Have you ever had the feeling that you don’t do enough? I have.
I was on a whirlwind of travel in April that wrapped up in Portland, Oregon, for the first ever Women Entrepreneurs Global Connect Expo & Summit presented by the Astra Women’s Business Alliance, a regional partner of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. While there, we were treated to thought-provoking presentations by two women, Almas Jiwani and Jensine Larsen, who had me thinking about whether I do enough.
Jiwani is president of UN Women National Committee Canada (www.unwomencanada.org), which is a committee of UN Women International, the women’s body at the United Nations. Dedicated to advancing women’s rights and achieving gender equality across the globe, UN Women provides financial and technical assistance to innovative programs and strategies that foster women’s empowerment. Jiwani gave an energetic, no holds barred presentation about the work of UN Women around the world. She encouraged the group to consider taking up an area which speaks to our expertise and share it with other women to help them grow. She reminded the room, full of businesswomen at varying stages of their career, that, as they climb the ladder of success, they have an obligation to look back and offer a hand up to those who are doing the same. Her presentation was a strong argument in favor of working collaboratively to achieve success as individuals and as a group.
Larsen is CEO and founder of World Pulse (www.worldpulse.com), an organization which connects women around the world via digital media. Through her network, she is able to make the voices of women, many of whom have never had the opportunity to tell their stories, heard around the world. She challenged our view of the world and helped us understand that sometimes, all that’s needed may be an acknowledgement or our shared knowledge to effect change for others. Oftentimes, these small gestures can result in major changes. World Pulse’s story proves that empowerment can come from small, unexpected places.
This month, we’re featuring a number of women (and men) who are working hard to improve their lives and the lives of others. LaSonya Berry, our cover feature, got her start in business by mentoring pregnant teens and giving them the skills they need to be successful. We are also proud to feature articles that speak about partnerships and organizational changes designed to improve the prospects for minority and women business owners. These are just a few of the stories that highlight the difference our supplier diversity community is making every day.
As individuals, we might not be able to change the world and end poverty, hunger, and discrimination all by ourselves. But if we do what we can—listen, be a friend, make ourselves available to help others traveling down a path we have already traveled—then we are doing our part.
I guess the trick is to realize that you can’t do everything. But you can do something with your talents, whatever they may be, and that could be enough to make a difference.
Funny how we can set out a plan for one thing, and end up with something completely different. As the saying goes, “the best laid plans of mice and men…”
While this issue has always been focused on the energy industry, we planned for a more balanced editorial this time. One that included one or two on the subject as well as a smattering of other topics. Instead, we found ourselves riveted by the articles that were presented. Thus, we have three articles centered in the public utility industry.
“Creating Access toOpportunity” will give you an exciting look at the plans being laid for increasing MWDVBE participation in public utility business opportunities. “Boundless Energy” examines one forward-thinking utility’s inclusion of MWDVBEs in its sustainability process. “Legislating Solutions” revisitsCalifornia’s GO 156 and its ongoing impact on MWDVBE growth and participation in the industry. It seems, once again, that public utilities are moving in the right direction and taking MWDVBEs with them.
Our plan for the Canadian supplier diversity article, “Going for the Gold,” was also a pleasant surprise—not that we didn’t expect it to be stellar, of course. Still, it is a superb example of how to prepare diverse suppliers for participation on large-scale projects. Hint: Start early. I know of a few upcoming projects here in theU. S.that could take a page out of their playbook. Throw in a different kind of energy, Feng Shui, and a peak at the challenges facing food and beverage suppliers and I think we still managed to have something for everyone.
It is never easy planning out an issue when there are so many good ideas from which to choose and such limited print space with which to work. So, some of you who are lucky to be subscribers to our digital edition will get a bonus article this month. And, you can look forward to more in future issues.
Tell us how we are doing or send us your ideas. E-mail me at
Several months ago, Congress decided to impose across the board cuts to government operations as a compromise for raising the statutory limit on federal debt should the Super Committee fail in their task to find a bipartisan solution. These cuts are extreme and are seen by both sides as an incentive to bridge the partisan divide and find a solution. The deadline set by legislation is January1, 2013. Should Congress and the Obama Administration not find a way forward by then, automatic cuts to government agency budgets across the board, known as sequestration—some as drastic as nine percent, as in the case of the military—will take effect.
The results could spell disaster for minority and woman business enterprises (MWBEs). This is particularly true for those that rely on the defense supply chain, even indirectly. MWBEs are major players in the defense industry and it is a sector with well-established supplier diversity programs. MWBEs involved in the defense supply chain or that have a customer base made up primarily of service members will likely see their businesses impacted negatively by a decrease in demand.
The nine percent sequestration cut will be on top of another nine percent cut already planned for the Department of Defense. The military will lose just shy of one fifth of its funding, an amount equal to nearly $1 trillion over the next ten years. The economic consequences will be profound.Alabama, for example, has predicted that a reduction of $1 billion in military spending in their state could have a negative economic impact of $2.5 billion. This figure does not account for the costs associated with the decrease in consumer goods receipts that will come as military personnel and their families leave the state.
In addition, lawmakers will be deciding which tax breaks ought to expire, if any. These include a two percent social security payroll tax, and the Bush-era tax cuts on personal income. The Congressional Budget Office expects 53 percent of all “flow through” businesses—where business income flows through to the owner’s taxable income—to see tax increases should the marginal rate tick back up. Further, small businesses may see the amount of bonus depreciation they are allowed to claim shrink from 100 percent to 50 percent.
Nearly everyone agrees that if Congress is able to draft a long-term tax and spending plan, even one that includes tax increases, it will be the first step toward economic growth and recovery. Most of us MWBEs are classified as small businesses, and are likely to have our bottom lines disproportionately affected by new tax liabilities. So, call, write, email your Congressional representative. Encourage them to work together for a bipartisan solution.
I and the staff of MBE magazine wish you and yours a happy, healthy holiday season and a prosperous New Year.
“I wonder if individuals really design their lives around people they never really knew. If so, how can they? If we have not experienced someone (Madame Walker) we only know what is exposed...not necessarily that which shaped/drove her. If the objective is financial, is that sufficient...particularly if we only can surmise the challenges and tough decisions. We can be inspired as much by poor choices made by others as good.”—Antoinette Ford
These thoughts were sent to me in response to our poll of a few of our past African American cover features. February being Black History Month, we thought it would be a good time to find out who inspired these very successful business owners (see page 17). Not surprisingly (at least to me), we did not get many of the usual names you might expect. Madame CJ Walker notwithstanding, these entrepreneurs have more personal role models and inspirations.
Like Christopher Che, I am not a product of this country. However, I arrived here at a young enough age to have learned about many of the awesome, courageous African Americans that have shape history—Frederick Douglass, George Washington Carver, Dr. Martin Luther King. I know that it is through their and others’ efforts, that you and I have the freedoms and opportunities we enjoy today.
I too have my heroes. Some of them are from my own country. One is even quite well-known here, Marcus Mosiah Garvey. But, there are three who I consider to be the ones that have shaped my world view—my mother, my father, and my aunt.
My parents sacrificed much to make sure that their three children had education and opportunity. They worked hard, loved, and took time to teach us right from wrong so that we could go on to teach our children the same way. They were not perfect. They had their flaws, and we learned from those too.
My aunt is blind. When we were growing up, not everyone believed it. She cleaned (the house was spotless), cooked (better than most), and seemed to know our every move (mostly the bad ones). She was always well-dressed and well-groomed. She never had the opportunities many with the same disability have today but she never complained. She was the queen of her domain and was well-respected in her community. Everyone knew her or of her.
My aunt never had children of her own but she cared for several that were not her own (including my husband) and they consider her their adopted mother. She cared for me and my siblings while my parents were working here in “the States.” We never wanted for love or discipline. Whether she realizes it or not, her strength will live on in all of us whose lives she touched.
To history, that may not mean much, but they shaped me. So, I encourage you as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, to consider the influence you have on this and future generations. It is your actions that are likely to shape their world view and inspire them to greatness.
As we embark on a New Year, I wish you all a happy and truly prosperous one.
Someone, I believe it was Mark Twain, once said "There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies, and statistics." Presumably he meant that statistics were the biggest lie of all. Many statisticians take offence, offering the counter that statistics don't lie, they are merely manipulated.
The question was posed recently of the Democratic Party, Are we better off than we were four years ago? Many say the answer was botched. I would say, it depends on who you ask. If you ask the politician who is the incumbent, I would expect that answer to be "Yes." Naturally, the challenger would say "No." The homeowner still facing foreclosure or the unemployed might say no. But the person who managed to find a job recently or the homeowner who finally got that loan modification might say yes.
This political season has been very contentious; maybe even more so than the last. Regardless of which side of the aisle you traditionally support, it is your responsibility to check the facts. As I've said before, I'm not a fan of pundits. I much prefer to listen to what is being said by the candidates and form my own opinion. Our instincts coupled with common sense will never steer us wrong.
There is a lot at stake, especially for small, and minority and woman business enterprises. We have done our best to keep you informed of these critical measures in our "Eye on Washington" features. If you have been paying attention, you know what they are and which ones are important to your business. We need action. Until now, there has been very little of it.
The candidates have many different platforms that they run on and we are not going to agree on all of them, but for us small, minority, and woman business owners, its who will stand with us, and support us, that must sway us. It is we who will carry the weight of the country's recovery, not the politicians and not the major corporations.
Voting is not just a privilege; it's the responsibility of every American. This is our opportunity to voice our opinion and make ourselves heard. So, do your part.
Go out and vote!
MBE's Business Opportunities resource covers business-related financing, consulting, and programs available for the Supplier Diversity community and M/WBEs. Updated monthly.
MBE's M/WBE Resource Directory is a comprehensive list of resource organizations (including links) that support the Supplier Diversity community and M/WBEs.
Refer to MBE's Acronyms & Terminology list for frequently used acronyms and terminology and an overview of the major organizations supporting the Supplier Diversity community.
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