforce development initiatives to assure African Americans are included in the region’s growth.
Development workshops that took place throughout the day included, The Impact of the New Tax Plan on How You Do Business, Your Business’ Bottom Line, and Your Family’s Personal Wealth facilitated by Tricina Cash, president and principal consultant of Osmosis Group, LLC and financial advisor, television contributor and media personality Rob Wilson.
Like previous years, the Stellar Awards recognized the achievements of top minority-owned businesses, industry leaders and major corporations committed to supplier diversity. Categories and award winners included: the Innovative Spirit Award; Jerome and John Bettis, owners of Bettis Brothers Sand and Gravel, the Resource Partner Award; Jennifer Rodriguez, President of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the MBE Forerunner Award; Bony Dawood, President of Dawood Engineering, the MBE Partnership Award; Wu and Associates, MBE Fastest Growing Company Award; CDI Printing Services, Corporate Forerunner Award; Lance Hyde, Diversity Manager of EQT, The Corporate Best Practice Award; UPMC, Corporate Leadership Cornerstone Award; EQT Corporation and the Alexander Nichols Lifetime Achievement Award; Pamela McMellon-Wells, Procurement Specialist, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
Blayre Britton, the second-generation and vice president of CDI Printing, credited her father, Horace, and president for the success of the company. Thanking EMSDC for the award, she said it is meaningful, as they are in a highly competitive industry that’s rapidly changing and, in some respects, declining.
“For us to not only sustain, but to grow in spite of this is really an achievement that we owe in large part to the people in the room and the relationships we have been able to develop with the help of the EMSDC.”
Unlike operating with longevity like CDI Printing, Bettis Brothers Sand and Gravel haw been in business for barely a year. Grateful to receive the Innovative Spirit Award, they credit former EMSDC leader Alexander Nichols for introducing them to the opportunity.
A six-time Stellar Award winner, Lance Hyde considers EQT one of the best organizations he has been affiliated with. He credits the entire EQT team for their efforts and belief in supporting MBEs. “Supporting MBEs strengthen our value, we save money. The concept provides competitive pricing for us which enables us to drive share with the value for our investors, and MBEs provide individual products and solutions for us which enables us to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace for innovation and it also provides a very strong social economic impact in our communities by creating jobs and creating hope offering second opportunities for those who had challenges in their life and rely on MBEs as the only reliable means for gaining meaningful employment. So, there is no question that MBEs are a part of our continued success and our sustainability.”
In support of the next generation of leaders, Sean Gray, Pittsburgh Area Director of All Star Code, was presented with a $7,500 donation for the organization which EMSDC raised during their 2017 Youth Entrepreneur Scholarship Golf Outing.
The final component of the conference was the one-on-one matchmaking and corporate roundtable discussions that focused on connecting Minority Business Enterprises with corporate suppliers and discussions hosted by corporations and buying entities from various industries. Community organizations were also on hand sharing resources.
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