All posts by BidLan blog

Free Procurement Opportunities Webinar

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This Thursday, March 10th, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) will be hosting a free access to contracts webinar with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).

The GSA is the federal agency that manages thousands of the government’s contracts every year.  Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about the agency’s small business contracting initiatives.

To register and find out more information click here.

 

Charleston’s Mayor is Committed to Supplier Diversity and Strengthening the City’s Tech Infrastructure

Rich_W_Teck(L) Charleston, SC Mayor John Tecklenburg, (R) BidLAN CEO Richard Souffrant

It takes a village to build a meaningful and robust supplier diversity space. That includes everyone, from the production floor employees to the C-suite executives. Our taking ownership of core values like diversity and inclusion promotes healthy competition and ultimately economic growth for all.

Honestly though, whether or not an organization builds and supports an effective supplier diversity program rests largely on the shoulders of top-level decision makers, board members and executives. Their choices set the standard for employees and the market place as a whole.

That is why the team here at BidLAN is very optimistic about Charleston’s future. You see, the city’s mayor, John Tecklenburg, has pledged to improve the quality of life for all of its citizens by supporting supplier diversity, tech, and education.

BidLAN’s CEO, Richard Souffrant, had the privilege of attending his inauguration earlier this year. He shared his thoughts on the experience with us.

BidLAN blog: How do you know Mr. Tecklenburg?

Richard: When he was running for mayor, I advertised for him and attended many of his campaign events.

Also, during his campaign, I held what I like to call “Talks with Tecks” (although Mr. Tecklenburg has quite adopted this terminology…yet). These were house parties that allowed people to come together, in an intimate setting, and learn about Mr. Tecklenburg’s position on different issues and vision for the city.

For me, those events were like catching up with an old friend. I have known John for about 6-years.

BidLAN blog: What about the inauguration had the biggest impact on you?

Richard: There are two things I distinctly remember about the inauguration.

First, the changes the mayor wants to make in Charleston, namely, investing in the city’s tech space. He wants that to be a big part of Charleston’s future.

The second thing isn’t necessarily what he said but what he did. When I looked at the demographics of the inauguration crowd, the diversity spoke volumes. Everyone was equally represented. The number of black attendees to white attendees was almost split down the middle.

I don’t think any other candidate would have had that type of demographic. You can tell Mr. Tecklenburg truly believes in diversity. Even the speakers at his event were diverse. That says a lot about what he is trying to build, a more diverse Charleston.

BidLAN blog: Why did those two things stand out to you?

Richard: Because I believe that the joy Charleston brings to visitors everyday, is the same joy locals should have the opportunity to experience. To enable that, we must build a strong jobs infrastructure. And bringing tech to Charleston would do a lot to create that environment.

If you build it, they will come. We already have a diverse landscape of people in this city. North Charleston alone is almost 50% African American. If the locals see that tech is a thriving and profitable industry, more students will major in tech. We would also be able to attract more talent to our city.

BidLAN blog: How has attending this event impacted your mission to create opportunities and access for minorities and underrepresented groups?

Richard: I saw so much diversity at the inauguration, a symbol of John Tecklenburg’s commitment to diversity. Because of that, I feel more empowered as an advocate for supplier diversity in the contracting space. I feel even more invigorated to be as vocal as possible about diversity because I know that my mayor will be behind me…Now, we can start righting the wrongs of the past.

BidLAN blog: Any final words?

Richard: I want people to know that beta will be here soon. And with everyone’s support, we can make the supplier diversity space better.

We here at BidLAN are very optimistic about the future of supplier diversity and the pivotal role technology will play in bringing this industry into the 21st century. To those working hard on the front-lines with us we say, “Continue! You are doing more good than you will ever know.”

 

 

BidLAN President Attends President Obama’s Final SOTU

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(L) Congressman Mark Sanford, (R) BidLan President Jesse Williams

BidLAN’s president, Jesse Williams, had the privilege of attending president Obama’s final State of the Union address (SOTU) last Tuesday. Upon his return from this historical event, he shared with the BidLan blog team what it meant to him.

 blog: Why were you invited to the SOTU?

Jesse: I am very involved in community outreach in Charleston, SC. In 2007 I started the nonprofit ‘Take it to the Streets’, which helps lower income neighborhoods become thriving neighborhoods. We do this through our high school mentoring and arts program, and goal setting, resume writing, and job interview training classes. We also help with the job placement process.

I have also been involved in working with the police in minority communities, and advocating for social reforms after the AME church tragedy. And I ran for city council this past election cycle on the platform of bringing change to our community.

So, I’ve been in the news a lot lately. One of South Carolina’s congressman, Mark Sanford, took note of my activities and invited me to attend the president’s SOTU.

BidLAN Blog: It sounds like you’re a very busy person. Why is community outreach so important to you?

Jesse: For me it’s all about passion, challenge, fulfillment, and impacting lives. Instead of waiting until I’m retired, I want to live for what I’m passionate about, right now, while I’m still young and full of energy.

I am passionate about empowering minority communities, and helping people thrive. I am able to use my MBA for the good of others. And in the process, I get to meet other amazing, like-minded individuals. I’m living with purpose.

BidLAN blog: Was there anything that was said at the event that had a big impact on you?

Jesse: Towards the end of his speech president Obama said that even when he is no longer president, he will work hard to make the US a better place. He kind of gave a shout out to those of us who are doing the hard work on the community grassroots level. And he emphasized the importance of showing unconditional love.

He said that the power of unconditional love is our strength.

BidLAN blog: Why did that impact you?

Jesse: Well, on the surface, it may seem that love and business don’t go hand in hand. But they really do. You see, love is about looking outside of yourself, looking out for the needs of the people around you. When you are meeting the people where their needs are, you don’t have to sell anything, because you are offering them a product they want. You are offering them something that is a solution to a problem they are facing.

That’s what BidLAN is doing. We’re solving a problem that small businesses, municipalities, local and even the national government all have. We are building something that the people want.

BidLAN blog: Absolutely. So, how do you think having attended this event will impact your mission to create opportunities for minority and disadvantaged business (DBE) groups?

Jesse: The SOTU clarified so many things for me. Its kind of like when you’re a kid and you have this idea in your head of what Disneyland is like. But, when you actually get to see Disney, with your own two eyes, nothing can compare. Before this opportunity I had a pretty good idea of what the government is and how it functions. But now, I’ve been able to see first hand how our democracy works. I got to meet congressman and cabinet members. I better understand the work and collaboration that goes into getting bills and legislation passed.

Now, I have a clearer vision of the path that was taken to make great changes like that of the Civil Rights Act of 1967, which helped pave the way for DBE contracting initiatives.

BidLAN blog: It seems like you benefitted a great deal from this experience. Thanks for taking the time to share your insights with us. There’s just one last question to ask before you go…did you get to meet anyone famous?

Jesse: (Laughs) Well, I did get to meet a lot of congressman. And I think it was really cool that I got to meet the republican majority leader.

Cool indeed. We know that the fire Jesse returned to Charleston with will be invaluable as we steadily work towards BidLAN’s beta release.

4 Ladies That UX Share Their Wisdom at Girl Develop It Career Panel

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Last Tuesday Girl Develop It and Ladies that UX Durham jointly hosted a fantastic UX Career Panel. Industry professionals, novices and those of us who are intrigued, yet a little intimidated by the world of UX enjoyed an informative discussion led by four very knowledgeable women who are presently doing very exciting work in the in UX space.

The discussion began with each lady introducing herself, explaining her role as a UX professional in her company, how she got there, and what her typical workday looks like.

It was interesting to note that each of these women followed a unique path to their present careers. Susan Tacker started off in journalism and worked as a technical writer for more than a decade before she moved into the UX world. Rachel Daniel and Heather Young both spent time as visual designers. And Wren Lanier is a self-taught web designer. What was evident in all these ladies is their passion for creating better products through the integration of user-centered design. As Tacker stated, “We make a difference…it’s not user centered design if you’re not talking to users”.

The panel answered audience questions ranging from, agile usability testing, A/B testing and the lean UX process, to figuring out who your usability stakeholders are, what project managers can do to better facilitate the UX testing process and how someone who is interested in a career in UX can get started.

Daniel and Lanier both suggested a proactive and hands-on approach for those who are new to UX. That includes learning about the various disciplines (interaction design, content strategy, information architecture, etc) within UX, understanding how they work together, deciding which role is best for you “what floats your boat” as Daniel put it, and formulating your own UX process.

Lanier suggested participating in a startup weekend. The benefits of which include working on a project that involves real world challenges you can add to your portfolio and showcase to prospective employers.

Young encouraged the audience to follow the thought leaders in the industry via blogs, twitter and other social media platforms.

The panel also lent their insights into the challenges women in technology face. The overriding consensus was, women in technology and especially those in a disruptive field like UX have to learn to find their voice and define who they personally and professionally. Sometimes that means realizing that you have a voice and you can speak up when you feel it is necessary. Daniel even left a company, in part, because the cultural fit just wasn’t there.

Friction is inevitable. But, if you know who you are and understand your process you will be better equipped to, according to Young, “articulate your ideas in a meaningful way…and gain the following and respect of your peers.”

Tacker advised the audience to find other women in their field who can be of support and encouragement. Organizations like Girl Develop It and Ladies that UX are doing a great job in this area.

Finally, the panel commented on their thoughts about the future of UX. Put simply, as companies realize the value of user centered design, UX will continue to branch out into every part of an organization.

There definitely is a place at the table for UX as we steadily move towards the Internet of things. So ladies, grab a seat and let’s get to work!

WHY YOU SHOULD SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SMALL BUSINESSES THIS SEASON

Did you know that 99% of all businesses in the United States are small businesses? Among them, about 26 million are considered micro businesses, firms with five or fewer employees. Between 2004 and 2010, these businesses created a net of more than 5 million jobs. During the same time period, large companies, firms with 500 or more employees, shed more than 1 million jobs. Micro businesses alone contribute over $1 trillion to the U.S. economy annually.

Put simply, small businesses are the backbone of America’s economy.

Not only that, small businesses help build better communities. The revenue that these businesses generate is funneled directly into the neighborhoods they serve. More than just a side endeavor, 74% of their owners report micro businesses to be their sole source of income. Small businesses often hire other small businesses as providers of goods and services. And small businesses tend to pay higher wages than their larger counterparts.

These business owners usually live and work in the communities they serve. This means that they pay taxes to their local government, which funds public services like schools and hospitals. And they are more likely to hire members of these same communities.

Every day, small businesses help close the income inequality gap.

According to Cheryl Salley, business development manager for Columbia, SC’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), small businesses “are crucial to our local communities…and economy. They stimulate job growth, leading to a better overall quality of life.”

Yet, in spite all that these businesses contribute to our local economies and the nation as a whole, they often have a difficult time obtaining the capital, exposure, and other resources they need to grow. Organizations like the SBDC are doing their part by creating access to funds, training and connections. But, we as consumers also have the power to help. As Mrs. Salley puts it, we need to “make a conscious effort to support our local businesses”.

So, this season, as you shop for your friends and loved ones, don’t forget about your local small businesses. They need and deserve our support.

How can you do it?

Start with who you know; your fabulous hair stylist, go-to mechanic, trusty handyman or independent pest control guy. Think about it, everybody eventually needs an oil change, a fresh hair-do, or repairs around the house. Ask these service providers if they offer gift cards or certificates for their business. If they do, purchase some as alternatives to the gifts you would have bought in a big-box store. If they don’t, why not suggest that they look into offering these kinds of client incentives? They would be marketing their business and guaranteeing a customer at the same time.

Or you could Google artists, artisans, clothing shops and designers, or other creative businesses in your local area. You could commission a unique painting, ornamental artwork, or clothing item.

Then, there’s always the old fashioned way. Simply walk into a local store and look around. You’re bound to find something worth purchasing. Goods produced locally are often of higher quality than mass produced items.

And Let us not forget local farmers markets, craft markets, art fairs and antique shops.

Really, the possibilities are endless. We can and should support our local businesses as often as possible. We just have to make the conscious effort to do so. But, isn’t making our communities stronger by supporting our local economy worth the effort?