The Long Island African American Chamber of Commerce is working to increase the number of minority-owned businesses in the region, following a goal set by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to include minorities in 20 percent of state contracts, says president Phil Andrews.
Founded two years ago, the chamber connects members with business and government leaders, helps owners obtain minority certification, and gives "the wider community an opportunity to do business with a significant segment of the market," he says. Meetings are publicized on Facebook; the next one is April 3.
Andrews, 50, began his career working by day for the New York City Correction Department and spending nights helping to build the Haircut Hut chain. The company grew to 10 stores before he retired; he now runs P.A. Public Relations Co.
How does the chamber help cultivate business opportunities?
We develop a relationship with the agencies and ask the procurement people to talk to us and tell us how we can do business with them.
How does certifying a minority-owned business help?
It makes them able to get contracts, but it also certifies that they're in business and gets their paperwork in order. And decreases the likelihood that they won't fulfill the contract.
How are you trying to keep minorities from moving off Long Island?
We see ourselves in the business of helping to make Long Island sustainable for the African-American community. Business growth, job creation, private-sector opportunities and government contracting opportunities will slow down the rate of African-Americans relocating to other parts of the country.
What else do you want to do?
We want to be that vehicle for people who may not be in business, to create future businesses. We're encouraging other ethnic groups to be part of the chamber. And we're going to be working with the Hofstra Small Business Development Center on training in business skills like bookkeeping, marketing. Everyone wants to be in business, but you've got to learn the language of business first.
What's the key to staying in business and creating something viable here?
I gave out scholarships, spoke at schools, had Kwanzaa events and art exhibits at my stores. So one of the keys is staying involved in your community.
How did you build your business while working full time?
I tried to have family or people that I really trusted as key managers. One of my best managers we ever had was my niece. Family [treats] the business like it's theirs, and that's hard to find.
You also hired former inmates?
When you open a business, you help somebody feed their family. That's one of the greatest things you can do.
The Long Island African American Chamber of Commerce will hold its next meeting at 10 a.m. on April 3. Guest speaker Lorette Farris, president and CEO of Washington D.C.-based iBoss, will talk about new capital markets created as a result of the JOBS Act of 2012, including ways to use donation and equity-based crowdfunding. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
NAME: Phil Andrews, president, Long Island African American Chamber of Commerce Inc. in Hempstead.
WHAT IT DOES: Provides business development opportunities, networking and help with minority business certification.
2013 BUDGET: $75,000