Group works to increase scope of minority, women owned business in Memphis

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - It's a massive conference aimed at increasing the number and capacity of minority and women-owned businesses in the Mid-South.

The Graceland Soundstage and the Guesthouse at Graceland are the site of the 11th annual economic development forum for the Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum (MMBC).

"What we need is more intentionality on the part of corporate decision makers to intentionally solicit bids from minority and women-owned businesses," Jozelle Luster Booker said.

Booker is president and CEO of the MMBC, the group helps minority and women-owned firms ramp up operations through expanding contracts with corporations.

The forum puts corporate higher-ups in the same room as those vying for their business.

"When we first started tracking this data back in 2008, there were no minority businesses that had contracts valued at a million dollars. And today we have hundreds of them that have contracts over a million dollars," Booker said.

Last month Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, along with FedEx and Christian Brothers University, announced a separate program called The 800 Initiative. That initiative set a goal of helping 800 minority-owned businesses in Memphis collectively grow $50 million in revenue by 2023.

"As we all pool our resources together, if we don't duplicate efforts, we can never have too many people in this community working on this particular issue," Booker said.

To close out the conference Thursday, MMBC will hold a youth business forum targeted toward the children of minority business owners.

The forum is open to any high school student, college student, or young professional with an interest in entrepreneurship.

"We are going to have a technology focus, we are going to talk about some of the other high growth areas which is healthcare," Booker said.