beatrice-louissaint_web.jpgImagine building your company from scratch: just you and your staff of four, tackling papers stacked high above your desk, balancing the receipts dangling from all sides of a worn-out binder, and mapping out a company direction that is so close you can taste it, yet too far to reach out and touch.

Running a small, minority-owned business just isn’t easy.
That weight is about to get lighter for 30 South Florida, minority-owned businesses that were recently selected for The Florida Regional Minority Business Council (FRMBC)’s yearlong Mentor Protégé Program: Partners in Business Progress.

The launch of the program, which took place on Tuesday, Aug. 12, matched emerging minority-owned businesses with large corporations to assist them in gaining the tools and techniques needed to improve their operations, gain more customers, and accelerate growth.

With the state of the economy in apparent disarray, Beatrice Louissaint, FRMBC’s president, said she knew she had to initiate some type of groundbreaking program that would assist the local, minority-owned companies and have a lasting result.

“Minority businesses needed something more and they needed real advice,’’ Louissaint said. “MBE’s wanted something that enables them to grow; having someone in a similar industry that is excelling tremendously guiding you along the way just makes a big difference.”

Each protégé business, ranging from construction to printing companies, was selected through a competitive application process.
FRMBC completed an assessment to determine the critical business needs. Then, the organization matched those needs with individuals who have the expertise to assist them in building their capacity.

Numerous large corporation and business leaders said they understand the evident plight of minority-owned businesses, and agreed to participate in the year-long mentorship program.

The mentors are from some of South Florida’s most respected companies, including Macy’s Florida, Turner Construction, FedEx, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Broward Health and Miami Dade College. Seven larger minority firms will also mentor the smaller companies.

Hydn Rousseau, CEO of Built Right Construction Inc., was matched with leading South Florida agency Turner Construction as his mentor. With much anticipation, he looks forward to gaining a concise knowledge of the industry from Turner while keeping an open mind about the future possibilities.

“As a contractor and only having my company for five years, just being able to get a fair opportunity is really tough. My expectation is to really learn how Turner Construction, as a larger company, goes about getting opportunities and managing their numbers,” Rousseau told the South Florida Times.

The project stands firm with the mission and vision of The Florida Regional Minority Business Council, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the growth of minority businesses in South Florida. The organization’s goal is to increase purchasing from minority businesses by corporations and government entities. It also seeks to increase minority businesses’ operating capacity through hands-on business assistance, training and access to technology and capital resources.

Jay Fraser, vice president and general manager of the South Florida region of Turner Construction, said he is excited to be a part of this endeavor, and knows its relevance and necessity in this market.

“I think this is a great program. As a prominent builder in South Florida, it’s important to give back to the community where we live and work. It’s a great opportunity to take another company under our wing to help them grow and succeed. I believe we really need to help train and educate and grow smaller companies,” Fraser said.

The rewards of the program have already begun. Some protégés have had an opportunity to visit and explore the workings of the larger corporations, and meetings have been scheduled to discuss possible collaborations.

Louissaint concluded: “Since the launch, I’ve just been getting calls about the amazing partnerships that have begun to flourish. I just look forward to the great relationships, the great partnerships and the minority businesses’ really building capacity and understanding about how larger corporations do what they do.”

Photo: Beatrice Louissaint