The Northwest Mountain Minority Supplier Development Council (MSDC) values Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) business engagement. To highlight the benefits of MBE to MBE partnerships and collaboration, we interviewed Carmen Nazario, Minority, Woman and Veteran-Owner and President of ELYON International, Inc., and MBE to MBE advocate.
How active is your company with MBE to MBE business engagement?
We are quite active with the MBE community and have been steadily working with MBEs for over twelve years on various types of business engagements. In some cases we were the prime contractor (prime) and they were the sub-contractor (sub). In other cases we were the sub and they were the prime. The earliest MBE partnership I can recall was around 2005. The longest—and largest in terms of revenue—was a five year contract with a federal agency, which ended in 2017. In that particular instance, ELYON International was the prime.
Which MBEs are you currently doing business with and what is the nature of your business with them?
We are currently working with three MBEs from the Northwest Mountain Minority Supplier Development Council (the Council): Magellan Architects for architectural services, RLA Engineering, LLC for product development and Jedisof, Inc., for whom we provided software development services. We are working with three other MBEs from Portland Metro and SW Washington areas by way of purchasing their products and services, Norell Design Graphic & Web for marketing services, Zen Focus Tech for network/infrastructure support and Cascade Centers Incorporated for employee assistance products/services.
Can you tell us about MBEs you’ve worked with in the past, and to what capacity?
We have worked with numerous MBEs certified through the Council, as well as MBEs from other regions, among them, General Microsystems Inc. (GMI), for sub-contracted resources. We also worked with Brook and Associates Inc., for professional resources, and TripleNet Technologies on IT staffing. These are just some of the companies we have partnered with.
How did your business engagements (or partnerships) with MBEs begin?
We met GMI, Magellan Architects, RLA Engineering and TripleNet Technologies, through the Council. In addition, we are engaged with MBEs by way of minority organizations such as Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Tacoma Business Center, Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs (OAME), and the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber which both serve the Portland Metro and SW Washington areas, where we are headquartered.
Overall, how did working with MBEs (past and present) impact your business?
Working with MBEs enabled us to increase our capabilities and capacity, and leverage our expertise. As an example, we recently partnered with a small business to do a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) project for a state agency. We provided the GIS Project Management services, while our MBE partner provided the Lidar technology expertise. We were the prime on the contract and the outcome was successful project deliverables to the state agency.
Do you have best practices to share about MBE to MBE business?
First and foremost, qualifying the company you want to work with. The process of qualifying a company varies, depending on the scope of work, industry and type of product or service. There are two business scenarios: one, where we are purchasing products and services; and two, where we are partnering with an MBE to deliver a product or service to a customer.
Factors to consider when partnering with other MBEs are: a well-defined agreement – one that covers rules of engagement, expected outcomes, a clear definition of who will do what, and how the engagement will be managed. An important aspect, one that often gets overlooked, is synergy with a potential MBE partner (e.g., sharing similar values, customer service standards and employment practices). We ask for mutual cooperation in establishing financial stability of both parties. Both partners need to have the confidence in knowing they are financially solid and will not put the project or the customer at risk.
Lastly, to make a partnership work, it is important to establish a communication plan. Regular and frequent communication in every form is crucial. This brings about transparency, which helps reinforce trust.
There are many qualified MBEs providing quality services and products. If one doesn’t know where to look, a good place to start is with the regional minority council where one can obtain a list of these companies who have been certified by the Council.
About ELYON International, Inc.
ELYON International, Inc. provides technology solutions to Fortune 500 companies and government agencies. As a solutions provider, ELYON works in close collaboration with its customers to achieve project goals in a quality-assured and timely manner. Services include: Program and Project Management, Information Technology Services, Geographic Information Services (GIS) Cyber Security and Cloud Managed Services, and Professional and IT Support Staffing Services. Founded in 1997 by Army Veteran, Carmen Nazario, ELYON International, Inc. has emerged as a trusted name for government and commercial sector customers.