Thursday, November 23, 2017

‘There is a very good foundation in place’

A BUSINESS CONVERSATION WITH KEN EVANS

‘There is a very good foundation in place’

The new president of Urban Chamber of Commerce looks to lead the organization into a prosperous future

BY KIMBERLY BAILEY-TUREAUD

Ken Evans is the newly elected president of the Urban Chamber of Commerce.

Recently selected to lead the Urban Chamber of Commerce, now retired Lt. Col. Kenneth C. Evans has called this city home for 24 years. A native of California, Evans has operated several successful businesses in the valley, a background that gives him the advantage of firsthand experience with the challenges of operating a  small business. Evans recently spoke to Las Vegas Black Image about his plans for the organization.

How did it come to be that you were selected to be the president of the Urban Chamber of Commerce?

The position of chamber president was brought to my attention over two months ago. I applied because I believe that my background and skill set uniquely position me to propel the organization forward toward its mission and vision. The interview process was rigorous but I believe my leadership style, team building and strategic planning views allowed the board of directors to see that I am the best person for the position.

How long will you serve in the position?

As long as they will have me! The chamber has the ability to provide great impact, and I am honored to serve by creating a legacy that will lead to economic growth for our community.

From your first interactions with the Urban Chamber of Commerce as a business owner, were you motivated to apply for the position to make the chamber better?

I would definitely say that I was motivated to apply for the position of president to make the Urban Chamber better. One thing I recognized is that the chamber is at a pivotal point. There is a very solid foundation in place, and it has a strong board of directors that has been diligent about stabilizing some things. I see my new role as president of the Urban Chamber as one that will provide strong leadership to enhance what they have already done and build on that. I will expand on the mission and vision of the Urban Chamber of Commerce — and that is what motivates me.

Will there be any new things that you will put into place for the Urban Chamber of Commerce?

Absolutely. One thing that I am concerned with doing is making sure we do things that are value-added to our membership. I was an Urban Chamber member several years ago when I was a little more active with my own business interests — and I remember my experience. So what I want to immediately do is solicit and implement lessons learned. I am currently talking to current and past Urban Chamber of Commerce members to get their input and feedback. I am looking for candid and constructive comments from staff and board members as well. It is important to do everything possible to make sure that we are providing value to our current membership and potential new members. I am looking at the services we offer — the programs and the network that we have built. When it is all said and done, we will build businesses that can turn around and help the community as a whole.

How do you plan to keep the focus on the small, black business owner instead of big businesses and corporate interests?

I am sensitive to that, and right now I would say that I am still in the initial research phase for my new position. I want to know more about the Urban Chamber’s membership composition. I want to know the percentage of our corporate firms and small business owners within our membership. Moving forward, I will be sensitive to the fact that we need to do our best to have a diverse membership composition, while paying particular attention to small-business owners. One thing I want people to understand and realize is that 12-plus years ago I was that home-based business owner, operating in a second bedroom in my home. I want to bring that perspective to my tenure as president of the Urban Chamber of Commerce, and make sure that we have that representation of our membership and, more importantly, are doing the things necessary to provide benefits, services and programs that will help those businesses grow as well as attract new entrepreneurs and small-business owners.

Do you have ideas that will help leverage the relationships with banking institutions to better assist black business owners with access to capital?

Our collaborative partners within the Business Success Center, including the Nevada SBDC and Nevada Micro Enterprise Initiative, are working diligently to provide access to capital. As we assist new and existing businesses to develop viable business plans, it serves as the fi rst step toward eligibility for any type of lending or investment opportunities. We will continue to build on the corporate relationships of traditional and  nontraditional financial partners, while developing new strategic partnerships that will benefit our members.

Will the Urban Chamber of Commerce advocate for procurement opportunities for its members?

Yes, that is something that I am very big on. It is important to me to not only have training sessions and workshops, but to assist the small-business owner with securing contracts for their business. I walked in those shoes, and the bottom line is getting procurement contracts.

What kind of things will be put in place to assure that black business owners have the opportunity and assistance to bid on corporate contracts?

Well, first and foremost, we need to start with interactions and meetings with key individuals at corporations who are involved with the procurement process. But, we must understand it is a two-fold process. On one hand, as the incoming president of the Urban Chamber, we have to go out and contact the corporations that
provide procurement opportunities — and stress to them how important it is to provide equitable bidding opportunities for our members. At the same time, we have to make sure that, within our membership, we are
working to improve their capacity and capabilities to be eligible for contracts.

Will the Urban Chamber of Commerce provide its members with loan packaging, technical help and business-planning assistance?

Yes, one of the things that was introduced to me is that the business incubator we are in, and the Business Success Center that we are deeply involved with, provide more than physical resources; they also provide resources in terms of mentoring, workshops and counseling. These elements are necessary to help small businesses have the organizational structure, technical competence and fi nancial capacity to not only survive,
but thrive.

How is the Urban Chamber of Commerce going to assist black business owners with meeting technology challenges in order to be competitive in the market?

We have to make sure we provide resources that will help bridge the digital divide. We do provide workshops at the Urban Chamber of Commerce. We are also exploring the potential to create a computer lab that will be available for use by Business Success Center participants and Urban Chamber members.

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