Pamela Nelson is founder, president and CEO of Plano, Texas-based Bracane Co. Inc., a health care research company launched in 2002. She is a registered nurse, certified clinical research associate, regulatory consultant and author with over 30 years of experience in the health care industry.
She sits on the board of the Dallas Fort Worth Minority Supplier Development Council where she is chair of the Minority Business Enterprise Impact Committee, or MBEIC.
Here, she discusses pivoting during COVID-19, challenges and opportunities for minority business enterprises, or MBEs, outlook for Bracane beyond 2022 and more.
Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
A: I am passionate about health promotion and working to eliminate disparities in access to health care and solutions, as well as helping to create opportunities for minorities to enter the clinical research industry with the formation of the Association of Minorities in Clinical Research, or AMICR.
I began my career in Longview, Texas, as a nurse and developed a passion for traveling and conducting medical missions. Since 1999, I have served with agencies to complete medical missions in Ghana, Uganda, Dominican Republic and Guatemala.
Closer to home, I have worked with remote communities in South Texas and was instrumental in collaborating with health care systems to bring neighborhood clinics to disparate health care areas in Collin County.
Q: When and why did you decide to start Bracane?
A: I started Bracane — which is a combination of my children’s names, Brandy and Can — in 2002.
The company was started because of the misconceptions about research in minority communities and to increase the number of study participants and minority professionals.
Q: What impact did COVID-19 have on Bracane, and what did you do in response?
A: The initial impact of COVID-19 on the business was financially difficult and caused a brief hesitation of ongoing and new projects.
However, we were able to change course and pull out some of our capabilities from the past but they were not an immediate growth area into the forefront and thus, created a thriving, revenue-generating cost center for the company. In fact, the cost center will likely exceed our primary [North American Industry Classification System, or,] NAICS code this year.
Q: What’s been your greatest accomplishment?
A: We have been in business for over 20 years. We celebrated health care with a program of gratefulness entitled “Impact of 1.”
We have had so many accomplishments and milestones [that] it is hard to determine which one is most significant. However, there is one that stands out, particularly for me — our collaboration with two entities Avenue F Family Health Center [in the Avenue F] Church of Christ and Baylor Scott & White Health to form a community clinic in East Plano.
We are a research company and had collected limited high blood pressure data for the area in East Plano in 2012 while working with [Avenue F] Church [of Christ] to conduct health fairs for high blood pressure and diabetes. Taking the information to Baylor with a request to have volunteer support once a month led to a collaborative effort for the Avenue F, a community clinic that grew into a full-time effort which was absorbed into the Baylor Scott & White family of community clinics in 2015.
Q: What does your role entail as DFW MSDC’s MBEIC chair?
A: My role is advocating and representing certified minority business enterprises for DFW MSDC. That [role] takes on many forms, including representing membership as part of the executive committee and the national MBEIC regional affiliate leadership.
The primary function is to listen and hear the voices of MBEs and ensure the board hears their voices.
Q: What are the biggest challenges and opportunities for MBEs?
A: The reoccurring challenges for MBEs include the need for increased utilization of smaller companies, sustainable contracts that pay monthly and access to capital.
MBEs are in a vicious cycle of being able to provide services to companies but are not fully utilized. There is limited access to capital to sustain for more than one to three months, thus taking on contracts that pay 60-90 days after the work is completed makes sustainability a problem for MBEs that have limited or no capital reserves.
Other challenges that continue to plague small businesses include infrastructure and strategic depth. For many MBEs, the owner wears many hats and is at the core of the business. The business expertise and recognition are identified with the owner. Business growth is limited with lack of infrastructure and no one to lead or maintain the business culture if the owner is absent.
I think that the current environment for [diversity, equity and inclusion] and [environmental, social and corporate governance] sets a tone for minorities to have more opportunities for business support and growth. Depending on the desire of the owner, there are increasingly more opportunities outside of the U.S. as an exporter of goods and services and government sectors.
Q: What’s your outlook for Bracane and supplier diversity over the next five years?
A: Bracane is continuing to grow. We are building our leadership team to take the next steps toward growth and sustainability. We will continue to push for increased utilization of small businesses to perform services for large corporations and other MBEs because we can do the work — not just because we fit into a specific category.
I want us to be recognized for our outstanding service and ability to provide research and staffing resources for pharmaceutical, insurance and government agencies. We just happen to be a minority, woman-owned company.
To learn more about Bracane, visit bracaneco.com.