GREENSBORO, N.C. — Small businesses drive our community. Some business owners walked into their business journey with knowledge and connections that gave them a leg up. For many, especially minority-owned businesses, the journey can be tougher.
Geoff Foster started Core Technology in Greensboro after he watched his previous employer, Ford, make millions off of his patented idea.
“Core Technology is a plastic injection molding company, where we’re taking a raw material pellets, heating them up and enforcing them into a mold to make a finished product,” he said.
Cornelious “CC” Lamberth Jr. started C2 Contractors 25 years ago.
“Every time you see a computer on a desktop, it’s connected to a network that is hardwired, it goes back to a physical location or main distribution frame. We design that system,” he said.
Both businesses are thriving. But their success is not without challenges common to minority-owned businesses.
“The first is financing,” Lamberth said. “We have to under normal circumstances bootstrap any business that we go into because we don’t have someone — that bank that will lend to minority-owned businesses.”
They say another challenge is access to potential clients who typically do business with people they already know. CC Lamberth calls this “like-ism.”
“ …To get someone to come visit, come look in the door and see what we’re really doing,” Foster said. “It’s not as easy as it sounds, everyone’s busy, even now with COVID travel restrictions, but it’s hard to get someone to come take a look and just see what you’re really capable of.”
That’s where the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce Minority Business Accelerator comes in.
“One of the things we see with our Black-owned businesses is that in terms of the capital continuum, they lack the friends and family capital aspect and that is because those families have less wealth based on a number of systemic things,” Vice President for Leadership, Diversity, and Inclusion Nikita Greene said.
She says the MBA helps foster relationships between minority-owned businesses and larger companies.
“What we’ve done over those three years is provide those connections and opportunities that our minority-owned businesses might not have otherwise had access to,” Greene said.
Foster tells FOX8 he’s called some local companies for years with no response, until the MBA stepped in.
“So they make those introductions. And then at the end of the day, we have to sell ourselves. But without the introduction, we’re just kind of talking making noise, and no one’s listening. So the MBA, got others to listen to our story. And come take a look at what we have to offer,” he said.
“I need an advocate I need someone else that can tell my story,” Lamberth said. “So if you have folks like the Greensboro chamber who know every business in the city, when a business asks if they know someone that can provide this service, and you’re the advocate for them, guess what? You have a sales force on the street that doesn’t look like you but knows everything about you.”
Core’s client list includes BMW, pharmaceutical giant Merck and now HAECO and Honda Jet thanks to the MBA.
C2 is working on the new engineering building at North Carolina A&T State University, and they landed a contract to work on Cone Health’s new clinic in east Greensboro. They agree that this kind of effort to create an inclusive business community that affords opportunities to everyone is good for everyone.
“And I think when we try to lure large corporations like Toyota and others to this area, they want to see diversity,” Foster said. “They want to see that there’s a pipeline with different thoughts. Everyone is not looking the same, talking the same thinking the same. You want to have different ideas, and this area is a great melting pot with innovation with education.”
To find out the criteria for becoming part of the Minority Business Accelerator, check out the Chamber’s website.