HMSDC celebrates five decades advocating for MBEs

By M.V. Greene

Photos by Twice Media Productions LLC


The Houston Minority Supplier Development Council (HMSDC) holds a spectacular gala every five years to recognize and celebrate the efforts of stakeholders working together to drive minority business inclusion. The organization’s recent black-tie event had stirring speeches, delectable dishes, music, dancing and gracious award winners.


The gala took on additional significance as the nonprofit organization is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year as a regional affiliate of National Minority Supplier Development Council Inc. (NMSDC), the nation’s leading certification and advocacy organization for the support of minority-owned businesses.


HMSDC President Ingrid M. Robinson described the gala event — titled “Transforming Business Through Growth and Innovation” — as an occasion for “elegance, networking and recognition. We celebrated the achievements and enduring spirt of Houston’s business community.” 


Richard A. Huebner — who served HMSDC for 29 years, retired as president in 2015 and was succeeded by Robinson — reflected on what makes the Houston Council special and unique in marking its golden anniversary. He said it has been recognized seven times as NMSDC Council of the Year. HMSDC also has been recognized in the past as Houston’s Greatest Non-Profit Business Organization by the Greater Houston Partnership, a business and civic organization that serves as a gathering place for community-minded leaders promoting Houston’s growth and economic vitality.


“The energies, passion and ingenuity of our staff and members led to these recognitions, and I remain so proud of their accomplishments,” he said.


Carla Kneipp, senior vice president, procurement, materials & logistics, at CenterPoint Energy Inc. — a Houston-based electric transmission and distribution company and platinum gala sponsor — announced to the delight of attendees that $14 billion in economic activity is generated in the Houston region by HMSDC-certified minority business enterprises (MBEs).


“The data underscores the significance of the Council’s work empowering and supporting minority-owned businesses through certification, education and advocacy,” she said. “Clearly, MBEs make a vital financial impact, driving economic prosperity and fueling the growth of our great city.”


Corporate member Exxon Mobil Corp. was presented with HMSDC’s National Corporation of the Year award for its longtime commitment to the work of the Council.


During the HMSDC EXPO — held in October at ExxonMobil’s corporate campus in Spring, Texas — Robin Hawkins, supplier diversity program manager at ExxonMobil, noted her company’s August 2023 induction into Billion Dollar Roundtable Inc. — an exclusive group of 39 U.S.-based corporations that promote supply chain diversity and minority business development.


“It was a journey, but it wasn’t really a journey to the Billion Dollar Roundtable,” she said. “It was a journey to world-class supplier diversity, and the Billion Dollar Roundtable was an accomplishment along the way.”


Advocating for minority business development

With 50 years under its belt, HMSDC — like all organizations that advocate for supplier diversity — is confronting headwinds that are threatening to tear at the fabric of support for diverse businesses, Robinson said, noting reverberations from the June 2023 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down affirmative action in college admissions that adversaries are now seeking to extend to initiatives involving diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).


Advocating for sustained minority business development will be high on the agenda of HMSDC going forward to blunt those headwinds, she said.


 “The business case is coming into play now for diverse businesses,” Robinson said.


The theme of advocacy was prevalent at the annual HMSDC EXPO that connects minority- and women- owned suppliers with major corporations, prime suppliers, educational institutions and Texas state government agencies seeking to buy products and services. The EXPO, held in October, included a trade fair, networking sessions and panels discussing trending issues in supply chain inclusion.


“The exposure, the community and the inspiration have been great,” said Juan Pablo Osorio, co-founder and CEO of Sugar Land, Texas-based Alpha Co. Marketing & Media — a bilingual digital marketing firm — of the EXPO. “If you are a small business or a medium-sized business looking to grow your network, be part of a business community that cares about each other and is looking to help each other grow, then you have to be here.”

Kyra Hardwick is founder and chief business development strategist of The Kyra Company LLC, a Houston business development solutions firm that provides business operations development, human resource solutions and organizational development infrastructure. She also had high praise for the EXPO, noting that “hands-down” her organization has grown over the years through developing more business with HMSDC corporate partners.


Robinson said four pillars of HMSDC’s work are to certify, develop, connect and advocate, and that advocacy now must be at the forefront.


“The other three pillars get the most attention and focus, but everything that has happened since the Supreme Court decision has brought more focus on the need for that advocacy piece,” she said.


Citing a letter released after the Supreme Court decision by conservative attorneys general in 13 states questioning the legality of DEI programs — including supplier diversity — Robinson said the threats are serious. “We have to be just as serious” in response, she said.


In a direct challenge to MBEs, she said organizations like HMSDC will also need diverse suppliers to step up and be advocates as well. NMSDC regional affiliates like


HMSDC have been banding together to develop national messaging around advocacy in support of MBEs and are providing technology tools, resources and information, but need MBEs to join in the effort.


“It is not just us as regional councils to advocate for it, but you have to advocate for yourself,” Robinson said. “If programs go away, what do minority businesses need to do to advocate for themselves and make sure corporations and lawmakers remain committed?”


She praised corporate partners of supplier-diversity programs for not “back-pedaling” in the face of threats, but added, “We can’t sit on our laurels and expect other people to fight the battle. Everybody is in this battle together.”


Huebner also noted the gravity of the need for advocacy and what must occur. “We must turn the growing governmental and societal attacks on diversity into an understanding of how diversity makes everyone better,” he said. “We need to change the mantra from creating a colorblind society to one that both recognizes and celebrates differences for the many values they bring to the table.”


Thus, the Council’s next 50 years will be as vital to the development of MBEs in the Houston region and nationally as the first 50, he said.


“The Council must remain the recognized expert and leader in our space, so that it can continue to serve as a credible adviser to members, governments and colleague organizations,” he said. “HMSDC must remain innovative and relevant. HMSDC must ensure that MBE development is represented at the table where decisions are made, and priorities set.”


To learn more about HMSDC, visit

To view or download this article in MBN Texas Volume 4, please click here.


Houston Minority Supplier Development Council HMSDC 50th anniversary National Minority Supplier Development Council Inc. Ingrid M. Robinson Richard A. Huebner Greater Houston Partnership Houston’s Greatest Non-Profit Business Organization

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