In a recent blog, we highlighted some of the lessons that the w3r Consulting leadership team has learned over the years and unpacked how we apply those same lessons in our own mentorship of up-and-coming minority business owners. From creating realistic business plans to managing expectations with clients and coworkers, we have learned a thing or two along the journey – and we still have further insight to share with you.
For leaders who also want to contribute to the guidance of the next generation of MBEs, here are a few more tips that can help you to maximize your recommendations and assistance.
Breakdown Barriers to Building Partnerships & Expertise
At the beginning of any business – unless there is an angel investor, rich uncle, or some other deep-pocketed benefactor – entrepreneurs are likely resource poor. The greatest capital to w3r Consulting, both in in our early days and now, are our relationships. Building connections with other people who had areas of expertise that could help us generate revenue has always been one of our strong suits. As a result, we went from three partners to eight business partners to overcome that shortcoming.
This presented some advantages as well as some complications. At the beginning, we didn’t know how to navigate the partnership or split the profits. And good luck trying to wrangle all the different opinions and perspectives in a meeting with eight stakeholders. It requires an understanding of getting to know what motivates different partners, as well as aligning with people who share a complementary vision.
Moreover, we always advise entrepreneurs and MBEs to identify and build connections with organizations that are willing to supply them with support and resources. For example, if we knew about the resources available through entities like the MMSDC, the Chaldean Chamber or the National Business League upon our inception, we would have been five to ten years ahead of where we are at now. We have been able to put a dollar amount on the lost cost of opportunity from that blind spot.
When we talk to other entrepreneurs, we ensure that they are aware of and capable of accessing governmental, NGOs, or trade associations that can fortify their chances of success. Here are a few instances where you might want to guide new entrepreneurs for assistance:
- The National Business League – Founded by Booker T. Washington in 1900, this non-for-profit business organization aims to empower the economic growth of black businesses, communities, and people. They strive to connect ambitious leaders with the resources, insights, and professional connections that can elevate results.
- The Minority Development Business Agency – Each year, over 1,000 grant and loan programs award approximately $500 billion to help minority-business owners to raise startup funding and working capital that can expand their opportunities. They also pursue programs, policies, and research that can be vital to minority entrepreneurs.
- Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council (MMSDC) – As part of a national network of minority business owners, this regional chapter of the non-profit organization helps advance opportunities for certified MBEs. Whether supporting MBEs to grow their operations, wealth, or workforce, this organization has proven itself time and time again to reduce barriers and elevate outcomes for minority entrepreneurs.
- Chaldean Chamber of Commerce – For Chaldean entrepreneurs within the Detroit metropolitan area, this chamber is a crucial resource. Their goal is to advocate for the Chaldean business community and promote an environment that fosters economic growth by building businesses and professional relationships.
- National Black MBA Association® Scale-Up Pitch Challenge – For new entrepreneurs, this is an opportunity to prove the feasibility, scalability, and profitability of their business idea to investors who are eager to support black-owned businesses. The winning team of applicants will be awarded $50,000 to sustain their early growth.
As always, it’s important to evaluate your mentee and determine the types of connections that will be the most beneficial to their success, whether in their industry, metropolitan area, or even ideal personality type. Partnerships work best when they fit like a bespoke suit.
Prime Them to Pay Mentorship Forward
We always want to make sure that we are extending the drawbridge instead of pulling it up behind us. Moreover, we think it’s important for the next generation of minority entrepreneurs to take the same approach and invest in the future. The w3r Consulting team gravitates toward people who always strive to give back, whether they are involved in community betterment projects or the cultivation of further STEM professionals.
What we find to be most effective is to lead by example. From the beginning, we have worked to identify ways in which we can directly give back or inspire our people to contribute to causes that speak to their hearts. Because we do the same.
For example, over the course of five years, our leadership team decided we wanted to give 20 scholarships worth $5,000 each to promising STEM/STEAM majors with the help of the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce and the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce. What’s important is making a tangible difference rather than seeking out flashy recognition, and both Chambers were equipped to help us do just that.
When we are looking for MBEs or minority-owned businesses to mentor, we always have spent time learning about who they are and what they value. We have seen the best results when our mentees operate with integrity, morality, and impeccable ethics. When there is a strong foundation of values, most will share their pet projects and passionate causes. From there, you can coach your mentees on how to best use their talents and connections to initiate change where they want to see it.
At the end of the day, vibrant businesses depend on rich communities, resourceful networks, and skilled talent to take ideas across the finish line. When we all work together to foster a better future, we all win.
Want to learn more about the power of black and Chaldean entrepreneurship especially in connections with supplier diversity? Check out our blog “4 Advantages that Companies with Supplier Diversity Programs Have Over the Competition” for more insight.