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MSDUK Knowledge Forum

I am so tired. I still haven't adapted to the time difference, and feel like if I don’t have another red bull, I’m going to die right now. I haven’t felt home sick at all, but I have wished some of my Indigenous business friends were here to share in the experience. I’ve checked in with my business partner Katina about business, and I rang my best mate Mitch Ross just to brag about what he was missing out on. I thought I would get lonely, but I haven’t had time to because everyone has been so friendly. The MSDUK team, especially Mayank and Raj, have taken great care of me, always checking on me and making sure I am ok.

I couldn’t wait for the Knowledge Forum, day 2 of MSDUK (Minority Supplier Development United Kingdom) Conference. There were close to 200 delegates in attendance, again representing minority businesses from the UK, USA, South Africa, Canada as well as supplier diversity professionals from UK and USA Corporations.

As someone who has designed and delivered a number of conferences I was seriously impressed with the variety of the format of the program. The day provided a mixture of panel discussions, inspired talks (TedX style short talks), breakout workshops and keynote addresses. They catered to all learning styles and provided an opportunity to learn, network, and share experiences.

CPO Panel

I especially enjoyed the Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) Panel that opened the day. It was interesting to hear from global companies Cummins, Accenture, Ernest and Young, Barclays and also Crown Commercial Services, about their business case for why they believe in buying from diverse minority businesses (inclusive procurement). These companies agreed that supplier diversity made good business sense and ‘was the right thing to do.’ They also agreed that using minority businesses drove innovation, and they discussed how using smaller suppliers can simplify business and create real value. They all spoke about how their companies valued diversity and inclusion and through their supplier diversity programs were able to bring economic development to minority communities.

I love hearing stories about entrepreneur’s journeys to success. It helps me to stay on track in my own business. The most inspiring speaker was keynote speaker Tevin Tobun, CEO of Gate Ventures Group. Tevin spoke from the heart. He told us in his opening remarks that he had a speech all ready to go, but he changed his mind about that. He said it was more important to speak honestly - business owner to business owner. I liked this approach and while I could tell he was scared to be vulnerable, he was real as he shared his journey from growing up in a disadvantaged community to building an international company. What I took away from Tevin was his passion and his love for business, and as he shared with us, ‘people buy into passion.’ I believe this to be very true. His passion allowed him to take risks and ask the corporates he was working with to do things in a way to help his business grow, such as asking for payment terms that allowed him to have readily access to capital. He asked the contract manager of his first contract to pay him weekly. This is so out of the box. Payment terms and managing cash flow are a familiar issue with Indigenous businesses at home.

My second favourite speaker was Kush Shukla, Director Arivu. I related to Kush immediately as he is like me: He provides training and coaching services; he works with people; and has a desire to help people realise their potential. Kush shared ‘The 10 things that kids can teach us about teamwork,’ in his inspiring talk. Kush shared his list through loveable power point slides depicting children at play and demonstrating each of the key points. When I get home, I hope I can put my learnings into practice, to play and be more creative, be more curious, show more emotion and think a little different.

They certainly know how to finish a big day, and that is with a celebration. We finished our day with drinks and canapes to celebrate MSDUK’s 10th anniversary at the Cutty Sark, which is a famous ship in London. It was a spectacular venue. And I got to meet and have a quick chat with Janice Bryant Howroyd. I was so excited, and I wasn’t too ashamed to ask her for a selfie, however her business partner offered to take the photo for me.

Janice Bryant Howroyd