The Importance of Reducing Economic Disparity and Fostering a Diverse Business Community

The North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development was founded in 1986 to expand and diversify the state’s economic base by providing direct support to minority and women-owned businesses. Now it’s known as the National Institute of Minority Economic Development and spans a five-state footprint in the Southeast.

The Institute continues to address racial and gender-based economic disparities by improving the ecosystem for diverse businesses, supporting community-focused nonprofit organizations, and increasing access to capital for community economic development. The Institute has helped more than 10,000 minority businesses obtain over one billion dollars in financial contracts and awards and secure more than 140 million dollars in bonding.

On this week’s episode of The Playbook, host Mark Collier, business consultant for the UGA Small Business Development Center, is joined by Kevin Price, President and CEO of the National Institute of Minority Economic Development, to learn more about the institute’s impactful initiatives.

Transcription:

Mark Collier:
Welcome into The Playbook, Kevin.

Kevin Price:
Well, thank you for having me. I’m glad to be here this morning.

Mark Collier:
Well, thank you man. I look thank you for taking time out of your busy day, man. The work you guys are doing at the institute is second to the none, so kindly share with me the mission and vision of the National Institute of Minority Economic Development.

Kevin Price:
Well, our mission is really quite simple. It is to build the asset base of minority populations and we do that through policy work education and the sessions that we offer through all of the icons that you see behind me, which are programs of the institute, and we do that by providing economic opportunities for those that we’re serving, whether it is small business owners, minority women, business owners, or those who are building affordable housing so that we can do two things, create wealth through home ownership or through business ownership, which we know are the two fastest ways of building wealth within minority communities.

Mark Collier:
Without a doubt, Kevin, there is no shortage of what we call technical assistance providers out here, so I know differentiation is the holy grail of all business models, so share with me how the institute is different from other similar market offerings out there.

Kevin Price:
I think how we’re different is we have a holistic approach to this. Many models, and if you remember years and years ago, because you and I are a little seasoned, so we’re north of 40. There used to be a program many years ago called JTPA.

Mark Collier:
Okay.

Kevin Price:
It trained and trained and trained people, but I think where there was an opportunity that was missed was connecting that with opportunities.

Mark Collier:
Yes sir.

Kevin Price:
Our philosophy is we want to connect business owners with opportunities with corporations that want to buy their products and services the same for the community development corporations and affordable housing developers who also partner with us.

Mark Collier:
Yes.

Kevin Price:
We have a lot of corporations who come to us because they know that reputation exists with us and they are looking for those clients that they can engage with on a regular basis and they know will produce.

Mark Collier:
Now, you said something very key, Kevin, you said connections and relationships. You’re so right about that. There’s one of my mentors when I was growing up, told me a saying that I never forget. He said your network influences your net worth, and that is so true, man, because the people that you surround yourself with, they’re going to help propel you towards your goals, or they’re going to hold you back. One of the two, so you’re detailing on relationships is spot on it in my opinion.

Kevin Price:
The institute started out of a network.

Mark Collier:
Okay.

Kevin Price:
Andrea Harris who her vision of creating the institute started with a networking event.

Mark Collier:
Okay.

Kevin Price:
That networking event turned into the Executive Networking Conference.

Mark Collier:
Okay.

Kevin Price:
That we hold every year in Pinehurst.

Mark Collier:
Okay.

Kevin Price:
That’s important, and it’s intentional because we wanted to go somewhere where you’re not generally accustomed to going.

Mark Collier:
Right.

Kevin Price:
Where a lot of minority business owners don’t necessarily frequent on a regular basis.

Mark Collier:
Yep.

Kevin Price:
Engage with procurement folks, engage with corporate CEOs, and executives engage with elected officials, so we can all talk shop and figure out the best ways of building wealth within minority communities.

Mark Collier:
I love that man collaboration, a pulling together of, brain trust from separate areas, all focused on the same goal and that’s to advance minority and women owned businesses, very worthwhile goal there, Kevin very worthwhile goal. Now for the businesses who you decide to utilize your services, is there a cost to those businesses to utilize the institute services?

Kevin Price:
For the most part no, and that’s also intentional because we have three women’s business centers; one in Richmond, Virginia, one in Durham, North Carolina, located on Black Wall Street, one in Charlotte, North Carolina, and we’re growing south.

Mark Collier:
Okay.

Kevin Price:
Those businesses are all those women’s business centers are all funded primarily by the small business administration.

Mark Collier:
Okay. Yes.

Kevin Price:
That allows us to not pass that cost on to the clients we want to serve.

Mark Collier:
Okay.

Kevin Price:
We have additional funds from foundations and corporations as well, but those are free services.

Mark Collier:
Okay. Yeah. It, you work off the same model that we do at the UGA SBDC, although we don’t like to use the word free, because that implies no value. What we say is our services come at no direct cost to you, but any rate, but the models are simple when Kevin, when we, and you guys help businesses grow their revenue, grow their employees, guess what they do, they pay more taxes. Right, so that helps the economic engine keep flowing.

Kevin Price:
That’s right.

Mark Collier:
Like I said, so institutes like yours are very well appreciated and much appreciated.

Kevin Price:
I should say not monetarily free. Yes, but there is a cost that costs is sweat equity.

Mark Collier:
Yeah. There you go.

Kevin Price:
We expect the businesses to show up. We expect them to be where we need them to be.

Mark Collier:
Yep.

Kevin Price:
Those connections with corporations who want to do business with them, it’s very important that we are dependable.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely.

Kevin Price:
We do what we say we’re going to do.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely.

Kevin Price:
If we’re going to connect you with somebody, you got to be there. You got to put the work in and be ready.

Mark Collier:
That’s right. That’s right. It’s a two-way street. Let’s say those old saying in the Bible, God only helps those who help themselves.

Kevin Price:
Absolutely.

Mark Collier:
You can lead them to that water, but they’ve got to actually take the initiative and drink it, so I get that. All right, so let’s talk about some of your success stories share with me one of the institute’s success stories that you are most proud of. I would love to hear about that.

Kevin Price:
Well, I think there are quite a few, actually we recently pulled together a group of minority businesses that we wanted to highlight during ENC as a result of RETOOLNC, which is the governor of North Carolina took part of his CARES Act dollars.

Mark Collier:
Yes.

Kevin Price:
He segregated those out, gave them to, gave us 14 million dollars to give away as grants, to minority businesses across the state.

Mark Collier:
Okay.

Kevin Price:
We wanted to highlight some of them. One has a very successful medicinal business and has figured out how to use cannabis in a creative and legal way.

Mark Collier:
Okay.

Kevin Price:
Done very well during the pandemic with her business.

Mark Collier:
Fantastic.

Kevin Price:
We wanted to highlight her another in the Charlotte Market had an ice cream business, obviously people weren’t going out to do things like that, and when many governors across the state had these stay at home orders, no one was going into retail establishment.

Mark Collier:
Correct.

Kevin Price:
Our grant helped him retool his business, keep his business alive, and now he’s thriving again.

Mark Collier:
That’s fantastic.

Kevin Price:
Many examples like that, that we can share of how we supported businesses and got them to really rethink their business model.

Mark Collier:
Yes.

Kevin Price:
During a crisis like this, so the next time a pandemic occurs, they’re prepared for that.

Mark Collier:
Okay. All Right. Well hopefully we won’t see one for another hundred years. Right.

Kevin Price:
Well let’s hope.

Mark Collier:
All right, so looking ahead, outside of pandemics, what are the looming challenges do you see on the horizon for minority businesses in the future?

Kevin Price:
I think the couple challenges, one is I’ve told many business owners, there’s a difference between having a bank relationship and a bank account.

Mark Collier:
Yes.

Kevin Price:
For far too often, I see minority business owners who just have a bank account.

Mark Collier:
Yep.

Kevin Price:
They know the teller very well because they are always giving the teller their deposits, or they’re sticking them in the night box, the dropbox, but you got to know the account representative in that business whose job is to be thinking about your business and how to connect that with the bank products.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely.

Kevin Price:
That’s one, the other is, I think there’s still an opportunity to generate more capital for minority business owners.

Mark Collier:
Yes.

Kevin Price:
We saw so many who weren’t able to navigate PPP last year.

Mark Collier:
Correct.

Kevin Price:
EIDL and many of the banks just weren’t connected with them. Didn’t know them.

Mark Collier:
No. Correct.

Kevin Price:
These intermediary it’s like community development, financial institutions are another way for minority business owners to have access to capital.

Mark Collier:
Yes.

Kevin Price:
I as a previous banker, I used to always coach my clients never have your entire banking relationship with one bank.

Mark Collier:
Sound advice, Kevin, sound advice.

Kevin Price:
That makes that bank complacent. They don’t have to work for your business. They already have it.

Mark Collier:
Sure.

Kevin Price:
If so, what if you are disenchanted with our services, the odds of you untangling, all of that and moving to a different bank are very unlikely.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely.

Kevin Price:
You’ll just be disgruntled.

Mark Collier:
Sure, sure.

Kevin Price:
Versus putting yourself in that position, have multiple relationships, so you can keep your banker hungry, they’re always out to get your additional business with you and it gives you an opportunity to gauge whether you’re getting the best service and the best price for your dollar.

Mark Collier:
No, that’s sound advice. I counsel my clients that too. I say, do banks do business with banks who are willing to do business with you? It’s got to be a two way street. It’s got to be a reciprocal relationship where both parties are benefiting or it’s not serving the best needs of the business owner if they’re not getting benefit from it, so spot on observations, my friend, so under your leadership at the National Institute, what are some of your personal organizational goals that you’ve been looking at?

Kevin Price:
Well, the institute you pointed out earlier that we were founded in 1986, I started with the institute last March, the ninth, a week later, COVID hit and you-

Mark Collier:
Right into the fire man, right into the fire.

Kevin Price:
It was baptism by fire, and so you learn very quickly. It was important for me to understand the mechanisms and the inner workings of the institute.

Mark Collier:
Yes.

Kevin Price:
What I found was the institute was still the institute of 1986.

Mark Collier:
Yeah, yeah.

Kevin Price:
With a few tweaks, and so I needed to bring it to a more current state.

Mark Collier:
Okay.

Kevin Price:
Given what we were experiencing last year, given so many businesses were not able to get financial resources.

Mark Collier:
Correct.

Kevin Price:
We retold it. We have a new strategic plan, four lines of business that we’re working under. We have a policy center, center for entrepreneurship where we’re supporting minority and women own businesses, a center for community investment, which I’m very excited about, because last June we merged with another non profit. We tripled in size. We now have a Community Development Financial Institution, so we’re able to make loans and investments in minority and women owned businesses.

Mark Collier:
Fantastic.

Kevin Price:
They don’t have to rely on just a bank or commercial bank. They can come to us for those needs, and then we have this center for professional services where we are partnering with corporations and providing diversity equity inclusion support, and supplied inclusion support for them and coaching them through that process as well.

Mark Collier:
Okay.

Kevin Price:
Real excited about our direction.

Mark Collier:
Fantastic, Kevin Price, CEO of the National Institute for Economic Development. I want to thank you again for taking and the time out of your busy day, come on and just share some of the great initiatives and programs that the institute is engaged in, and I can only see bright things for your future, man. I just want to say kudos to you and keep doing what you’re doing.

Kevin Price:
Well, thank you. I appreciate being on and thank you for highlighting what we’re doing.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely. Hope to have you on in the future, man. I’m sure you’ve got some big plans this year, so I want to have you on again. You can update me as to the great things you’ve been doing since our chat today.

Kevin Price:
Well, I look forward to it. We’re expanding south, so you mentioned five states soon to be six.

Mark Collier:
All right. Well, fantastic.


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