Lynda Ireland

The 21st century is becoming the era of American entrepreneurship, and minorities have embraced it. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of minority-owned businesses increased by 45.6 percent to 5.8 million between 2002 and 2007, more than twice the national rate of all U.S. businesses. There were 1.9 million black-owned businesses in 2007, up 60.5 percent from 2002.

Corporate America is not only watching this trend, but more corporations are buying into purchasing products and services from minority businesses to the tune of billions of dollars. It adds value to their bottom line.

Certification is the first process to obtain a major corporate contract with public and privately held companies and institutions. Still, even with certification, minority entrepreneurs have to be prepared to pitch, win and successfully complete that contract.  Minority entrepreneurs must not only have a high-quality product, but know the company image they want to present.

What are the five most important things minority entrepreneurs should do to heighten their business profile?

#1 – Create a positive first impression
When you are introduced, repeat the person’s name, have a firm handshake and present an attractive business that showcases your company’s services. If you are a certified minority business, place it on the card. The first impression is the important impression.

#2 – Follow through with a follow-up
Once you have a prospective client’s attention, retain that connection.   Make a phone call, write an email, send a letter or even a note card. Courtesy counts.

#3 – Make a memorable business website
The first move that a prospective client makes is checking out your website. Make sure the website is user-friendly.  Showcase your company’s image, services and accomplishments. Create an attractive layout, detail your company’s services, list clients, highlight company bios, feature an awards and press section, and state your certifications. Make a visual statement that creates interest.

#4 – Become active in industry organizations
Join and become active in major organizations in your industrial field: technology, law, public relations, business, etc. Also, benefit from membership in minority business organizations like the local affiliates of the National Minority Supplier Development Council, the local African American Chambers of Commerce and other business groups. Attend the programs and join committees.

#5 – Raise your profile as an industry expert
Increase your visibility as an expert in your industry. Participate on panels at
business or organization conferences, submit letters to the editor at the industry publication, add a blog to your website and send out press releases on company awards to local press and press release websites. People do business with people they know.

Lynda Ireland, a former corporate executive and business owner, is president and CEO of the award-winning New York & New Jersey Minority Supplier Development Council. For info, check out www.nynjmsdc.org