Maye Foster-Thompson - 2022 Global Supply Chain Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Hall of Fame

Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

A: I worked with the Chicago Minority Business Development Council [now Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council] for 20 years until I retired in 2002. I also had worked in the minority business environment before then, going back to 1968. I started out not on the purchasing side, but on the business development loan processing side with the Chicago Regional Purchasing Council, which became the Chicago Minority Business Development Council.

Q: When and why did you become a supplier-diversity and minority-business-development champion?

A: When I started out in minority-business loan processing, the most rewarding part of my work was developing solutions for very qualified minority individuals. They had the various degrees and credentials that they needed to run successful businesses, and we helped them to get a leg up. After we helped get them into business, we realized they were having difficulty making the appropriate contacts with corporations and government organizations. We started a second group involving supplier development because we wanted to get them some of the professional services and all those things that aren’t bought from purchasing. 

Q: What do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for MBEs?

A: The greatest challenges still are making sure minority businesses are making the appropriate connections and getting their foot in the door. That’s after they’ve gotten the appropriate financing. Then, they will be in that door to sell, which is the procurement piece. 

We found that getting in business and not being able to sell to the broader population was only getting people in trouble with their businesses. The funding and financing are always extremely critical, but the management and technical assistance are equally important. The need for procurement assistance really grew out of the idea that we were promoting minority businesses because you had to make sure they had customers and a customer base. 

In terms of opportunities, you see a lot of people now with advanced business degrees and those who have been in small, family-owned businesses with lots of years of experience, and all they needed was the opportunity to supply corporations.

Q: What is your vision for supply-chain diversity over the next five to 10 years?

A: My thought is that it is still going to get better. I was working in it for almost 40 years. Obviously, I thought it was going to get better every year. There are always new and bright ideas from minority firms and entrepreneurs. Nowadays, minority firms are much more sophisticated. You have people who have worked for major corporations for 20 years or more and are ready to go out on their own. So, you have the talent there.

Q: What would you like your legacy to be as a champion of supplier diversity?

A: My legacy involves many years of working with minority businesses and helping them succeed. They called me the Godmother of Business Diversity. I wear it quite proudly. 

To learn more about the Chicago Minority Business Development Council, visit


Chicago Minority Business Development Council Chicago Regional Purchasing Council Maye Foster-Thompson MBEs supply-chain diversity

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