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Branding in a Diverse Universe: Serving Both Sides of the Buy/Sell

Brooke Foley

Everyone spends so much time trying to “Think Ahead” when it comes to the new year. And so many others spend so much time “looking back.” But if you really considered what is PRESENT, you have all you need to fortify your brand promise. Being incredibly present within branding is essential, more now than ever, especially within the diverse universe. When we look at a brand, it permeates EVERYTHING, it can guide every decision, both personal and professional, and if it’s the right promise for you, your business, your role, your project. Then there is no hesitancy. No doubt. Just pure confidence. 

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? It’s not. It’s just real. And that is the most important ingredient in your promise. What is REAL, within your present day, that you can dependably, repeatedly sell at scale when you are ready. That ”real” part? That’s about owning your visible and invisible diversity. And while many of us have gotten much stronger about it over the past few years, there is work to be done in embracing all aspects of our diversity, integrating it into our brand story, and being able to SELL confidently on that. At the same time, there is work to be done on BUYING with confidence as well.

The pandemic has shed a light on how critical suppliers are to the ability for any business to succeed in what it promises. Today, there are more opportunities for “diverse” suppliers. Grabbing those opportunities, no matter why they are now present, is the “fly in the ointment,” if you will. We glaze over it with language like “supply chain” or “retention.”  Yet we are seeing, more and more, the harsh reality of how a powerful promise doesn’t just work for SELLING, it works just as hard for BUYING, deflection, attraction, and retention. 

As we head into another financial cycle, ensuring your promise is as strong as possible will be 100 percent the determining factor of those who survive and grow, and those who exit the categories they have been in, far more harshly than the pandemic. The period of 2023-24 will be a judge and jury like no other.  The pandemic was a powerful blow that had very little recourse for those whose businesses were in the path of destruction. It was finite and most often, not something anyone could have prepared for. 

But, 2023-24 will be an actual “thrive of the fittest ” in a brand-Darwinian manner. 2022 showed us the start of it as all aspects of supply chain, back office, employee base, and manufacturing strained under the conflicts in supplies, labor, and productivity. Having invested in and curated your personal and professional brand universe will be essential. To make sure your promise is ready to rock ‘n roll for 2023, take a moment to gut check with these “quick branding hits”:

  • What is it that my company is known for? 
  • What do we SELL?
  • What do we PITCH?
  • What do we DELIVER?
  • How do we ensure what we deliver? (That’s your support starting to speak)
  • Do I ENJOY what I deliver?
  • Is what I deliver what I pitch, is what I pitch what I sell? If so, you’re good.
  • If not, check out last year’s Beyond the Logo Content Series for a step-by-step on how to address position, promise and support.
Pretty black woman with long hair wearing 3-strand pearls, a white blouse under a black jacket.
Jade Melvin, associate director of Inclusive Global Innovation at Babson College, spent several years on the staff of the National Minority Supplier Development Council and shares her perspective on all sides of the buy/sell.

Beyond the Logo, a content series between Jayne Agency and MBE Magazine caught up with Jade Melvin, who served the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) ecosystem for more than 10 years. Her promise grew from an initial internship into driving all programming for major conferences through four different leadership regimes, a financial crisis, and a pandemic. She is now at Babson College as the associate director of Inclusive Global Innovation. What is interesting about Jade’s career, is that she sat at the epicenter of the buy/sell, working with corporations seeking to evolve their diversity promise and interfacing directly with the suppliers looking to sell into the corporations. 

At least, that’s what it seemed. In reality, no matter what size business you are, you are always seeking to ensure your supply chain SO THAT you can ensure your organizational promise and those you sell to. And so many of those commitments within the supply chain stem from personal brand promise. Jade shares her perspective on all sides of the buy/sell, and how she sees that affecting so many promises through the coming year, how diversity both visible and invisible feeds into that. Jade’s answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: What makes a great promise based on what you see/hear/know?

Jade: A promise kept. 

Q: What did you love most about HOW your role at NMSDC evolved into your role at Babson College?

Jade: I first started my career in the greater network at NMSDC with our regional affiliate, Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council under the leadership of Dr. Frederick McKinney, a respected industry leader. He is one of the foremost economic historians in the world on supplier diversity and minority business development. Under his leadership I learned the blueprint to the heart of minority business development—and that is community

The NMSDC community is an important source of social connection and a sense of belonging. Within this belonging, I have had many role models throughout my career journey and [been] fortunate to have a birds-eye view, which has allowed me to constantly evolve. What I am excited most about in my new role at Babson College is my return to academia. 

Q:  While working at NMSDC, what was one of your favorite examples of a corporation really understanding the power in their promise specific to the diverse supply chain, and used it to affect all aspects of their productivity?

Jade: NMSDC is powered by the strength of our corporate commitments, I would not say I have a favorite however if I have to give an example I would like to highlight the work of Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) I have had the privilege of working closely with the senior leadership team at BMS on the Power to Impact Initiative. 

During my tenure at NMSDC, we partnered to create the Power to Impact in historically underserved communities with the mission and vision to assist the youth to find their purpose in the world through entrepreneurship and philanthropy.

Q: Why does Babson College make sense for Jade Melvin?

Jade: Babson College is #1 in entrepreneurship, globally, with a focus on growth and innovation.

Q: What are you most excited for as Babson College kicks off 2023?

Jade: I’m excited about our commitment to Black women and supporting them with new resources and opportunities to advance their businesses through new partnerships and programming. 

I am humbled to be a part of the rebuilding of Black Wall Street as the many helping hands to rebuild Tulsa Oklahoma. 

Q: What are 5 Considerations you would suggest to anyone preparing to present their promise at a trade show or conference?

Jade

  • Remember your inner child. Remember to enjoy the journey. 
  • Find a mentor that’s younger and older than you. 
  • Study the top three businesses you want to seek out.  
  • Learn the proper follow up.  
  • I highly recommend the book “Success Runs In Our Race,” by Dr. George Fraser. 

Q: How do you start to define your personal and professional brand strategy?

Jade: Being flexible means understanding the world is changing, and MBEs and WBEs need to change with it. Connections, learning about who you are (personal brand), and what you offer (professional brand), is everything. Once you have a basis of identity in this space, you can start to learn more about how to connect with others in meaningful ways. 

Knowing how to make connections, and really finding an ecosystem that supports those connections is essential. Focus on the power of your network! Help others make connections, and recognize positive connections in your own network. 

Q: What is the legacy you want to leave for the new generation coming into NMSDC? 

Jade: I want to define what it means for millennials to have ownership in business.

To learn more about how Jade sees functioning within an ecosystem and network that are the key to both personal and professional success and a whole lot more listen to the Beyond the Logo Podcast, a Content Series between Jayne Agency and MBE Magazine, featuring Jade Melvin and Branding in a Diverse Universe.

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