The Minority Business Accelerator (MBA) at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber wants to double the aggregate revenues and employment of its portfolio companies in the next five years.

Since its launch 13 years ago in the wake of the 2001 riots to spur employment among minorities, the 32 African-American and Hispanic companies in the MBA have achieved about $1 billion in aggregate revenues while employing 3,500. Darrin Redus, a national minority business consultant hired to lead the MBA last January, says the scale and scope of the MBA firms has reached the point where they can grow bigger and faster.

“If we can raise the bar on the size and scale of minority firms and accelerate their growth we should also accelerate job creation,” he says.

In 2004 the initial 20 companies in the MBA had average annual sales of $6 million. “Today, our 32 companies average almost $31 million in annual sales,” he says.

That means the MBA companies can take advantage of more sophisticated forms of capital such as private equity investment, launch new product lines, do mergers and acquisitions and expand their geographic reach, he says.

At the same time, he says, U.S. corporations are increasingly looking to demonstrate their commitment to diversity by doing business with more minority firms creating more opportunities to grow.

Redus says the MBA will be looking at a number of avenues to grow.

One is increasing the number of minority businesses over $1 million in sales, the threshold to participate.

“There is some terrific pipeline building work already underway with a group of minority serving organizations in town,” he says, such as the Cincinnati Minority Business Collaborative. He says the MBA will be working with those groups to get more minority firms in the pipeline. Over the next two to three years, he says, more than a dozen minority firms will be in a position to join the accelerator, whose services start with an intensive assessment of a member’s strengths and weaknesses and includes a highly customized coaching strategy to help them accelerate growth.

To help MBA firms access equity capital, Redus says, it will be teaming up with area law firms, accounting firms and banks to provide expertise.

Additionally, he says the MBA will tap into resources of organizations such as the National Association of Investment Companies, a group of predominately African-American and Hispanic venture and private equity funds, for educational opportunities.

A native of Cleveland, Redus says one of the things that attracted him to the MBA was the opportunity to put his consulting ideas into practice to create a model of minority business development for other communities.

“One of the things that attracted me specifically to this role was the fact that the Minority Business Accelerator is truly unique nationally,” he says. “It is very rare that you’ll find a portfolio of larger scale African-American and Hispanic firms managed as a portfolio.”

The MBA recently received a $300,000, two-year grant from the Surdna Foundation to help build its pipeline of minority firms and serve as a model for other communities. 

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