MRBES Teaches the Values of Networking & Believing in Dreams
The 12th Annual Mountain Region Business Economic Summit (MRBES) kicked off at 8 a.m. June 2, at the Denver Marriott City Center.
The Summit is where big and small business owners meet, network and attend workshops to improve their businesses in the Rocky Mountain area. A new attraction to the Summit included a Minority Business Town Hall session, where a panel of various minorities discussed their businesses and answered questions from audience members.
Some of the key workshops in the Summit included: “Turn Your Side Hustle into Big Business,” “Doing Business with the City & County of Denver” and “RETIREMENT: Make Bold Financial Moves NOW to Retire in Style.” There was also a hiring fair.
Networking Advice from the Minority Business Town Hall
A Q&A session took place during the Minority Business Town Hall, the first session of the Summit.
The panel included Rosy Aburto McDonough, director of the Minority Business Office of Colorado; Amy Ford, director of communications for the Colorado Department of Transportation; Willie Franklin, manager of the CH2M Hill Construction Company; and Tanya Davis, manager of Denver Small Business Opportunity for the City and County of Denver. Small business owners in the front row also gave their insights during the Q&A.
The first question asked was, how do small businesses get in front of opportunities and how do you build relationships to access those opportunities?
“Often times at events like these, or different outreach events that any of the agencies may have, you’re gonna have that opportunity to go up and say, ‘Hello, my name is Tanya, and I do this as a small business,’” Davis answers. “You’ll have that opportunity to be able to speak to them at that point. Let them know what it is that you do, and then when they have a job that comes up, they may think of your organization and what you do.”
Franklin says you should have a plan of who you want to speak to and what you want to say when networking.
“I’ve gone to outreach events where individuals are running from person to person to person trying to meet everybody in that room. So they get a quick 30-second time with that individual and not really establishing that relationship,” Franklin says. “What I’ve seen that’s worked very well is be strategic in the individuals you want to speak with. Do some homework before you get there. Understand what your niche is and how you fit with that organization and start that discussion there.”
The second question directed to Marsha Nelson, a participation specialist for Mortenson Construction, asked when you think of the small businesses that are successful, what is it about them that had contributed to their success?
“When you’re coming to outreach events and you’re meeting us for the first time, you may be a company that does drywall,” Nelson says. “If you do drywall, you have to understand that I have probably 50 other companies coming right behind you that do the same thing. So how can you stand out differently, so that I might remember who you are? Make yourself stand out.
“The other thing is, you absolutely know your scope of work–what your business provides from A to Z,” Nelson adds. “You understand the market that you work in. Maybe you are a drywaller, but there is a difference from putting up drywall in a hotel versus a hospital.”
Dreaming and Believing at the Legacy Awards Luncheon
The Summit’s Legacy Awards Luncheon followed the Closing the Gap: African-Americans in Energy session and workshops. TaRhonda Thomas from 9 News andSenen “SLiM” Rodriguez from FLO 107.1 were the Mistress and Master of Ceremonies throughout the luncheon.
Mayor Michael Hancock and Governor John Hickenlooper gave remarks. Several Awards were presented during the luncheon. Lincoln Hills Cares received the Legacy Award for Service to the Community and the Honorable Elbra Wedgeworth received the Women in Leadership & Management Award.
The Summit’s 2017 Visionary Award went to Tim King,CEO and Founder of Urban Prep Academies, the all-male high schools in Chicago. These high schools were made to help African-American men thrive and continue on to college.
“Urban Prep is one of the only minority-founded and operated charter school organizations in the whole country. We were found by a Black man and we serve young Black men and Black boys,” King says while accepting his award. “Many people hear about Urban Prep and they think that we somehow just sprung to life and the success just happened, but it didn’t just happen.”
King said only one in 40 Black boys, who went to public schools in Chicago, earn a college degree. He wanted to target this population. He went to the Chicago School Board to apply to open a school for young Black men with a 1000-page application. By the end of the three-month process of interviews and reviews, King was turned down.
“I spent another year of researching, another year of writing, another year of perfecting this idea of what is possible for young Black boys. And I came back a year later,” King says. “I submittedanother application that was even longer. They told us no again. These are the same folks who were leading a school district where 2.5 percent of the Black boys were making it through college. They were telling me and my friends and colleagues we couldn’t do this.”
King decided to give up until he talked with his friend, Dr. Mary Pattillo, professor of Sociology and African-American History at Northwestern University, over the phone.
“So I was on the phone with one of my friends. She said, ‘So Tim, are you applying again?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely not,’” King says. “She said, ‘Why not?’ I went on ranting and raving why I wasn’t going to do it. She let me vent. When I took a breath, she said, ‘Tim, what is the Urban Prep motto?’ And I said, ‘It’s We Believe.’ And she said, ‘Well, Tim. Either you do or you don’t.’”
“As I leave you, I just ask that all of you, in whatever you do, don’t stop believing,” King adds. “Because this is what happens when we believe!”
Former Denver Broncos wide receiver, entrepreneur and author Rod Smith took the stage as the keynote speakerof the luncheon.
Smith took us back to his humble beginnings before he made it big for the Broncos and became the entrepreneur that he is today.
“I was in college, my girlfriend at the time told me she was pregnant, I’m hurt. I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t ready. She already had a son, now I’m his dad,” Smith says. “A few months later, I gotta go take a paternity test for another child that could be mine. I went from zero kids to three with no job.”
Smith’s girlfriend worked as a waitress during the day while he babysat the kids. When she came back, Smith went to work at night. He was a custodian cleaning the service department of a car dealership. Some guys would come in every night and throw trash on the ground right after Smith was finished cleaning.
“I would get so mad that I used to start talking to myself and tell myself, ‘I’mma have to get rich.’ I didn’t know what rich meant. It was just better than me cleaning this garage,” Smith says to the audience’s laughter. “One night, there was a limousine. I sat in the back of the limo and I was crying. I’m dreaming in color. I got up and said, ‘You know what. You gotta go to work.’ It just hit me.
“It was kind of like Mr. King said. You always come to that point where you want to quit. There’s always some stuff that comes into play that you want to give up. There’s that one little thing that says, ‘You better not,’” Smith adds. “One thing about quitting is there’s no coming back from that. And I thought about this. If I don’t learn how to go get my dreams, how are my kids going to learn?”
Smith mentioned the inspiration for his book, The Rod Effect, which is his playbook for others.
“The scary part was writing it ‘cause I had to dig up some pain. I had to dig up when I was broke,” Smith says. “I started documenting these principles that I had to follow. When you got a great foundation, the rest of it is easy.”
Smith took the word, dreaming, and made each letter into a chapter. There are eight chapters of dreaming plus an introduction and anepilogue.
D is desire–willing to want more 24/7. R is responsibility–we’re responsible for what happens to us, good or bad. E is environment–you have to put yourself in environments andplaces where you can win. A is affirmation–what are you saying to yourself? Do you really believe? M is mentorship–who are you following? Who do you have in your corner that’s attached to you? Iis integrity–Do what you say and keep the promises you make. N is never–Never quit. Never give up. G is gratitude–Be grateful. Whatever you’re grateful for multiplies.
“I got one more chapter I forgot to put in there. People,” Smith says. “You gotta learn how to work with people. As entrepreneurs, we’re solo. We’re up late at night by our self. You have to learn how to actually navigate through people.”