Mays also warned of the dangers of becoming too reliant on federal contracts to build one’s business. There are residual benefits of simultaneously seeking opportunities to work with private sector firms, he said.
In a one-on-one discussion between Dingle and Walmart’s Rosalind Brewer, Brewer said that to win contracting opportunities with major corporations it’s crucial that entrepreneurs to offer a product or service that will be viewed as new or innovative.
“Many black firms tend to be in the same business, like cleaning, which isn’t very novel,” Brewer lamented.
Too often firms approach companies like hers with the question, “What can I do for you?” They can forge much better relationships by starting off by providing the answer. They should ask themselves, for example, how they can help Walmart operate in the green space through sustainable products and buildings.
“The creativity that you have—bring it on,” said Brewer. “There’s an opportunity for African American and all minority suppliers to differentiate themselves and get into areas that are less ventured.”
The Obama administration was well represented during the conference. In addition to Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis’ address during a reception Wednesday evening, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk; Rick C. Wade, chief of staff to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke; and Domestic Policy Advisor Melody Barnes were all in attendance.
Barnes advised attendees to alert the White House of any discrepancies or problems they become aware of as they follow the stimulus dollars, jobs, and contracting opportunities in their communities and states. “When you see something that’s inconsistent in your community with what we’re reporting, let us know,” she said.
And while Kirk spoke of the value of entrepreneurism, he encouraged budding and existing entrepreneurs to look beyond America’s borders for lucrative business opportunities. He said that firms that export products and services grow faster, create more jobs, and compensate workers at an average 18% higher than firms that limit themselves to domestic ventures.
Readers weigh in: What are some of your policy recommendations to jump-start the economy?