The NBMBAA Entrepreneurial Institute City Tour kicks off Saturday, May 30 in Chicago. Black MBA Magazine Assistant Editor Marianne Kunkel talked to Chicago Chapter President Isaac Bishop and VP of International Operations Spencer Palmer about the Chicago Chapter and the coming EI tour.
Black MBA: What new and exciting things are happening in your local chapter?
Isaac Bishop: We are developing connection vehicles for our members to get connected and reconnected to each other. We are driving value by creating leadership mentoring circles, where members participate in mentoring and group discussions; face-to-face exchanges for our members with leading executives over lunch; and monthly meetings discussing the latest business trends and topics.
Spencer Palmer, VP of International Operations: We're taking the theme of this year's NBMBAA Conference – Connect and Reconnect – and using the opportunity to connect with companies in the Chicago area. This year, we've done the CFO Summit, where we connected with Baxter, McDonald's, Granger and the Kellogg School of Business. In May, we had a diversity roundtable in which we talked about diversity as the latest victim of the struggling economy. We connected with the City of Chicago, Hewitt, U.S. Cellular, Deloitte and the League of Black Women to candidly discuss relevance of diversity in today's marketplace.
IB: That event is just one channel for connecting. We're creating additional connection vehicles beyond our monthly events. The next step is creating peer-to-peer leadership circles, hosted by leading executives and professional coaches. Our primary objective is to release or increase the leadership potential of our members.
SP: One of the things that Isaac, our president, has brought to the chapter is the idea that we're in the business of building leaders. Along with the CFO Summit and leadership circles, we're planning some exciting events like Dinner for Six events, in which six chapter members would get a chance to sit with a CEO, CFO and HR director and talk with them candidly over dinner.
IB: We're really focused on helping our members and partners build relationships for success. Sometimes companies may not be ready to hire right away, but we want to be sure we position our members to be first choice consideration when the market opens up.
SP: Our members are looking forward to our next event in June, designed specifically for Black women business owners. And later this year, we're hosting a speed networking event. This will be based on speed dating, and will teach members how to effectively network in a two-minute time period.
Our membership is steadily increasing, despite the economy. Building connection vehicles that work has separated us from the pack. We are one of the leading business professional organizations in the city.
IB: Our chapter is really focused on how we differentiate ourselves from other professional organizations. We keep in mind how we can deliver value to our members through every event.
Black MBA: How important is entrepreneurship in your chapter?
IB: It's extremely important. When things get tough in the economy, this is when most businesses get started, so we want to give our members access to key decision-makers and timely, relevant information. We want to connect our members. As an entrepreneur, you need to build strong relationships for future customers or vendors.
Black MBA: What are some trends within your marketplace that you notice among entrepreneurs?
SP: Green technology. There's also activity in the retail area. We're also looking at how to get involved and create a niche in the supplier diversity area.
IB: Healthcare, as well as doing business with the federal government, is a hot area.
Black MBA: What tips do you have for entrepreneurs looking to survive and thrive in today's economic climate?
IB: Build relationships. It's all about building a bridge for tomorrow today. Connect with your local MBA chapter and get connected.
SP: While the outlook may be bleak now, make sure you position yourself so when opportunities do open up, your name comes to people's minds.
Black MBA: What do you hope for your members to gain from the NBMBAA's Entrepreneurial City Tour?
IB: I hope our members gain an understanding of how to build business with the government and how to build key relationships that will release or increase their potential as entrepreneurs. Additionally, I want our members to take advantage of the social networking platform that is part of the Entrepreneurial City Tour to build their brand.
I'd like to invite everyone to come to the Entrepreneurial Institute to learn about our chapter and the value that their dollar can deliver as a member of the local Chicago Chapter.