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Diversity celebrated at chamber luncheon

Diversity celebrated at chamber luncheon

The Daily Progress | September 20, 2016

By Allison Wrabel

For minority- and women-owned businesses to make it, they need to become a critical part of the “value chain” of the businesses they are trying to work with, said Bill Cooper, director of diversity strategies for Atlantic Constructors.

Cooper was the keynote speaker at Tuesday’s Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Chamber Business Diversity Luncheon, hosted by the Chamber Business Diversity Council and held at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center.

Cooper said the time is right for minority- and women-owned businesses to find a position that truly adds value and to be able to sustain themselves, now that companies are shedding non-core activities and outsourcing more.

RYAN M. KELLY / THE DAILY PROGRESS. Bill Cooper gives the keynote address during the Chamber Business Diversity Luncheon at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center.

RYAN M. KELLY / THE DAILY PROGRESS. Bill Cooper gives the keynote address during the Chamber Business Diversity Luncheon at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center.

“Since the population is starting to shift and there will be more minorities and women as players in the world of business today, if we do not begin to understand what is required for women and minority business owners to be successful, then who is going to be able to take over those businesses that are outsourced?” Cooper said.

“So I’m here today to declare that rather than worry about the procurement processes that build the numbers up, corporations that desire to do business with women and minorities need to find out what these businesses need most,” he said.

Money and customers is what they need most, he said, but until weaknesses are addressed, businesses will not be able to move forward.

The Forward/Adelante Business Alliance, which publishes Virginia’s first bilingual magazine, was the recipient of the 2016 John F. Bell Sr. Vanguard Award. The award recognizes an individual, business or organization that actively promotes diversity within the greater Charlottesville business community.

Alex Urpi, vice president of the alliance, accepted the award and spoke about the magazine’s beginnings.

Olga Morse started the magazine in 2008, when she was a real estate agent, with her son Ivo Tomasini.

“At the time, it was a business journal, but more than a business journal in its concept and its spirit,” Urpi said.

He said their purpose in starting the magazine was to connect cultures, open doors and crush stereotypes.

“She realized that much of the Hispanic community and its success was separate from the rest of the business community in Charlottesville and in Central Virginia,” he said. “They were there. There was the success, there was the entrepreneurship, but there was a distance. There was a gap that she wanted to bridge.”

They started the Chuck Lewis Passion Award to celebrate entrepreneurs who overcome obstacles and achieve success as a way highlight local small-business owners who might be overlooked otherwise.

“In Spanish, you never say that someone is successful; you say ‘tener exito,’ which is to have success,” Urpi said. “By very nature of the language, success is not something innate. You’re not born with it. You work toward it, you obtain it.”

He said Morse faced challenges but she fought through to bridge the gap by helping people understand each other’s cultures to build relationships and create trust, and in turn help others obtain success.

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