National Minority Business Council champions minority business develop, supplier diversity

By Monica Stavish Skaggs 


The year was 1972. The Dow Jones closed above 1,000 for the first time; the Watergate scandal broke, NASA’s space shuttle program was officially launched and Shirley Chisholm, the first African American congresswoman, announced her candidacy for president of the United States. The Dallas Cowboys defeated the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI, baseball great Jackie Robinson died, the television series MASH premiered and it was a leap year. 


In New York City, a forward-thinking group of minority businessmen was setting the foundation for National Minority Business Council Inc. Celebrating 50 years of service this year, NMBC is a full-service, nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation that offers business assistance, educational and networking opportunities, workshops and seminars and purchasing listings to hundreds of businesses across the country. 


The council works to expand opportunities to small, minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses and has 1,000 members nationwide. The membership’s major business sectors include service, wholesaler-distributors, manufacturers and contractors.


NMBC’s founders represented various industries: John F. Robinson, management consulting; Fritz-Earle McLymont, international trade; Renaldo Cordova, moving and trucking; William H. Drewes, Esq., legal; Cliff Moorhead, commercial photography; and Clif Paulang, architecture. 

“NMBC is very grateful to its members, friends and supporters for their long-term support of the organization and its board of directors,” said Robinson, who has served as president and CEO of the council since 1979.


Since its beginning, NMBC has retained a unique, independent operating structure.


“In 1972, there were a lot of organizations similar to ours, but they were government-funded. Some received grants through the [U.S.] Small Business Administration,” Robinson said. “We decided as a group that we needed to have an organization of minority business owners that was funded through membership and corporate grants — with no government funding.


“That way, we could speak out on issues and not worry about the government pulling our grant,” he continued. “There would be no restrictions about what we could or say. To this day, our council does not receive government funding. We are supported by our membership base, corporate contribution and special NMBC events. Periods.” Through the decades, Robinson noted, NMBC has received SBA grants for special projects, but no long-term funding.


The founders had numerous goals in mind to help minority business enterprises or MBEs.


“When you’re starting an organization, there are a lot of people with a lot of ideas. We were not looking for any handouts. We wanted to establish a level playing field for minority and disadvantaged businesses. That was our goal,” said co-founder Renaldo Cordova, senior vice president, operations and child safety, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas. “The main thing we wanted to know from corporations was what do we need to do to do business with them,” he added. “We needed to be competitive and responsive.”


McLymont, founder and managing partner of McLymont, Kunda & Co., an international trade company in Brooklyn, New York. expressed similar sentiments.


“What prompted me was the need to help other businesspeople,” he said. “I worked in finance at the time. People would come to me and ask me to help them. I was involved in talking to other businesspeople about the need to help each other. People were intimidated by having to bring balance sheets to bankers. 


“A lot of people helped me. That’s why I help others. One of the things we need to do as a people is to share,” he added.

NMBC led the way with numerous achievements through the years. In 1978, during President Jimmy Carter’s administration, the council advocated passage of Public Law 95-507, which made major changes to the Small Business Act. The new law provided opportunities for minority-owned businesses to participate in government contracts. For example, the ruling stipulated that 5% of a $1 million contract must be set aside for MBEs to bid on, Robinson said.


NMBC worked with former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo’s administration to create the Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprise Program. Robinson also served on the program’s advisory council. In addition, NMBC helped the state of New Jersey create its minority business program under Gov. Thomas Kean in 1982 and participated in the formation of statewide minority business programs with New York City Mayor David Dinkins’ administration.


“We’re not just celebrating this year, we’re giving people an historical picture of what the council has stood for the last 50 years,” Robinson said. “For example, we were instrumental in helping Pfizer Inc. set up its minority business program in the late 1970s/1980s. We also helped Phillip Morris [International Inc.] and McGraw Hill [Education Inc.], to name a few. We were the premier organization representing minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses directly.”


Two other big milestones: In 1984, Robinson received a Presidential Proclamation from President Ronald Reagan for his private-sector accomplishments and efforts on behalf of NMBC. In 2011, NMBC participated in the daily opening ceremony of the New York Stock Exchange. Also, in 2011, Robinson said NMSC received an award from Mayor Michael Bloomberg for minority business leadership. 

Current programs include:

  • Global-International Trade Program: The group has led members and other entrepreneurs on trade missions to Jamaica, Great Britain, Costa Rica and other countries. The program provides technical assistance and education about export and import and serves as a clearinghouse for business leads. 
  • Women’s Business Committee: The committee addresses opportunities and other issues related to women-owned business enterprises to help them grow.
  • Executive Management Program: Workshops help business owners and staff members compete in today’s global economy.

Recalling the vision the founders had 50 years ago, Robinson said he is proud of their efforts on behalf of MBEs. He fondly recalls the contributions of his late wife, Velma Pamela Robinson, who supported NMBC and its goals. 


Looking forward, he is optimistic about the outlook for supplier diversity and minority business development — and NMBC’s continuing role as an advocate.


“Corporations want to do more to increase their spend with minority-owned businesses. There is also an opportunity in areas of international trade,” Robinson said. “Our traditional role as advocates means we look out for the interests of MBEs in any way that will help grow their businesses.”


One of McLymont’s passions is international business, and he recently helped develop boot camps in that arena. “We set out to see how we can share our experiences with other business owners. We had 22 businesses participate,” he said. “We talk about shared economies and share expertise. It works.”


Added Cordova: “Today, as yesterday, it’s the same issue — access to capital. And in a global economy, if companies can do business with a minority company that’s local, they can reduce their costs.


“I try to share those experiences and lessons with kids [through Boys & Girls Clubs],” he continued. “Hopefully, it keeps them on the right track. If they think somebody doesn’t do something for them because of race, I tell them, ‘Don’t let that drag you down. You’ve got to keep moving forward.’” 


To learn more about the National Minority Business Council, visit www.nmbc.org.


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