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Connecting Chicago’s minority-owned businesses

The Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council is responsible for certifying, advocating, developing and connecting minority businesses with major buying organizations.

J. Vincent Williams, President and CEO of the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council.
Victor Powell - Powell Photography Group and a certified MBE

The Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council’s newly appointed President and CEO, J. Vincent Williams, not only believes in the power of minority-owned business, but he was built by these very institutions himself.

A Chicago native from the Far South Side Roseland neighborhood, Williams was raised by a family of entrepreneurs.

“My family owned a skating rink in Roseland called Rollerena back in the late 1970s,” Williams said.

“My grandfather also owned a gas station at that time, so I had this introduction to entrepreneurship since I was a child. It prompted me to always want to go into business and have something my parents called multiple streams of income.

“I have taken that advice to heart, and now, in my career, I focus on helping businesses, particularly Black entrepreneurs,” he said.

Williams brings his passion for entrepreneurship to his leadership at the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council, the premier organization for the development of minority businesses.

The Chicago branch works with the National Minority Supplier Development Council, a nonprofit corporate membership organization advancing business opportunities for its certified Black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American businesses and connecting them to its corporate members and government entities throughout the country.

At the core of their mission, the ChicagoMSDC is responsible for certifying, advocating, developing and connecting minority businesses with major buying organizations. Their goal is to collaborate with stakeholders to enhance and promote supplier diversity locally, regionally, nationally and globally.

The ChicagoMSDC began in 1968 following civil and economic turmoil in Chicago. This unrest prompted a group of corporate and community leaders to create partnerships between minority businesses, corporate America and the government, based on the philosophy of fairness in the marketplace for all.

The council is dedicated to developing and implementing initiatives that support sustainability for these businesses and investing the CMSDC’s resources.

“The Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council places importance on acknowledging minority owners because, today, a lot of people really want to support that,” Williams said.

“It’s a true sign of the times changing. People look to our organization for resources, and we provide them at little to no cost.

“If an entrepreneur does not have the support of friends and family, here is where you can find this ecosystem of others that are going through the exact same thing you are. You can share your best practices for success. You can share your failures or opportunities, too.

“That is what we really try to cultivate — an environment for entrepreneurs, particularly minority business, because historically we just haven’t had that much support.”

Support and resources offered by the ChicagoMSDC are more valuable than ever due to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 within the minority community.

“This pandemic is really forcing people to say, ‘Hey, I never realized there was this mom-and-pop shop right here in my neighborhood and I did not know they were minority-owned,” Williams explained.

“One of the things that is most interesting about Chicago is that we are the city of big shoulders, but we stand on all different kinds of shoulders.

“Because of the pandemic, we are going to be forced to support those shoulders that we have never stood on before. That is how we are going to sustain business while everyone is hurting.

“Really what it comes down to is this: How can we coexist together now?

“The pandemic is forcing organizations and buyers to rethink, retool and redo the way they do business. In the past they might have stuck with their standard — but that is where we come in.”

The ChicagoMSDC partners with over 250 private and public sector buying organizations and nearly 1,000 minority businesses, connecting buyers with minority suppliers. Buying members report over $18 billion in annual revenue from minority firms and minority enterprises employ more than 35,000 workers annually.

These buyers and enterprises span a wide diversity of industries.

“The ChicagoMSDC doesn’t just have suppliers in construction and landscaping. Our certified entrepreneurs include professional services, too. Public relations firms, engineering firms, accountants, content management companies, staffing firms and photographers. People who really diversify the field,” Williams said.

Williams sees continuous potential for the ChicagoMSDC, even during the coronavirus.

“We are going to see a huge increase in, first, those who really intentionally want to spend with minority entrepreneurs, and then with those who want to change their business models to be part of this change.

“What our organization wants and what I hope, is that minorities are not just included in these conversations, but that they are central in them,” Williams said.

“We want the opportunity to speak. To have a voice in that conversation. Chicago is this outstanding, resilient city. We have incredible ethnic neighborhoods, and that is what we pride ourselves on. I think that for major businesses and individuals to deny this diverse makeup — it’s just not going to sustain us.”

Learn more about and support the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council now at chicagomsdc.org.