Category Archives: Interviews

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

Jesse w/Mark Sanford
(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.