After Yale, McKinney spent a year at the White House Council of Economic Advisors during the Carter administration. By the time he became director of GNEMSDC in 2001, he had taught healthcare labor markets at Brandeis University, business at the University of Connecticut, and started a successful business with a friend: Jamaican Gourmet Coffee, in Connecticut.
A Change of Lanes, But Not of Mission
While McKinney stepped down from GNEMSDC earlier this year, he continues to impact the lives of minority business owners in his new role as managing director of minority business programs at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. McKinney says Tuck and its commitment to empowering minorities to become high-performing businesses by teaching them everything from infrastructure to productive business plan development, to how to capitalize on social media and the Internet felt like a natural extension of his work. “What I like doing is the development piece,â€ he says. “At Tuck, I am working at one of the top business schools in the world, helping minority owners grow their businesses. This is what I want to be doing.â€
HOW HE DID IT
-Â Understand the difference between debt and capital. “Banks are not in the business of investing in small businesses. They’re not putting in first dollars. They can help with loans, but to really be a player you need to attract capital. Capital wants 20%, 30%, or 40% returns on its investment. Black business owners have to understand that, and figure out how they’re going to make those excess profits. Equity and capital do not behave like debt.â€
-Â Tap into your local government. “One thing that can be very helpful in selling to local governments is access to political networking. Business owners need to be engaged in the political process if they really want to be successful, and this is particularly true at the local level. In this regard, knowing the local political leaders, contributing to political campaigns, and attending political events are important determinants of who gets considered for local government opportunities.â€
-Â Never give up. “This does not mean that you foolishly try to sell something for which there is no real market. It means that you must believe in yourself while learning constantly from everything and everyone. Entrepreneurs who stop asking questions because they think they have it all figured out are doomed. The successful entrepreneur learns from their mistakes, adjusts their strategy, probes for openings in the market, is not afraid of setbacks, and has an ego that is not out of control.â€Â Â