Pride Month 2023: Promoting Diversity, Inclusion, and Progress
As the month of June begins, the Council joins the country in celebrating Pride Month—an important time to honor and recognize the LGBTQ+ community and their invaluable contributions. This month, we want to take a moment to reflect on the significance of Pride Month and highlight our commitment to fostering a culture of acceptance and equality.
At The Council, we champion diversity in all its forms. We recognize that embracing diversity strengthens the fabric of our society and creates a more inclusive business landscape. By celebrating the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month, we reaffirm our commitment to supporting and uplifting voices from all walks of life.
With so many prominent members of the LGBTQ+ community becoming notable business leaders it’s hard to highlight just a few individuals who have made an impact. There’s Beth Ford, the first openly gay woman to lead a Fortune 500 company while working at Land O’ Lakes. While leading the company, she is one of two Fortune 500 companies in the Twin Cities to celebrate Transgender Awareness and supports other LGBTQ+ businesses through their very own Supplier Diversity Program.
Moriaki Kida, the Regional Chief Operations Officers for Ernst & Young Japan, is a passionate advocate for inclusivity in the workplace. As he works to expand the company’s footprint in Japan and Taiwan, he is also moving to improve EY policies for LGBTQ+ employees.
Then there’s Allyn L. Shaw, President and CTO of Recycle Track Systems, who dedicates his time to increasing the representation of gender and people of color in his workplace. He also sits on the Board of OUT & Equal where he spearheaded one of the first transgender recruiting efforts of its kind in the banking space.
As you can see, representation in the workplace is a vital factor in moving LGBTQ+ rights forward. We are proud to support those who have come out publicly to show others that being a part of the LGBTQ+ community is something to take pride in. We will continue to support those who champion for diversity and inclusion and take steps to provide representation in their companies.
Pride Month serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of diversity, inclusion, and equality in all aspects of life. At the Council, we stand proudly with the LGBTQ+ community, supporting their rights, voices, and contributions. We invite you to join us in celebrating Pride Month and continuing the journey towards a more inclusive and equitable future. Together, we can create positive change and build a world where diversity is celebrated, and all individuals are empowered to be their true, authentic selves in all aspects of their life.
NYNJMSDC Announces New Prestigious Sponsors for 50th Anniversary
NEW YORK, NY — The New York and New Jersey Minority Supplier Development Council (NYNJMSDC) is thrilled to announce that Alpha Business Solutions and Walker SCM have joined as 50th Anniversary VIP Sponsors for their momentous 50th anniversary year. These partnerships mark a significant milestone for the Council as it aligns with its mission of promoting minority business development, supplier diversity, and economic inclusion. The Council wishes to express its deepest gratitude to our VIP Sponsors for their generous support and commitment to advancing supplier diversity. Their ongoing partnership plays an integral role in driving economic empowerment and creating a level playing field for all MBEs.
As the largest African American male owned payroll/employer-of-record firm in the industry, Alpha Business Solutions is a vision-driven company that has created a new approach to doing business within the industry. CEO, Gene Waddy, has been a longstanding member of the Council since co-founding DIVERSANT in 2005. After selling that company in 2021, he founded Alpha Business Solutions. He and his company bring with them a wealth of experience and expertise that will undoubtedly contribute to the success of the NYNJMSDC’s initiatives. Waddy’s dedication to helping minority businesses was a driving factor for his support of the Council during their 50th Anniversary year.
Similarly, Walker SCM, a prominent name in the logistics industry, has stepped forward as a sponsor to support the initiatives of the NYNJMSDC. With their extensive network and deep-rooted commitment to supporting minority businesses, Walker SCM’s sponsorship further amplifies the Council’s ability to connect minority suppliers with potential customers and forge long-lasting partnerships. They are unique in the logistics industry, as a certified-MBE with a global reach, operating in over 25 different countries. They have a true dedication to diversity and their knowledge and expertise will also amplify the mission of the Council to help MBEs find success throughout the year.
The NYNJMSDC has been a pioneer in supplier diversity since its establishment in 1973. Over the past five decades, the Council has dedicated itself to creating opportunities for minority-owned businesses by connecting them with corporations committed to diversity and inclusion. As it embarks on its 50th year, the additional support of these sponsors further enhances its ability to drive transformative change and cultivate mutually beneficial relationships.
“We are thrilled to welcome these two certified-MBE organizations as VIP sponsors for our 50th anniversary year,” said Terrence Clark, President and CEO of the NYNJMSDC. “Their meaningful support is invaluable, especially during this time when we are exploring expanded opportunities for minority-owned businesses locally, and promoting economic equity throughout the network. Together, we will make a lasting impact on the supplier diversity landscape and foster a more inclusive business ecosystem.”
The New York & New Jersey Minority Supplier Development Council, Inc. (The Council) is an affiliate of the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC). The Council is dedicated to increasing business opportunities for certified minority business enterprises (MBEs) and connecting them with corporations and government entities that value supplier diversity. Through advocacy, capacity building, and supplier development programs, the NYNJMSDC promotes economic inclusion and fosters mutually beneficial relationships between MBEs and corporations.
MBE Spotlight: Denene Rodney
Denene Jonielle Rodney is an award-winning researcher, graduate of business acceleration programs, and CEO of the qualitative and quantitative research design firm, Zebra Strategies. Through Zebra Strategies, Denene has worked with hundreds of companies across various industries like nonprofits, foundations, government agencies, and varying aspects of healthcare. Zebra Strategies serves these firms with the aim of engaging perspectives of differing cultures, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Known for her warmth and humor, Denene creates a safe space for people to have open conversations on any topic while maintaining a sense of easiness and respect. Since she founded Zebra Strategies in 2000, Denene’s life, mission, and message have been fully integrated into her company. From her early years, Denene saw that typically many people do not draw a great “ticket” in the “lottery of life.” Through Zebra Strategies, she has made it her goal to bring these voices to the forefront, lift them up, and make them a part of the bigger conversation, and thereby gently shaping the world into a better place.
For Denene, the goal has always been to look past the numbers. She looks at the heart of people’s stories to help understand their background and help their business. “When we research, we find where we’re the same, study why we’re different, and help find actionable solutions that help us weave a web of respect and togetherness.” Denene is an entrepreneur driven by her passion for the communities that she serves. Through her work, she realized that her community and business belong not to just one, but the culmination of so many other communities. This helped her to find common ground, see people as individuals, and marry the perspectives for real-life change.
About Zebra Strategies
Zebra Strategies is a certified woman and minority-owned, integrated, qualitative and quantitative market research and strategy firm. They specialize in marginalized, vulnerable, and hard-to-engage populations. Zebra Strategies has over 20 years of experience and over 400 client engagements across a wide range of industries like consumer products, B2B, Pharma, technology, public health, financial services, nonprofits, foundations, government agencies, and all aspects of healthcare. They focus on difficult-to-reach populations and targets and are known for their inventive recruitment and engagement strategies. Zebra Strategies offers an unparalleled approach to understanding the motivations and cultural nuances of underserved communities and the impact on products, services, social initiatives, and user experiences. Employing a nationwide staff of thirty dedicated professionals, Zebra Strategies has the ability to facilitate research in a number of languages. In each language, the team is highly skilled in engaging vulnerable populations, interpreting responses, and transforming insights into action.
Helping clients see beyond the numbers, Zebra Strategies as a whole is led by the mantra, “Be curious—but not judgmental.” It is this idea that allows the team to connect with various communities and gain insight on sensitive topics, providing safe spaces for candor and respect.
It’s not just black and white. Zebra Strategies’ consultants are a mix of classically trained market researchers, strategists from advertising agencies, and academic researchers—resulting in a holistic portrait of marketing issues with actionable solutions. The mission is to amplify the voices of marginalized and vulnerable populations through meaningful qualitative & quantitative market research.
What does being a minority business, or supporting minority businesses, mean to you?
Being a minority business owner means I’m taking an active role in changing the landscape of what other aspiring entrepreneurs see. When trying to push forward, it’s encouraging to see other people who look like yourself making it on their own terms. Also, it means that I get to bring so many marginalized communities to the table with me when I take my seat.
How has being certified with the NMSDC helped your business?
NMSDC has brought awareness to my business and brand. Clients know who we are and trust us to serve.
What is one thing you wish you had known when you were starting gout in your career?
There will always be something to overcome and people are not always as kind and professional as you think they should be. However, when servicing with dignity and passion, the rewards are always great.
Why Become a Certified-MBE?
We are happy to offer bi-monthly webinars that are designed to provide potential new members in the New York and New Jersey area with a comprehensive understanding of the benefits of MBE certification.
About Pre-Certification Webinars
Are you interested in becoming an NMSDC certified-MBE in New York or New Jersey?
Our team will guide potential MBE’s through the application process, including the required documents and supporting materials needed to complete the application. We also provide valuable insights into the benefits of certification and how it can help grow your business. During these online sessions, we encourage attendees to ask any questions they have about the certification process. We will be on hand to provide you with the information you need to successfully complete your certification application.
We understand that the certification process can be complex and time-consuming. That’s why we’re committed to making it as easy as possible for you. Join our Pre-Certification Webinars and take the first step towards unlocking the benefits of certification for your business.
Questions? Register Now for one of our upcoming Pre-Certification webinars, which occur twice a month.
2023 AAPI Heritage Month
“Advancing Leaders Through Opportunities”
As May approaches, we reflect on the significance of the upcoming month, which marks the 45th anniversary of Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. Over the years, this month-long celebration has provided people across the country with valuable opportunities to learn about the rich history and diverse cultures of AAPI communities. It is also a time to honor and recognize the significant contributions that AAPI individuals have made to our country.
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, AAPI businesses have continued to thrive and expand in the United States. In fact, they are currently the fastest-growing segment of small businesses in the country. As we see promising increases in their growth, we are proud to have a large number of AAPI businesses certified with us at The Council. With New York boasting the second-largest number of AAPI-owned businesses, we are committed to providing opportunities that foster even more growth and success for these businesses in the future.
This year’s theme for AAPI Heritage Month is “Advancing Leaders Through Opportunities“, highlighting the importance of providing equal access and opportunities for AAPI leaders to succeed and make a positive impact in their communities. At The Council, we strive everyday to bring new opportunities to minority businesses and to invent new and different ways for our MBEs and corporate members to find success. Coming up this month, we have our first signature event of 2023, the Business Opportunity Exchange, which is an excellent opportunity to network and advance yourself—or your business—professionally. If you want to see what else we have coming up, visit our calendar to see what we have to offer!
Each year we at The Council become more committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace and beyond. Moreover, we recognize the important role that AAPI individuals and communities play in our society and are proud to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month with our partners and stakeholders.
We encourage everyone to take part in the celebrations and learn more about the rich history and culture of the AAPI community. And remember to stay connected with us on social media to learn more about their culture and accomplishments.
Happy AAPI Heritage Month 2023! Let us all work together to build a more inclusive and equitable society for all.
Straight Talk with Terrence Clark
If you’re ready to learn from one of the best in the industry and connect with like-minded professionals, join us for the next Straight Talk with Terrence Clark event.
About Straight Talk with Terrence Clark
Get personalized attention and build your business network
Here at The Council, we offer our certified-MBEs the opportunity to attend meetings with our President and CEO, Terrence Clark. During these virtual sessions, he shares his expertise and insights on wide-ranging business topics—covering everything from the “right” way to network to how to secure your first contract. The focus of each session is different, ensuring that attendees always leave with new knowledge and valuable takeaways.
At the end of each session, attendees are invited to introduce themselves and their business to the rest of the group. These 2-minute roundtable sessions are an excellent opportunity to perfect your pitches and connect with other professionals in our network—and perhaps in your own industry.
Each session is held virtually, allowing you to network and make new connections from the comfort of your office or home. Whether you’re a seasoned business professional or just starting out, you’ll leave feeling inspired and empowered to take your business to the next level.
Join the Discussion
Straight Talk sessions happen once a quarter. Upcoming dates are available on our Events Calendar. But you can view past discussions online at your convenience through the NYNJMSDC YouTube channel.
A Message of Sustainability from Terrence Clark
As we approach Earth Day on April 22nd, I want to take a moment to emphasize the importance of recognizing this day for businesses. For over half a century, Earth Day has served as a reminder of the impact that we, as individuals and as business leaders, have on the environment. It is our responsibility to ensure that we are doing everything we can to reduce our environmental footprint.
It is also crucial to acknowledge the disproportionate effects that climate change continues to have on minority communities. The impacts of environmental degradation are felt most by those who are already marginalized and vulnerable. We cannot address the issues of climate change without also addressing the issues of equality—they go hand-in-hand. The term climate justice was created to address the need to solve both issues.
For decades, minority communities have been pushed into lower income housing and have had to face the effects of severe storms, weather related disasters, and pollution as a result of climate change. As advocates for diversity and inclusion, and business leaders, it is our duty to ensure that our business practices are not exacerbating these disparities and to work to create an equitable future for all.
We want to give special recognition to the certified-MBE’s and corporate partners in our network who have already made sustainability a part of their business practice. By prioritizing sustainability, you are not only contributing to a healthier planet, but you are also demonstrating your commitment to being a responsible part of our community and recognizing the needs of all stakeholders. Sustainability in the diversity supply chain is a topic that The Council will continue to promote and include in our programming. Those who attended last year’s Sustainability Symposium know first hand that this is a subject near and dear to our hearts and we will continue to make every effort necessary to keep change moving forward.
Let us all take time this week and every week to reflect on our business practices and find more ways we can sustainably reduce our carbon footprint.
MBE Spotlight: Mildred Tolentino
Mildred Tolentino has more than 20 years of experience in project and program management, design, and construction. While working at M TO Pros Development, she has been a dynamic leader in the construction industry with a “we can do it attitude”. Her current responsibilities include leading the company operations and account management. Mildred has an excellent track record for delivering complex projects within budget & schedule. Her diverse range of projects goes from the non-profit sector to commercial interiors, ground-ups, retail, residential, hospitality, industrial, healthcare and education. She prides herself in being an expert in baseline schedule development & resource allocation, financial planning, forecasting, and cost reductions strategies.
Before her work at M TO Pros Development, Mildred led the Cumming Construction New York office project management team of approximately 14 project managers and office operations. Previous to that Mildred was Vice-President of project management services at Jones Lang LaSalle. Mildred also worked at CBRE and was responsible for overseeing major renovations, new developments and new store openings for Bank of America. Previous to that Mildred worked at Leclere Assoc. Architects.
Mildred is a strong advocate for advancing women in the construction agency and serves on several boards of women-led organizations. Her passion is breaking down the barriers of entry for disadvantaged immigrants. Her uncompromising approach and advocacy are to ensure that we build young leaders through providing mentoring and leadership opportunities.
She currently resides in the New York/New Jersey area and enjoys spending time with family and friends both near and far.
About M To-Pros Development
M To-Pros is a Minority- and Woman-Owned Business certified in New York City, New York State, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Texas and Massachusetts. We provide Construction Management, Project Controls, and Project Administration services for the public and private sectors. Our portfolio includes commercial interiors, healthcare, education, housing, and more. We are a diverse company in our specializations and also our staff.
What does being a minority business mean to you?
It means breaking down barriers of entry and providing opportunities for those that are disadvantaged to enter the construction industry. It’s supporting fellow minority businesses in familiar ways to provide for a stronger network of professionals.
How has being certified with The Council helped your business?
It will provide an opportunity to network with the other corporate members and to gain an understanding of increased awareness for black owned businesses through various learning channels.
What is one thing you wish you had known when you were starting out in your career?
I wish I had known the value of networking and relationships. If I was aware of the magnitude of how leveraging relationships would be significant in building my career, I would have been more advantageous now in my business.
Corporate Spotlight: Wissam Akra
As the President of Tough Leaf, Wissam ensures that minority-owned businesses are winning more projects and growing their capacity. Wissam oversees the Tough Leaf matching platform, which pairs MBEs with bidding opportunities at no cost to them.
Founded by CBS MBA graduates Amir Zahlan and Wissam Akra, Tough Leaf’s mission is to empower minority-owned businesses to grow and enable contractors/developers to exceed their diversity goals. To date, Tough Leaf has awarded over $40M to diverse firms through the platform, with a goal of increasing awards rapidly to more users. Additionally, Tough Leaf connects minority-owned businesses to capacity-building services such as: access to capital, insurance, surety, payroll, health benefits, 401ks, etc.
Wissam is a professional engineer with more than 15 years of managing major infrastructure projects around the country. He is a holder of an MBA degree from Columbia University and an MS in Construction & Engineering Management from Columbia University. Wissam is also a certified Design-Build Professional (DBIA) and a certified Project Management Professional (PMP).
Wissam has been involved with over $10B of infrastructure projects, including the $4.5B second avenue subway in New York City and the $3.6B Hampton Roads Bridge and Tunnel Project in Norfolk, Virginia. During that time, he has awarded more than $600M of contracts to minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, disadvantaged business enterprises, and service-disabled veteran-owned business enterprises.
In recognition to his contribution to the construction industry in general and to diversity procurement , Wissam was voted as one of the Top 100 leaders in Construction & Real Estate nationwide in 2021.
About Tough Leaf
Tough Leaf empowers minority-owned businesses to grow by matching them with opportunities and capacity-building services. “This is a fantastic platform, I am glad someone is finally doing it. I spent years in government and never seen a platform as helpful as this Tough Leaf,” said Wayne Lambert, Chief Diversity Offer at Turner & Townsend.
Tough Leaf allows General Contractors to meet and exceed their minority-owned business requirements on projects by providing the first centralized database of over 75,000 certified diverse firms (MBE, WBE, DBE, SDVOB, LBE, DBE, VOB, SBE & more). Contractors and developers can save time using Tough Leaf with our comprehensive data on qualified diverse firms. With Tough Leaf, users can seamlessly share their project requirements and receive a list of vetted diverse firms that meet their qualifications, have the capacity to do the work, and can provide a quote by the deadline. Our centralized database comprises data about diverse companies including their certifications, NAICS codes, union affiliation, bonding capacity, insurance, yearly revenue, and past projects performed.
What does being a minority business, or supporting minority businesses, mean to you?
It is Tough Leaf’s mission to empower minority owned businesses. Every dollar that is awarded through our platform to MBEs counts as a win for the Tough Leaf team.
2023 Women’s History Month
The Council recognizes the significance of the start of March, as it marks the beginning of Women’s History Month. During this month, we take the time to reflect and celebrate the vital role women play in both American history and modern culture, and recognize the lasting impact that many historic women have left through their dedication, work, and passion.
Countless women have pioneered their way into the world of business, opening doors for generations of females to come after them. In recognition of Women’s History Month, we wanted to highlight a few lesser known—but no less noteworthy—women and explore how they shifted the business paradigm to be more equitable and inclusive for all.
- Anna Sutherland Bissel was the first female CEO in the United States. After her husband passed away in 1990, she took over the Bissell Sweeper Company. By 1999 she grew the company to become the largest organization of its kind in the world. Anna Bissell was also the first business owner to provide her employees with pensions and other benefits, and lead the movement to change the way workers are treated.
- Thasunda Brown Duckett is the President and Chief Executive Officer of TIAA. While holding a high ranking position, she also serves several boards of well known companies like Nike. Despite her busy work life, she has also founded the Otis and Rosie Brown Foundation to recognize and reward people who empower and uplift their community. She is passionate about helping to close the gaps in wealth creation, educational outcomes, and career success for communities of color.
- Annie Malone was a daughter of formerly enslaved people. She developed a chemical straightener for coarse hair. She herself was worth millions, but used her wealth to donate land and cover a portion of the building costs for the St. Louis Colored Orphans’ Home, now known as the Annie Malone Children and Family Service Center.
- Estée Lauder created the well-known cosmetics company that is still highly prosperous today. In 1998, she was included on the annual list of the 20 most influential business geniuses of the 20th century, notably the only woman listed among this prestigious group.
- Christine Poon was the vice chairman of Johnson & Johnson and their former worldwide chairman. During her time there, she built Johnson & Johnson’s medicines to the leader that it is today. In 2004 she was named the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association “Woman of the Year” and in 2008 she was listed in Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women.
While this is only a small portion of women who made a positive impact in the business field, the leadership of this group—and many others—have encouraged women of all ages to find their place and their voice in today’s working market. The Council recognizes these and all womens’ achievements, honoring the hard work and dedication that it takes to live by your morals and stand out against your peers.
We encourage you all to get to know our list of Council-certified women-owned businesses and reach out to those listed to create new business relationships. Our goal is to help create more opportunities for minority women-owned businesses to find success, no matter what time of year it is.