This Group Wants to Change How Minority Business Is Done in Philly

The EMSDC will host a conference to connect minority-owned businesses with Fortune 100 companies.

ROAR Conference leaders.

ROAR Conference leaders. Left to right: Angela Dowd-Burton, Office of Economic Opportunity at City of Philadelphia; Emmett T. Vaughn, Exelon; Valarie Cofield, EMSDC; Veder M. Reddick, Customers Bank; Michael Pearson, Union Packaging; John Chin, PCDC. | Photo by Fabiola Cineas

After a 15-year hiatus from Philadelphia, the Eastern Minority Supplier Development Council is bringing its annual conference back to Philadelphia this fall, and this year’s focus is likely to have a lasting impact on the region’s business climate.

“Growth isn’t organic for all businesses and we need to figure out how to navigate that,” said Valarie J. Cofield, the president and CEO of EMSDC at a kickoff meeting for the conference aptly titled, “ROAR (Return On All Relationships): What’s all the noise about?”

Business leaders will convene on September 20th and September 21st at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, to troubleshoot how to increase growth for small businesses in the region. More specifically, Fortune 100 companies committed to increasing their chain of diverse suppliers will be connected with minority-owned and women-owned businesses that can provide the products and services that they need. The conference will also forge connections between minority-owned and women-owned companies for potential teaming-up and joint venture partnerships.

“The conference is back here at a time when Philadelphia is going through what we know to be one of the most significant economic renaissances of our lifetime, and we want to make sure we capitalize on it and create some real economic opportunities for the communities in this region,” said Cofield.

The time couldn’t be more right for Philadelphia to have this direct exchange between businesses.

“We are piggybacking on a lot of the energy that has been created here in Philadelphia, which we’ve seen examples of [with] the pope coming to Philadelphia, the DNC, and we recognize the opportunity this energy presents for small business,” said Michael K. Pearson, a vice chair of the conference and the president, founder and owner of Union Packaging, a local sponsor of the event. “The Kenney administration sees the potential of these small businesses and the crowning event is bringing home something that sanctifies an environment that nurtures and grows those opportunities.”

The EMSDC, a non-profit organization sponsored by corporations like Independence Blue Cross, Citizens Bank and Pepco, certifies and connects minority owned-businesses, those owned by Asians, Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans in Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey and Delaware, with member corporations that want to purchase their products or services. The organizations’ goal has long been to stimulate and support economic development with minority-owned businesses.

For the conference, the organization expects to bring together more than 500 small businesses and close to 100 corporations and buying entities from a host of sectors including energy, pharmaceuticals, transportation, healthcare, construction and technology.

“It was important for us to include all aspects of Philadelphia’s small business and minority business community. We want it to reflect the diversity of Philadelphia. And the diversity of thought, it needs to be game-changing for such a time like this,” said Emmett T. Vaughn, ROAR’s chairperson and the director of the office of diverse business empowerment of the Exelon Corporation, the parent company of PECO, the lead sponsor of the conference. Speakers, including business leaders Randell Pinkett and Donald Kelly of Sales Evangelist, will address the diverse business audience.

In addition to bridging connections between minority-owned businesses and corporate buyers, the conference will address the need to create more business-to-business, a/k/a B2B, opportunities in the region overall.

“B2B is critical. It’s part of how you grow,” said Cofield,”B2B opportunities help businesses work together to build capacity and build larger entities.”

And in building larger entities, it’s impossible to not think about the impact on jobs and business sustainability.

“[The EMSDC] works with businesses that are certified, whose revenues exceed $1 million, and they are job creators,” Cofield said. “And what it comes down to is creating more job creators within the network that are able to do business at a larger scale. So when we talk about a growth symposium and B2B, all of this revolves around moving those mom and pop shops into multi-employee employers.”

The EMSDC made a two-year commitment to Philadelphia, and these two years will determine whether the National Minority Supplier Development Council will bring its 2018 conference of more than 30,000 affiliates here as well.

“No matter what side of aisle you sit on, you’ll see a true snapshot, a mosaic in Philadelphia, of diversity and uniform interests around a topic that’s so important,” said Vaughn of Exelon. “And healthy minority businesses means healthy minority communities.”

To learn more about the conference and sponsors, or to register, visit the conference’s information page.

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