By Daniel Connolly The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Entrepreneur Carolyn Hardy spoke on a panel in Memphis Monday night dubbed "Show Mem the Money" that focused on ways to build wealth in minority communities. Some of the suggestions, like relationship-building, focused on what minority and women entrepreneurs can do to help themselves.
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.
Carolyn Hardy said that many years ago, a white businessman did her a favor and said, "If you ever make a profit, you can pay me."
She told an audience Monday night that after a time, she was able to pay the businessman back. And she said it's an example of the type of strong relationship that can help African-American owned businesses like hers succeed.
"Relationships are everything," said Hardy, who for years ran the beverage company Hardy Bottling. She currently leads a logistics business and also chairs the Greater Memphis Chamber board.
Hardy spoke on a panel at Clayborn Temple in Downtown on Monday night dubbed "Show Mem the Money" that focused on ways to build wealth in minority communities. Some of the suggestions, like relationship-building, focused on what minority and women entrepreneurs can do to help themselves.
For instance, Alex Matlock of ContigoCreative, a Hispanic marketing and advertising agency, said the community should help minority and women-owned businesses go through the formal certification process that can help them apply for government contracts.
Jozelle Luster Bookersaid entrepreneurs can gain this certification through her organization, the Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum.
Other suggestions focused on how minority-owned companies can lobby for a bigger share of contracts, particularly from governments.
And Floyd Tyler, head of the investment firm Preserver Partners, said people can pressure politicians to do more to support minority business or risk losing their seats.
"You have to create a cost to the injustice," he said.
Memphis is a majority African-American city, minority-owned businesses receive only a small fraction of the city's wealth and government contracts.
Panelists argued that supporting minority-owned businesses can help everyone. Wendi C. Thomas of the MLK50 journalism initiative moderated the panel and said some people approach the issue with a "scarcity mindset," believing that if minority companies get more business, that must mean white people get less. "Instead of the idea that we could grow the pie and everyone gets more."
The panel was part of a number of efforts leading up to to the 50th anniversary of the slaying of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis. The anniversary will be marked on April 4.
The Monday night event was organized by the digital magazine High Ground News as well as the Huffington Post, the national news web site. Memphis was a stop on the Huffington Post's national "Listen to America" bus tour.
Several of the panelists urged audience members to support local, minority and women-owned businesses.
For instance, Tyler said he got mortgage earlier this year, and he asked to have the legal work done by a woman or minority-owned lawyer. The bank first said it wasn't possible. But he says he persisted, the bank relented, and the law firm got his businesses.