ChicagoMSDC offered 'priceless opportunity' for networking

The Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council’s 56th annual Chicago Business Opportunity Fair (CBOF56) was a resounding success, attracting 600 participants in search of practical business insight and solid professional connections.

CBOF56’s theme – ‘Quality Connection: Building Business Together’ – presented information to help minority business enterprises (MBEs) enhance their businesses and build relationships that can lead to contracts.

The April event featured workshops with practical information, speakers, a business trade fair and an awards dinner. Workshops included “Strategic Ways to Gain Access Into the Healthcare Supply Chain,” “The Power of Brand Strategy: Taking Your Brand to the Next Level” and “Building Pathways to Generational Wealth.” Also in attendance were outgoing Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County (Illinois) Board President Toni Periwinkle. Several events were standing room only.

“The workshops were very relevant to what’s happening regarding issues that impact MBEs now,” said Debra Jennings-Johnson, interim president and CEO, ChicagoMSDC. “Attendees received the information they need related to gaining access to capital and projects in Chicago as well as the opportunity to network with our corporate sponsors.”

Now in its 56th year, ChicagoMSDC is the founding organization that gave birth to the nonprofit National Minority Supplier Development Council Inc. Today, ChicagoMSDC is one of 23 affiliates of NMSDC, which works with certified Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American business enterprises and connects them with its corporate members. ChicagoMSDC works with 250 private and public-sector buying organizations and more than 1,000 local certified minority businesses. Its buying members report more than $3 billion in annual purchases from minority firms, while its MBE membership employs 20,000 workers annually.

A CBOF56 networking reception and lunch offered MBEs one-on-one opportunities with corporate representatives and a trade show promoted dialogue with procurement experts with firms including Allstate, United Airlines, CDW, Comed, Aon, BP and Peoples Gas/North Shore Gas, which were major sponsors.

“The Chicago Business Opportunity Fair is relevant because we have convened corporate members who are interested in having diverse businesses in their supply chain,” Jennings-Johnson said. “Attendees can do more networking in a few hours versus what it would take weeks or months to accomplish without the support of the council.

“There are many chances at the conference for MBEs to get to know companies they want to do business with. To me, it’s a priceless opportunity.”

Jennings-Johnson said she is thankful for the corporate sponsors of CBOF, the MBEs who attended and those who provided feedback.

“Feedback from our stakeholders allows us to keep our program relevant and useful and helps us support each of our corporate members in reaching their supplier diversity goals,” she said.

To learn more about Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council, visit,


Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council 56th annual Chicago Business Opportunity Fair CBOF56 minority business enterprises MBE Debra Jennings-Johnson Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot Toni Periwinkle NMSDC Allstate United Airlines CDW Comed Aon BP Peoples Gas North Shore Gas Kristin Malek Award People's award

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