Black Entrepreneurs Tackle Super Bowl Xl

Super Bowl XL in Detroit is guaranteed to deliver everything from cheers and tears to tackles and fumbles. It will also deliver big returns for lots of black entrepreneurs. More than 750 minority- and women-owned businesses, out of 1,000 certified small business applicants, have completed the process to become part of the NFL’s Emerging Business Program. The program aims to hire minority- and women-owned businesses for every Super Bowl. Businesses must be based in the host state and be at least 51% owned, operated, and controlled by minorities or women.

As of mid-November, the Detroit Super Bowl XL Host Committee had spent $1.2 million with companies in the program, says Stacie Clayton, vice president of external affairs for the Host Committee. “Our goal is $3 million total,” she says.

Minority- and women-owned companies in the program can also procure contracts directly from the NFL. “We award contracts right up until game time,” says Kimberly Fields, manager of events business development for the NFL. Contracts are awarded in a number of areas, from catering to waste disposal.

Major sports franchises have long been accused of a lack of diversity, especially in the front offices. In 1994, the NFL officially launched a diversity program, the Minority Business Development Program, out of which came the Emerging Business Program.

Leading up to the Super Bowl, the program holds vendor workshops that not only educate local companies about available contracts but also provide a forum for networking.

Clayton says, “Even if you’re not awarded a contract for the Super Bowl, our workshops help prepare companies for other large events.”

African American business owner Stephen E. Llorens, president of Milford, Michigan-based LSPS Inc., landed a contract with Party Planners West Inc., a major supplier to the NFL. His 7-year-old company will provide theatrical lighting and rigging to the NFL Experience event at Cobo Hall. The contract will be worth about $250,000. Llorens’ company provides theatrical and architectural lighting, rigging, staging, technical design, and production management services.

Ronald N. Langston, national director of the Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency, says in addition to new business, such contracts help small businesses build a reputation. He says, “Once a minority-owned business wins a contract with this program, it establishes a track record of performance that can attract future contracts with other major corporations.”