Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to building a middle class economy in honor of Black History Month
I am a native of Columbia, South Carolina and a graduate of Benedict College with a BS in Business Administration. I also received a Masters of Business Administration from the Goizueta Business School at Emory University. After college, I began my career with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2000, I joined the MBDA Atlanta Regional Office and have been with the Department of Commerce for 14 years. I began my career with MBDA as a Business Development Specialist and was eventually promoted to Chief of Business Development for the Southeastern Region. My next promotion relocated me to the MBDA National Headquarters in Washington, DC in 2012 where I currently serve as Chief of the Office of Business Development. In this capacity I oversee the Office of Business Development and serve as the lead federal program officer for the nationwide network of MBDA’s 44 Business Centers.
I lead the effort within the agency to promote economic opportunities that expand the growth and competitiveness of minority business enterprises (MBEs) across America. I am responsible for the creation and implementation of strategies for business development in the areas of: access to capital, access to contracts; access to emerging domestic and international markets and global supply chains. We also actively engage strategic stakeholders like national chambers of commerce and trade associations in collaboration on policy and programs.
For three consecutive years, I have served as Conference Director for the National Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week Conference, the nation’s largest federally sponsored conference on minority business enterprise. This conference is held annually in Washington, D.C. and attracts over 1,000 attendees. Traditionally, we have hosted officials from the White House, including the Vice President of the United States, the Secretary of Commerce, Cabinet Secretaries and a host of CEOs from MBEs and Fortune 500 firms.
My role at the Department of Commerce has a direct impact on improving the U.S. economy and expanding opportunities for all Americans. Through MBDA’s programs and initiatives, more than $6 billion in access to contracts, capital and export transactions have been generated over the past year - resulting in 30,000 jobs created and retained. This economic infusion contributes to the expansion of the middle class and growth of the American economy.
My personal leadership philosophy and core guiding principles are: vision, courage, teamwork, and a commitment to excellence; accountability, clear mission, faith and a relentless work ethic rooted in integrity.
In addition to my service with MBDA, I have enjoyed being involved in a broad array of community and civic activities. Through my affiliation with Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, the oldest African American sorority in America founded in 1908, I am engaged in a number of important community programs. These initiatives include mentoring youth, food drives, youth scholarships, breast cancer awareness, the American Heart Association, coat drives and volunteering to aid senior citizens. I also served on the board of directors of Janie and Ida’s House of Hope that provides shelter and other services to victims of domestic violence. Additionally, I participate in the service ministries of Friendship Baptist Church in southwest Washington, DC.
Black History Month is important to all of us because it reminds us to reflect on the arduous journey of African Americans in this country and to take note of the tremendous contributions that we have made to this great nation. This year I was privileged to celebrate Black History Month in a unique fashion when I was invited by my alma mater, Benedict College, to participate in its 28th Annual Black History Month program. I was invited to be a panelist on a televised program with the President of the College and other distinguished guests. (www.scetv.org/bhtc) This event was particularly meaningful to me because it allowed me to not only reflect on the historical significance of the Black struggle in America, but also to share my personal experiences with current students and perhaps inspire them to achieve their full potential.
Benedict College, like most Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), was founded in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War with a mission of educating newly emancipated African Americans. The vital purpose of Benedict College and other HBCUs continues to be to provide educational opportunities for a segment of our society that is often marginalized. This is accentuated during Black History Month when we pause to acknowledge the essential role that these institutions and their graduates have played in the advancement of African Americans.
The most fulfilling aspect of my participation in the recent Benedict College program was my interaction with the students who sought my advice regarding their future career options and plans. My most salient advice to them was a quote from Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, the legendary president of Morehouse College and mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who often told young students: “You are what your dreams are. So dream big dreams. Low aim, not failure is the only sin.”