Mexican Scientist Creates Biodegradable Plastic Straw From Cactus

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Sandra Ortiz stands in kitchen behind table filled with vaiations of her new plastic

Researchers from the University of Valle de Atemajac in Zapopan, Mexico have created a biodegradable plastic from the juice of the prickly pear cactus.

The new material begins to break down after sitting in the soil for a month and when left in water, it breaks down in a matter of days. Plus, it doesn’t require crude oil like traditional plastics.

“There were some publications that spoke of different materials with which biodegradable plastics could be made, including some plants,” Sandra Pascoe Ortiz, the research professor who developed the material, told Forbes.

“In this case the nopal cactus has certain chemical characteristics with which I thought it could be feasible to obtain a polymer, that if it was combined with some other substances, all of them natural, a non-toxic biodegradable plastic would be obtained. The process is a mixture of compounds whose base is the nopal. It’s totally non-toxic, all the materials we use could be ingested both by animals or humans and they wouldn’t cause any harm.”

This means that even if any of this material made its way into the ocean, it will safely dissolve. It’s estimated that between 1.15 million to 2.41 million tonnes of plastic are entering the ocean each year from rivers. Last month, divers found a plastic KFC bag from the 1970s during an ocean clean-up off the waters off Bulcock Beach in Queensland, Australia and earlier this year, during a dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench – the deepest point in the ocean – a plastic bag was found.

According to Ortiz, the project was born in a science Fair of the The nopal cactus sitting on table with blender in the backgroundDepartment of Exact Sciences and Engineering, in the chemistry class with industrial engineering students of the career. They began to make some attempts to obtain a plastic using cactus as raw material.

“From that I decided to start a research project in a formal way. Currently in the project collaborate researchers from the University of Guadalajara in conjunction with the University of Valle de Atemajac.”

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.

How To Make Yourself Attractive To Small Business Investors

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African american businesswoman sitting in office

You’ve finally found your passion and launched that dream business only to find it challenging to get funding. You’re scratching your head because you have a solid business plan, yet the dollars aren’t rolling in. The truth is that potential investors look at you, the entrepreneur, as the investment. Not the business idea. In other words, potential investors tend to bet on the jockey, not the horse.

An interesting study conducted by Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Shai Bernstein focused on identifying the specific startup characteristics that are important to investors in early-stage firms. The results indicated that investors were most influenced by information about the founders. In fact, the most experienced and successful investors chose to respond only to information about the founding team. That’s why it’s essential to understand what small business investors are looking for so you can make yourself as attractive as possible.

Develop a robust network

The first thing potential investors will do is investigate you, the founder. One way they will do this is to research whom you know and what they say about you. Investors understand that it’s impossible to build a successful business in a vacuum. By having an extensive, well-connected network, you will give them the confidence they need to invest in your business.

Understand your audience

Conduct thorough research on potential investors. What are they like as individuals? Have they invested in ideas like yours in the past? Get to know them well enough that you can interact with them on a personal level. Good sources to learn about angel investors are AngelList, Flashfunders and SeedInvest. Find investors with interests and values that mirror yours, and your chances of success will increase significantly.

Build a strong social media presence

A strong, positive social media presence can entice investors. Connect with them through LinkedIn and Twitter and let your personality shine through. Social media is also an excellent way to get to know your potential investors. Make a note of topics they post about frequently, then use them during your pitch to show that your values and ideas mesh with theirs.

Prove you can be fiscally responsible

Investors are looking for someone that can not only manage their money but grow it significantly. Show them that you have proven success in this area. What past wins demonstrate that you have what it takes to make your business profitable? Small business investors may also look at your personal finances, such as your credit score, debt-to-income ratio, personal assets and the amount of money that you have invested in the business. A good financial record will help make you a more attractive investment.

Show you can execute flawlessly

Ideas are abundant, but people who can execute them are not. Steve Jobs once said, “To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.” What experience do you have taking a great idea and bringing it to fruition? Does the founding team have a track record of executing flawlessly?

Create a great pitch and practice, practice, practice

A written business plan is essential when pitching to small business investors and venture capital firms. Early-stage investors might see thousands of business plans a year that they must somehow narrow down to 100 meetings and then to maybe four companies in which they invest. That’s why your plan needs to be very succinct—about 15-20 pages long.

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.

She Left the World of Wireless Communications Behind To Enter a Traditionally Male Endeavor-Flooring!

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Krista Farley pictured standing in front of her Floor Coverings work vehicle

Krista Farney left a job she had for almost two decades, but she loves her newest gig, even though she has had to enter some previously uncharted territory.

“I am navigating in a traditionally man’s world, dealing with installers and contractors,” the 39-year-old  said of her new life as a franchise owner with Floor Coverings International, visiting customers’ homes in a Mobile Flooring Showroom stocked with thousands of flooring samples from top manufacturers.

Farney, whose background is in sales, previously spent 18 years as a district manager for a wireless communications company. Farney was asked to relocate to Phoenix, but she didn’t want to uproot her family that included her husband and two children ages 17 and 10. So she officially retired from the corporate world at age 38 and fulfilled a lifelong desire to be her own boss. “I worked with a franchise coach and found that Floor Coverings International was the perfect match,” Farney said. “It allows me to use my sales skills and drive to customers’ homes and meet with them. I’m not confined to an office.”

In Floor Coverings International, Farney found a company that has tripled in size since 2005 by putting a laser focus on consumer buying habits and expressed desires, its impressive operating model, growth ability, marketing, advertising and merchandising. Floor Coverings International further separates itself from the competition through its customer experience, made up of several simple and integrated steps that exceed customers’ expectations. By performing her due diligence and finding the right brand to fit her needs and wants as a franchisee, Farney couldn’t be happier. “I reached out to the Small Business Development Center at my local college and they provided a wealth of resources and support with starting a business,” Farney said. “I also spoke with many small business owners and bounced many questions off them. I’m having so much fun helping homeowners redecorate their homes.”

ABOUT FLOOR COVERINGS INTERNATIONAL

Floor Coverings International is the #1 Mobile Flooring Franchise in North America. Utilizing a unique in-home experience, the mobile showroom comes directly to the customer’s door with more than 3,000 flooring choices. Floor Coverings International has 150-plus locations throughout the U.S. and Canada with plenty of opportunity for continued expansion in 2019. For franchise information, please visit flooring-franchise.com and to find your closest location, floorcoveringsinternational.com.

An All-Female Flight Crew Took 120 Girls to NASA in an Initiative to Close Aviation’s Gender Gap

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Delta flight crew pose with students in cabin of plane

Delta Air Lines recently flew 120 girls from Salt Lake City, Utah, to NASA in Houston as part of an initiative to close the gender gap in aviation.

“We’re taking ownership to improve gender diversity by exposing girls at a young age and providing a pipeline so that 10 years from now, they will be the pilots in the Delta cockpit inspiring generations of women who follow,” said Beth Poole, general manager of pilot development at Delta, who helped begin the initiative in 2015.

FAA data from 2017 shows that women make up just over 7 percent of 609,306 pilots in the U.S., according to Women in Aviation, a nonprofit dedicated to the advancement of women in the industry.

Everyone involved in the plane’s takeoff, flight and landing — from pilots to ramp agents working on the ground — was a woman, the airline said.

The initiative first began in 2015 and has since brought 600 female students on its journey, according to Delta. The company’s goal is to “diversify a male-dominated industry and expose girls to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers at a young age.”

The girls also met Jeanette Epps, NASA astronaut and aerospace engineer, Delta said.

Delta’s initiative speaks to a broader problem in the aviation industry — one that’s been recognized by The International Civil Aviation Organization, a specialized UN Agency that provides a global forum for member states to adopt and implement international aviation standards.

At a keynote address at a Global Aviation Gender Summit in August 2018, ICAO secretary general Dr. Fang Liu had said that “air transport must address head-on why women are still underrepresented in the majority of the technical and executive positions in aviation.”

Continue on to Time to read the complete article.

Separate but Together: Twin Sisters Break Ground in Construction Industry

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Cheryl McKissack and Deryl McKissack speak onstage standing behind a podium dressed in black evening dresses

By Samar Khoury

Construction is largely known as a male-dominated industry, but that has never stopped Cheryl McKissack Daniel and Deryl McKissack. In fact, these twins are equally acclaimed with years of history and expertise in the worlds of construction and architecture.

Representing a legacy that spans five generations, Cheryl serves as president and CEO of New York-based McKissack & McKissack, the oldest black-owned and female-run construction company in the country. She brings more than two decades of experience in the construction industry to her role as principal-in-charge and project executive. She is charged with several high-profile projects in the commercial, healthcare, education and transportation sectors, while ensuring that diversity is implemented during each phase of a project or program.

Cheryl’s firm is renowned for several marquis projects, including the revamping of Long Island’s Railroad Hub, which runs underneath the Brooklyn Nets’ home. McKissack & McKissack has also been hired to build new terminals at JFK and LaGuardia airports. Long-term projects include managing the Manhattan Transportation Authority capital program, as well as all the design and construction initiatives for the School District of Philadelphia. Cheryl’s company, which has more than $500 million worth of projects for the next few years, currently employs more than 150 employees and has contracted more than $50 billion in construction over the past decade.

As chairwoman and CEO of McKissack & McKissack in Washington, D.C., Deryl has esteemed credentials that are just as impressive. She landed her first major contract in 1996 in Washington, D.C., where she renovated the Treasury building after a fire. Deryl’s firm was also the lead architect on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in D.C., and she managed the design and construction of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture.

With 27 years in the construction business, Deryl is credited with managing more than $15 billion in projects nationwide. Her firm has offices in several cities, including Detroit, Miami, and Los Angeles, and has been chosen to be featured in Architect Magazine’s thee-part series on increasing diversity in architecture.

And yet, that’s barely scratching the surface of all this sterling pair have accomplished.

The History of McKissack & McKissack

Cheryl McKissack seated, smiling wearing a white suit and leopard print scarf
Cheryl McKissack Daniel

The story behind McKissack & McKissack began in 1790 with the sisters’ great-great-grandfather, Moses I, a former slave. Moses took on his slave owner’s last name, McKissack, who taught Moses how to making bricks. After being granted his freedom, Moses sold his bricks, and his son, Moses II, took his father’s trade further by becoming a master carpenter. Moses III and his brother Calvin McKissack then formalized McKissack & McKissack as a construction firm in 1905.

In 1968, Cheryl and Deryl’s father, William DeBerry McKissack, took over the business, exposing the girls to the field at a young age. “We would go to work with him every Saturday starting at ten years old, walking construction sites, tracing documents, you know, learning about building systems early in life. It was all ingrained in us,” Cheryl told CBS News.

After William suffered from a stroke in 1982, their mother, Leatrice B. McKissack, took over the business. She has major projects under her belt, such as the $50 million complex at Howard University and a building at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.

Keeping the Family Together

Cheryl and Deryl supported their mother as she grew McKissack & McKissack. Cheryl graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, later graduated with her master’s, and Deryl earned a bachelor’s in structural engineering.

In 1990, Deryl opened McKissack & McKissack of Washington, and in 1991, Cheryl opened the New York business, buying the original McKissack & McKissack in 2000. Although the sisters went their separate ways, they are carrying on the family name.

“I used the family name for my business because the name was known for architecture throughout the country,” Deryl said to Family Business Magazine. “My business was started out of my own internal passion to build a business on my own.”

Deryl McKissack smiling wearing a navy blue suit and sitting in a chair outside an office building
Deryl McKissack

Breaking Ground

Staying true to their innovative spirits, Cheryl and Deryl continue to raise the bar in the construction and architecture industry.

As active member of Women in Transportation (WIT), Cheryl serves on various boards, including the New York Building Congress, New York Women’s Forum, Greater New York ACE Mentor Program, and Women’s Builders Council. Under the leadership of Mayor Bill de’Blasio, she takes part in the OneNYC Advisory Board, Jobs for New Yorkers Task Force, and the MWBE Advisory Council. Pervious boards include the National Women’s History Museum, Fisk University, and the National Liberty Museum Board, where she was honored as a “Hero of Liberty” for her support of humanitarian initiatives and for promoting the responsibilities of a free and diverse America.

Her advice? “You need to define yourself,” Cheryl said to Essence magazine. “Don’t let other people define you. If we had let them do that, we would not be where we are today.”

Deryl offers her own words of wisdom for those wishing to follow in both her and her sister’s footsteps.
“Don’t be afraid of math, science, and technology,” she said to The Glu. “These disciplines can be very challenging, but they are also enjoyable and fascinating because our society is dependent on the knowledge and discovery that is created through these courses of study. Also – have a plan.”

Cheryl and Deryl strive to remain at the cutting edge of architecture and construction while remaining true to themselves and the legacy that McKissack & McKissack is—now and in the future.

For women in the workplace, the thickest glass ceiling is not where you think it is

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Although we have a long way to go to achieve gender equity in the workforce, a study done jointly by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company shows that we have made progress over the last five years.

Women, especially women of color, are still underrepresented at every level in corporate America, but the representation of women in the C-suite increased. Forty-four percent of companies have three or more women in their C-suite, up from 29% five years ago.

The glass ceiling is still the biggest barrier to advancement, but in a surprisingly low-level area: the first rung of management. The report revealed that only 72 women were promoted or hired to manager for every 100 men. This means that only 38% of women have made it to management versus 62% of men. The stats for Latinx and black women are significantly lower.

Overall, black women and women with disabilities reported that they don’t have equal opportunities to grow and advance their careers. Only 1 in 25 black women are C-suite executives. And for every 100 men promoted to manager from entry-level, only 68 Latinx and 58 black women are promoted.

The Women in the Workplace report reveals findings from surveying 329 participating organizations that employ 13 million people and more than 68,500 employees.

Continue on to Fast Company to read the complete article.

Former Corporate Fundraiser Brings The Top Mobile Flooring Franchise To Virginia

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Having worked alongside entrepreneurs and small-business owners for the last decade, Resa Kierstein, a former corporate fundraiser and mover and shaker in her world, finally decided it was time to join the ranks of those she’s been raising funds for– and she did it in style. The 45-year-old Kierstein recently launched her Floor Coverings International franchise, visiting customers’ homes in a Mobile Flooring Showroom stocked with thousands of flooring samples from top manufacturers. Floor Coverings International of Great Falls marks the franchisor’s first location in Virginia, not unnoticed is the fact that a talented female breaks the state open for future franchisees who are looking for one of the top franchise opportunities in North America.

Kierstein was formerly vice president of fundraising and development for a national non-profit whose focus was assisting small-business owners in starting, running and growing their businesses.

“I’m thrilled to be utilizing my past business skills and offering this great mobile service to homeowners here,” Kierstein said. “I’ve completely divested myself from my comfort zone of a corporate career and am beyond excited to bring Floor Coverings International’s passion for a ‘customer first’ experience to our area.” Floor Coverings International, Great Falls serves customers in Sterling, Reston, Herndon, Great Falls, McLean, Ashburn, Fairfax and Prince William in the state of Virginia.

Kierstein’s mother also owns and operates a small business. “My mom instilled the entrepreneurial spirit in me at a young age,” Kierstein said. “I watched her and thousands of business owners in my previous job become highly successful contributors to their communities, while employing others and supporting their families. Their enthusiasm and passion finally rubbed off and I made the decision to join them and live the American dream.”

In Floor Coverings International, Kierstein found a company that has tripled in size since 2005 by putting a laser focus on consumer buying habits and expressed desires, its impressive operating model, growth ability, marketing, advertising and merchandising. Floor Coverings International further separates itself from the competition through its customer experience, made up of several simple and integrated steps that exceed customers’ expectations. Kierstein added that Floor Coverings International, Great Falls holds a Class A Virginia contractor’s license. “It is the highest standard in the state and will set Floor Coverings International apart, potentially, from others in the home services industry,” she said. Lastly, Floor Coverings International also has a very strong commitment to community involvement, led by CEO Tom Wood. That struck a chord with Kierstein. “A key component of our business is our support for charitable organizations in our community and fulfilling a personal passion for giving back,” Kierstein said.

For information on a franchise visit flooring-franchise.com

ABOUT FLOOR COVERINGS INTERNATIONAL

Floor Coverings International is the #1 Mobile Flooring Franchise in North America. Utilizing a unique in-home experience, the mobile showroom comes directly to the customer’s door with more than 3,000 flooring choices. Floor Coverings International has 150-plus locations throughout the U.S. and Canada with plenty of opportunity for continued expansion in 2019. For franchise information, please visit flooring-franchise.com and to find your closest location, floorcoveringsinternational.com.

Two female astronauts make history. How to watch NASA’s first all-female spacewalk

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two female astronauts pictured in a spacewalk outside the ISS spaceship

Men have floated out the hatch on all 420 spacewalks conducted over the past half-century. That changed recently with spacewalk No. 421.

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir ventured outside the International Space Station before 8 a.m. ET Friday and spent over five hours replacing a broken battery charger, or BCDU. NASA’s livestream of the historic spacewalk features astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson as one of the female narrators.

The units have previously been replaced using a robotic arm, but the newly failed unit is too far away for it to reach.

The units regulate how much energy flows from the station’s massive solar panels to battery units, which are used to provide power during nighttime passes around Earth. Three previous spacewalks had been planned to replace lithium-ion batteries, but those will be rescheduled until the latest BCDU issue is resolved.

The hardware failure does present some concern, especially since another BCDU was replaced in April and there are only four more backups on the station. In total, there are 24 operational BCDUs.

The battery charger failed after Koch and a male crewmate installed new batteries outside the space station last week. NASA put the remaining battery replacements on hold to fix the problem and moved up the women’s planned spacewalk by three days.

All four men aboard the ISS remained inside during the spacewalk.

The spacewalk is Koch’s fourth and Meir’s first.

Continue on to USA Today to read the complete article.

Melinda Gates commits $1B to ‘expanding women’s power and influence in the United States’

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Melinda Gates in professional photo wearing a navy blue dress

Melinda Gates, whose book this year documented the systemic and societal challenges that continue to face women around the world, recently pledged $1 billion over the next 10 years to initiatives designed to accelerate gender equity in the United States.

By Todd Bishop

In a commentary announcing the plan on Time.com, Gates said the money will support “new and established partners taking innovative and diverse approaches to expanding women’s power and influence.”

It’s the biggest initiative yet from Gates through her standalone Pivotal Ventures firm, separate from her role as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Melinda Gates established Pivotal Ventures four years ago to focus on issues including gender equality and empowering women. Her book, “The Moment of Lift,” documented the need to remove barriers for women, with the goal of helping not just women but society as a whole.

In the announcement this morning, Gates cited three priorities for the funds: 1) “dismantling the barriers to women’s professional advancement;” 2) “fast-tracking women in sectors with outsized impact on our society—like technology, media, and public office; and 3) “mobilizing shareholders, consumers, and employees to amplify external pressure on companies and organizations in need of reform.”

She wrote, “I want to see more women in the position to make decisions, control resources, and shape policies and perspectives. I believe that women’s potential is worth investing in—and the people and organizations working to improve women’s lives are, too.”

Gates gave more insights into her approach in a Harvard Business Review piece last month, “Gender Equality Is Within Our Reach.

“I believe our goal should be to expand women’s power and influence in society. I think of power and influence as the ability to make decisions, control resources, and shape perspectives. It is something women exercise in their homes, in their workplaces, and in their communities. I recognize that “power and influence” are not words we have historically associated with women — nor are they words that all women associate with themselves. I also acknowledge that because of my family’s wealth, I have access to certain kinds of power and influence that very few people do. Still, I use these words, imperfect and imprecise though they are, because they are the best way I know to describe what men in this country — in particular, white men — have long had that women have not.”

Continue on to Geekwire to read the complete article.

Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) is No Longer a Secret in the Secret City

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two diverse women looking at computer screen together

Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) is no longer a secret in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Nestled near the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Oak Ridge is nicknamed the Secret City after its role in the top-secret Manhattan Project that helped create the first atomic bomb.

Established in 1946, ORAU’s purpose was to advance science and technology education and research by providing member universities access to atomic energy research facilities. Holding true to the original purpose today, ORAU provides exceptional talent in innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest.

ORAU also manages the Oak Ridge Institute of Science and Education (ORISE) for the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE), which is a DOE asset dedicated to enabling critical scientific, research and health initiatives of the department and its laboratory system by providing world-class expertise in STEM workforce development, scientific and technical reviews and the evaluation of radiation exposure and environment contamination.

While ORAU itself has been one of the best-kept secrets in East Tennessee, its reputation regarding the company’s culture and diversity practices is quickly spreading as seen in a recent employee survey. Completed earlier this year, the survey showed that 94 percent of the employees know what is expected of them in the workplace, 87 percent reported that they are proud to work at the company and 87 percent of all employees believe they are treated with dignity and respect.

According to Culture Amp, a worldwide employee feedback and analytics platform, companies with 500 employees but fewer than 1,000 employees can anticipate about a 70 percent employee participation rate in general surveys. ORAU greatly exceeded that standard with an overall participation rate of 85 percent. To ensure a culture that maintains these incredible ratings, ORAU welcomes feedback from employees through surveys and information-sharing teams, such as its Diversity Council and Employee Relations Team, comprised of employees from across the organization.

With an overall corporate favorability score of 77 percent and with 73 percent of ORAU employees believing the corporate culture is favorable, it is no longer a secret that ORAU is a great place to work.

For nine consecutive years ORAU has been recognized as a Best Diversity Company and is in competition for the current year. ORAU defines diversity as all of the ways in which we differ and all of those differences are welcomed and respected in the workplace and the community.

ORAU is an Equal Employment Opportunity employer and aggressively seeks veterans, individuals with disabilities, females, minorities and all other diverse differences that support an all-inclusive work environment. For more information on ORAU and its employment opportunities, visit orau.org.

Over 6,000 Minority Business Enterprises and Corporate Partners Attend National Conference on Supplier Diversity in Atlanta

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supplier diversity executive accepting business card from an attendee at the matchmaker session

On Sunday, October 13, the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) kicked off its annual conference and business opportunity exchange in Atlanta.

With over 12,000 certified minority-owned businesses representing millions of consumers, NMSDC is the largest and most successful non-profit advocating for minority entrepreneurs in the country.

The conference draws over 6,000 minority-business owners and corporate partners from around the nation.

“Economic inclusion is one of the most urgent issues we face to ensure opportunity and prosperity for all Americans,” said Adrienne Trimble, President of NMSDC. “Our numbers prove our success in this area.

In 2018, we executed $400 billion in revenue for minority-owned businesses. Some 1.6 million U.S. jobs were created, resulting in $96 billion in wages earned.

Who: National Minority Supplier Development Council

NMSDC President: Adrienne C. Trimble

What: 2019 Conference and Business Opportunity Exchange

Where: Atlanta, GA Georgia World Congress Center

When: October 13 – 16, 2019

Click here for the full conference schedule

Why: Economic inclusion for all Americans is one of the most critical issues of our time.

About NMSDCNMSDC advances business opportunities for certified minority business enterprises and connects them to corporate members. To meet the growing need for supplier diversity, NMSDC matches its more than 12,000 certified minority-owned businesses to our network of more than 1,450 corporate members who wish to purchase their products, services and solutions. NMSDC, a unique and specialized player in the field of minority business enterprise, is proud of its unwavering commitment to advance Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American suppliers in a globalized corporate supply chain.