The local chapter of the Black MBA Association is raising its profile and efforts to help minority-owned businesses.
The National Black MBA Association of Western New York is about 30 years old and focuses on assisting and strengthening African-American businesses. The chapter has about 200 members and covers a broad area, including all of Western New York, plus Rochester, Syracuse, Corning and Ithaca.
“There’s not another chapter until you get to New York City,” said chapter President Thomas Beauford Jr., who was appointed president in March for a two-year term.
The group operates by the basic goals upon which it was initially formed: to help people with MBAs get more access to employment opportunities; to make information, resources and access to capital more available to entrepreneurs; and to help students at the graduate level, Beauford said.
“We still try to carry on the same goals,” Beauford said.
Since it was organized, the association has diversified its roster of programs.
Last May, for instance, the group threw a 1970s-themed bowling dance party at Kerns Avenue Bowling Center in Buffalo. The event doubled as a fundraiser for the group’s youth education program and as a showcase for the bowling business owned by an African-American entrepreneur.
There’s also the Leaders of Tomorrow, or LOT, program, a national initiative that provides help in college and career preparedness and mentoring for 10th- to 12th-grade students. Every chapter has the ability to customize the program to the needs of its own community, said Karen Stanley Fleming, director of the local LOT program.
In Buffalo, chapter members work with about 30 students at McKinley High School on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. The adult mentors help students with school subjects they are having a hard time with. The teens also learn about time management, etiquette, business etiquette, understanding social media, team-building skills and leadership skills, organizers said.
“We consider it to be one of our signature programs,” Stanley Fleming said. “Our hope is to make a difference in terms of the graduation rate.”
Right now, the mentors are working with students to create a business plan for an idea they came up with on their own: opening a school store. The kids are shown how to predict revenues, expenses and profitability, and they will create an operating schedule. They also will put together a presentation that analyzes the need for a store and the potential benefits it will bring, and then present it to Principal Crystal Barton.
“The students are attracted to opportunities to make money, and we encourage them to make money legally,” Stanley Fleming said. “With the store, they see a need that needs to be met.”
The Western New York chapter also works with small businesses, major corporations and other organizations to strengthen African-American businesses.
Last August, the group collaborated with the Black Chamber of Commerce on a forum that identified obstacles and specific issues facing black entrepreneurs. About 85 people attended “Stepping Up to Keep Businesses Running in the Black Community,” which was held in Buffalo’s Frank E. Merriweather Jr. Library on Jefferson Avenue.
The discussion offered a comprehensive look at starting and operating businesses as well as exit strategies. Other topics included the lack of succession planning by the vast majority of African-American entrepreneurs, which often means the businesses fold when the principal owners step down.
For 2013, Beauford outlined the following goals on the organization’s website, www.nybmba.org:
• Supporting youth with scholarships and programs such as LOT.
• Building partnerships with other organizations, small businesses and major corporations to promote initiatives to strengthen the community.
• Providing resources for chapter members who are students, people with advanced degrees and business owners who want to build their businesses.