As population demographics continued to evolve in the Dubuque area and the nation, the Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce, acting in its role as an advocate and resource for area businesses, wanted to serve and support the future of commerce and industry throughout its service area. With this goal in mind, the Chamber wanted to understand the needs of the minority business community in order to connect existing businesses and/or new businesses with resources, peer networks and tools. Helping these businesses to flourish will grow the overall economic wellbeing of our communities and, as a minority businessman myself, I wholly support and have a passion for this initiative.
As the Chamber’s board of directors began discussing additional ways it could support and provide resources for minority-owned businesses, it became clear that there was a lack of data available on known minority-owned businesses in the Dubuque area. Even the state of Iowa has limited information on the topic. Therefore, with a goal to increase the inclusivity and diversity of the Dubuque-area marketplace, the Chamber formed the Minority Business Council (MBC) in an effort to advocate for, understand and promote the needs of the minority business community.
The Minority Business Council’s mission and vision were established as follows:
To fuse and guide minority and under-represented business owners toward local resources.
To achieve a more diverse presence of volunteers, staff, board and members among the Dubuque area business community.
Defining “minority” and “minority-owned business”
One of the first tasks of the council was to define “minority” and “minority-owned business.” The definition we created includes those businesses that are both owned by and/or serving minority clients based on age/generation (from young people to seasoned professionals), race/ethnicity, disabilities, gender, religion, sexual orientation and veterans.
The council seeks to achieve the following for minority-owned and service organizations:
- Create increased awareness for minority-owned and service businesses in the community
- Engage minority-owned and service businesses in the Chamber as well as the greater Dubuque-area business community
- Create and/or improve the channels of communication between minority-owned and service businesses and the greater Dubuque-area business community
- Better support the business needs of minority-owned and service businesses through readily available resources (i.e., SCORE, Schmid Innovation Center, NICC’s Small Business Development Division, ECIA and more)
In addition, the council wants to determine or provide support to these businesses in the following areas:
- Determine level of community acceptance
- Provide a sense of welcome into the greater community
- Create peer networks
- Hold out as beacons of success for the business community
- Highlight what is being done well/best practices
- Determine why these individuals or groups chose Dubuque
The MBC is seeking to identify and establish a database of minority-owned businesses in the Dubuque area to better understand their business needs and goals. Once these contacts are established, the council will be able to conduct a needs assessment.
Ultimately, by helping minority-owed businesses to flourish, the Chamber and the MBC hopes to grow the reputation of the Dubuque area as a community that promotes and develops minority-owned businesses.