Business Events in Focus: Prioritizing Minority-Owned SuppliersOctober 13, 2022 | By: Nkechi Mitchell
Within the business events industry, seeking and engaging minority-owned suppliers is not always at the top of every destination organization’s list. Especially during the past two years, destinations have been more concerned with how to keep the meetings and conventions spaces alive above all else.
Now, however, the events industry is back on its legs, and destination organizations need to start thinking about how to make their convention centers thrive. Some are already doing it, but there is ample work waiting to be done. A big part of that is ensuring that the local community – and every part of it – is represented.
This means putting in the work so that Latino, Black, female, queer, and any other minority-owned business is part of the conversation. Elevating these voices within the business events industry goes beyond just identifying minority-owned suppliers for planners to hire.
- Work With Them Constructively
Listing minority-owned suppliers – whether it’s caterers or other service providers – is a first step, but convention centers and other event spaces who don’t prioritize these businesses within their own practice are missing the point. Elevating diverse suppliers means making them your go-to suppliers whenever possible, making them less of an option and more of an integral part of your operations.
Bring minority business owners the business that they need to succeed and make sure they are on board with how you operate. Just because you want to work with a minority-owned supplier doesn’t necessarily mean they are willing or able to fulfill your convention center’s needs. A simple conversation to make sure you’re on the same page will ensure a smooth working relationship that benefits everyone involved.
- Make Their Presence Known
It’s a fine line between tokenizing and celebrating your minority-owned suppliers, but a tactful and tasteful mention on your website that your partners are minority-owned is a powerful statement. Celebrate queer-owned suppliers during Pride Month in June, and make thoughtful effort to champion your Black-owned suppliers in February for Black History Month on social media.
It elevates the businesses, it elevates your CVB’s commitment to diverse suppliers, and it shows both meeting planners and your local community that you’re doing more than paying lip service to DEI efforts.
- Engage an Advisory Team
If your team doesn’t already have a diversity taskforce, it’s time to assemble one. Bring in local business leaders, whether they are suppliers or not, and learn how your convention center and events marketing team can create meaningful relationships with minority-owned suppliers.
While more teams and more meetings may sound like a lot of work, a small investment upfront can prevent huge embarrassment down the road. Having an advisory team will create a forum for making sure you avoid the very tokenization discussed above!
- Encourage Minority-Owned Suppliers Beyond the Convention Center
What a destination does at its convention center speaks volumes about commitments to local communities. If a convention center is working with minority-owned suppliers, their efforts need not end there. Work with your economic development and destination marketing organizations more broadly to make sure these local suppliers are part of larger conversations. Encourage other local businesses beyond the convention center and business events industry to contract with these suppliers.
No business in your local community will shun the opportunity to grow and work with new customers unless they are already fully booked – which is the best-case scenario as far as any business is concerned.
- Never Feel Satisfied
More accurately, “Always Feel Like There’s More to Do.” Diversity is an evolving topic that will evolve with new ways to address groups who have been historically sidelined. Those with mobility and developmental issues as well as groups of recent immigrants who enter the country as refugees or asylum seekers will have skills and talents that destination organizations can put to good use. Keep working to make sure every voice has an outlet.
It’s never an option to say, “DEI is solved,” especially not in convention centers that welcome visitors from all corners of the world and all walks of life. Elevating minority-owned suppliers is a concrete way to show a commitment to DEI and your local community, fulfilling the most fundamental role of the business events industry.
Looking for ways to elevate minority-owned suppliers in your destination? At DCI, we have more than 60 years working with destinations to hone their business events strategies. Get in touch with Nkechi Olisemeka Mitchell at [email protected] to learn more about engaging best practices for DEI.