TAMPA, Fla. — Black History Month may be coming to an end, but the push to help black-owned businesses only continues to build momentum. It’s all part of the Tampa Bay Chamber’s Minority Empowerment Program.
Inside the office, Robyn Donaldson’s smile sets herself apart, but outside, it can be challenging for a minority-owned small business owner to make a mark.
“It's costly and as a minority-owned business I didn’t have that in my budget,” said Donaldson.
Donaldson is the CEO of Renew Construction Services, a full-service janitorial cleaning firm. She said she got the boost she was looking for thanks to the Minority Empowerment Program.
“They have access to the decision-makers and anyone in business understands that business is strictly relationship building,” said Donaldson.
The program grants minority-owned businesses scholarships for one-year, top-tier memberships. Donaldson said besides the money, the other big question she hears from minority-owned businesses is, ‘what can the chamber do for me.’”
“They don’t really know the benefit of being a chamber member,” said Donaldson.
Chamber President and CEO Bob Rohrlack said it’s a win, win. Minority-owned businesses are getting a chance to see what the chamber can do, free of charge, while the chamber fosters greater diversity, equality, and inclusion across the business community.
“The old notion that a rising tide lifts all boats is no longer the economy, hasn’t been for a while, it’s got to be as you grow reach back and help others grow with you,” said Rohrlack.
Donaldson didn’t have to look any further than the NFL to realize the chamber leveled the playing field.
“1,200 applicants and I was the one that was selected for the janitorial cleaning and the rest is history,” said Donaldson.
In the past two years, the program has brought in more than 30 minority-owned businesses to the chamber.
“And what happens is they get involved in committees, they start to participate in some of our programs, and they bring in fellow businesses as well,” said Rohrlack.
“I love, love the Tampa Bay Chamber and actually the Tampa Bay Chamber was the missing piece,” said Rohlack.