Rebuilding with Race in Mind: Four Businesses Creating Opportunity for All

By Sarah Trent

This is the third in a three-part series featuring Local Economy Fellow Crystal German. Below, read about four businesses working with her Minority Business Accelerator that are creating impact and increasing economic inclusion in Cincinnati. The first installment offers a mini case study of the Minority Business Accelerator Crystal runs at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. The second features the story of Crystal, her journey into the BALLE Fellowship and Localism. Stay tuned for details on our March webinar focused on opportunity for all, which Crystal will moderate.

We asked Crystal to identify a number of businesses under the Minority Business Accelerator umbrella that she sees making impact toward increasing opportunity for all in the Cincinnati region. Two types of businesses work with the MBA: minority-owned portfolio firms, who receive consulting and support from the MBA, and “Goal Setters” – large corporations and institutions with whom the MBA works to connect with portfolio firms that could provide them competitive product and services.

Smart IT
MBA Portfolio Firm

Smart IT is a minority-owned IT staffing firm based in Cincinnati and Indianapolis that has received MBA consulting services aimed at increasing its revenues and improving its operations.

Over the past four years, the MBA has provided them various consulting engagements including strategic access introductions, company awareness and exposure, strategic planning, contract referrals, advisory board development, organizational development and trainings, and discussions around capital, such as acquiring new a building and evaluating new build options.

In those four years, SmartIT has almost tripled revenue and employee base. Another way SmartIT makes a local impact is by allowing its employees to take on local projects during company time to give back to the community.

Aunty’s Homemade Food & GT Industrial
MBA Portfolio Firms

The MBA was instrumental in connecting portfolio companies Aunty’s Homemade Foods, which prepares and packages more than 5,000 meals a day, and GTI, an industrial supply company. Staff at the MBA knew from working with GTI as a portfolio firm that they were looking to do more business with food service firms, and also knew that Aunty’s fast growth was creating problems with maintaining enough inventory. Now GTI supplies all of Aunty’s dry materials (food containers, trash liners, hairnets, etc.) and Aunty’s is GTI’s largest food service industry customer.

“Most of our firms have worked with each other in the past,” MBA Vice President Crystal German says. “We are moving from an environment where our portfolio companies are doing business with other minority companies based on who they know and who they have a comfort level with, to a situation more based on what can give them a competitive advantage.”

Cincinnati State Technical and Community College
MBA Goal Setter

The MBA has done work with Cincinnati State Technical and Community College to increase MBA minority firms’ participation in their co-op program to provide meaningful paid work experiences for students. The work experiences increases the likelihood that the student will complete their studies, increase their marketability and provides them with unique development that can be fostered in smaller companies.

Dig Deeper

  • Read about Crystal’s experience as a BALLE Fellow and the story of how she came to this work in Cincinnati.
  • Read our mini case study of Crystal’s Minority Business Accelerator, which was founded as part of a community-wide response to an incident of police violence against a black youth that triggered days of civil unrest.
  • Learn more about BALLE’s vision of Opportunity for All and stay tuned for more details on our March webinar on this topic, which Crystal will moderate.
  • Learn more about the Minority Business Accelerator by checking out their website or taking a peek at their 2012 and 2013 annual reports (PDFs).