CHICAGO—The 49th Annual Chicago Business Opportunity Fair was held this week from April 21-22 at the Hyatt Regency. Since the inaugural start of the two-day conference hosted by the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council—they have gathered major Fortune 500 corporations, small businesses and rising entrepreneurs to engage in workshops, breakfast meetings and award recognitions.
This year’s organization honored Chicago business leaders, Terry Miller (Exelon/ComEd), Varleria J. Stokes (American Bar Association), Robert J. Zimmer (University of Chicago), Oscar Munoz (United Airlines), Melody Spann-Cooper (President of Midway Broadcasting/WVON 1690) and City of Chicago Treasurer, Kurt Summers among other notables. The featured keynote speaker, actor/director/author—Hill Harper addressed attendees during Friday’s breakfast.
Sheila Morgan serves as President and CEO of the Chicago Minority Development Supplier Development Council. She offers some great insight on how the CMSDC started 49 years ago and how they play a significant role in bringing minority owned and operated companies together with major corporations.
CD: How did the CMSDC form in Chicago?
Sheila Morgan: “This is a 49-year old organization. It started here in 1967. It grew out of social unrest. If I did the actual research, some of the Defender people may have been engaged back then. Chicago lead a great deal during this era. Those were tumultuous times and Black people were demanding our rights. Open up the door or I’ll open it up and get myself—burn baby burn. All of those things.
Chicago business people understood that Black people needed to be included in economic development for them, that meant access to contract opportunities. The event that we will be celebrating–then was called Business Op Day.”
CD: Where was the first fair held?
Sheila Morgan: “The first one was held at the Hawthorne Works plant at Western Electric in Cicero. Western Electric is now known as AT&T. They hosted the very first Business Opportunity Day. There were 14 companies that participated and about 100 MBE businesses that participated in that event. They started to dialogue and exchange information. They started to open up to minority businesses—specifically Black businesses to participate in the process.
Out of the fair–the next year grew the council that we have today. The fair is the foundation of the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council.”
CD: Chicago was the leader of entrepreneurial growth with the city having the most segregated communities in the U.S. Why is it important to encourage Black business people to grow their business within the community?
Sheila Morgan: “I think it’s critical to the survival of our community. If you think about where we came from, how we grew up and when our communities were strongest is when we were entrepreneurs. When we had everything in our communities that we needed. We are procurers of every single thing. We spend a lot of money. In many cases, we cannot buy in our communities because of the stuff that was in our community is now gone. If you have to go out—it’s business critical.
CD: How does this lack of spending in our community affect the next generation?
Sheila Morgan: “We owe our children—people that are coming behind us—entrepreneurism is a viable way of not only building our communities but building wealth here. So, we have to pass it on in our community. We don’t teach it in schools and we should. We need to encourage people not to only accept acquiring an education, then come back—only to work for somebody else. Instead you need to go to school, get a good education, come out and employ somebody else in addition to yourself.
CD: What is the disconnect that you find Black consumers have with spending money in their communities?
Sheila Morgan: “You hear the same old stories, right? ‘We don’t have the quality, it costs too much–the same old concerns. So you hear this when I look at our community—we are responsible.
If our community is not clean, it’s because we don’t clean it. If we don’t love or respect ourselves, then we don’t love or respect our community. We don’t take care of each other. I have to love you and you have to love me. We have to care about the next person—we have to pass it forward.
I think the excuse that it costs more in the neighborhood. Then add up how much it costs to drive someplace else to get it. You’re going to buy from someone but why not be deliberate about buying from your own. Why not?”
CD: The CMSDC is celebrating 49 years this year. What are your plans for the 50th anniversary next year?
Sheila Morgan: Our focus as an organization is to connect businesses to each other. For this purpose, major corporations are looking for minority businesses.
I run an organization that represents all minorities. A third of the businesses that are certified with the council are African-American, a third is Hispanic and a third are Asian American. About two percent of our members are Native American. We represent all minorities that are U.S. citizens. We are not gender specific. We have probably 30 percent that are women-owned businesses that represent any ethnicity.”
For more information on how on the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council and upcoming events, please visit: WWW.CBOF.CHICAGOMSDC.ORG
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