Last June, the National Minority Supplier Development Council led a delegation of corporate executives and minority business owners to China, partly to help minority business enterprises become more knowledgeable and globally competitive by forming business ties with Chinese minority firms. The two-week trip, sponsored by Dell Inc., IBM Corp. and Motorola Inc., also sought to begin the process of building the China Association of Advanced Knowledge Promotion in Ethnic Regions’ capability to stimulate long-term minority supplier development processes in China.
“This relationship with AKPRO will benefit NMSDC corporate members with a presence in China, as well as MBEs and ethnic Chinese minority businesses,” Harriet Michel, president of NMSDC, said at the time. “We want to make our corporate members with operations in China more aware and receptive to the idea of utilizing minority suppliers in China, and we would like our minority suppliers to become more globally competitive by forming mutually profitable business ties with Chinese national minority enterprises.”
In a world of global sourcing, advocacy organizations for minority and women-owned business enterprises say these enterprises can maintain their supplier relationships with corporations in foreign markets precisely by teaming up with overseas suppliers, especially in developing regions, to offer more competitively priced products. “This strategic event created a historical foundation for companies like Dell to develop diverse suppliers worldwide,” said David Brown, Dell’s vice president of worldwide procurement for Dell. “As part of Dell’s global supplier development commitment, we’ll continue to partner with NMSDC to promote equal access to business opportunities in the United States and China, driving competitiveness and development in both countries.”
The wisdom of going global to become more competitive as diverse suppliers is not lost on MWBEs. More women entrepreneurs are expanding their businesses to global markets, according to a recent member survey conducted by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. The survey found that 25 percent of the more than 1,200 respondents have gone global or are in the process of going global.
“Three years ago the threat of globalization and the consolidation of the supply chain were top concerns for WBEs, but women businesses have swiftly adapted to this marketplace,” says Linda Denny, WBENC’s president and CEO. “A mere 1.6 percent of the respondents said going global isn’t possible, which illustrates how women businesses believe they can do anything and they do every day.”
Respondents selected expanding globally as their top priority for 2008. Of the women business enterprises that have gone global, 65 percent are working in Europe, 43 percent are in Asia and a surprisingly high 43 percent are working in the Middle East, according to the results. Of those women going global, 57 percent are doing so as a first-tier supplier to a corporation, 36 percent as a second-tier supplier and 7 percent as a third-tier supplier. “For WBEs, going global as a partner with your corporate client creates a win-win,” says Denny. “The WBE can leverage the opportunities of doing business abroad and the corporation can maintain the trusted, premier quality relationship with its woman supplier.”
Other organizations are helping diverse suppliers to cope with the rigors of international business. The National Minority Business Council Inc.’s International Trade Program has long provided technical assistance, education and training to its members for doing business in overseas markets and with overseas counterparts. The program acts as a clearinghouse for business leads and information on export and import, and it holds business exchanges for small and minority entrepreneurs who want to establish trading relationships and conduct business internationally. To date it has led member and nonmember entrepreneurs on trade missions to Barbados, Britain, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, and South Africa.
By Robert Acquaye