Diverse business membership organizations like the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and chambers of commerce are playing a major role in the development of diverse businesses that contribute a great deal to the U.S. economy.

Through supplier diversity programs, Burns & McDonnell and other corporations contribute to the growth and development of diverse firms, often working together with small business organizations and chambers of commerce. Here are some ways Burns & McDonnell has worked with these organizations over the years and continues to work with them today:

  • Advocate for legislation and regulations supporting diverse business enterprises — Involving diverse partners and local chambers of commerce helps pass legislation and establish regulations that could open up greater opportunities for small businesses. Supporting regulations to increase government agency spending with diverse businesses and standardizing the reporting of corporate spending with diverse businesses are some examples of what has been done.
  • Provide and support workforce training — Diverse chambers and business support organizations offer business training, skills workshops and one-on-one sessions to small diverse firms seeking to build capacity. Focus areas include improving business proposals, securing bonding and expanding the capabilities of workers.
  • Business networking and building relationships — It’s beneficial for businesses to invest in and create mentoring programs, potential joint-venture opportunities and mutually beneficial exchanges of business contacts. By deepening the relationships with diverse partners, project teams can expand the areas in which they can work together in the future. Additionally, diverse partners often bring business relationships to light that lead to new business opportunities for all companies involved.
  • Registration and recruitment — Teaming up with diverse business membership organizations and chambers of commerce to conduct registration events can add new diverse businesses to any company’s supplier diversity program, which can strengthen the company in the long run.

It’s very important that local chambers of commerce and other organizations exist because they help give diverse firms a voice. The chambers have the ear of legislators and diverse firms have an understanding of the stakeholders the chambers serve, which helps both sides work together to improve business interactions within communities.

Finding the right networking and support organizations can help small, diverse businesses in all stages of growth and development. Following are just a few examples of organizations that support diverse businesses in a variety of ways:

National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC)
Staff and members of NMSDC advocate for business opportunities for certified minority business enterprises (MBE) and connect diverse businesses to corporate members who wish to purchase their products and services. The group not only provides programs and educational information that can help MBEs increase business capacity and capabilities, but also facilitates MBE-to-MBE partnerships to meet the needs of corporate members.

The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) 
This organization is the largest third-party certifier of women-owned businesses in the United States. WBENC provides programs, events and networking opportunities for the development of women-owned businesses while making sure women have access to education, entrepreneurship support and the tools they need to grow and succeed.

African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ) 
This chamber offers a Small Business Bonding Readiness Assistance Program to help small, minority- and woman owned-businesses compete for federal, state and municipal contracts. The organization also offers workers in manufacturing specialties training and certification that can help businesses expand capabilities. Additionally, chamber staff will arrange customized training designed to meet the specific needs of individual businesses. Through its Equitable Small Business Initiative, the New Jersey-based group makes business loans to state-certified MBEs who need funding to grow.

Mid-America LGBT Chamber 
The staff and members of this chamber advocate for the success of the LBGT business community in Greater Kansas City and the Mid-America region of the United States. The chamber provides certifications for LGBT-owned businesses and conducts professional development workshops designed to build leadership and management skills. Networking and business mentorship opportunities for leaders of LBGT-owned businesses are also offered to the organization’s members.


This post is part of Together By Design, a quarterly business diversity newsletter published by Burns & McDonnell to advance a community of inclusion. This newsletter features stories of great opportunity, leaders who bring out the best in others, innovative approaches, and diverse perspectives that shape the business community and world at large.

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