I arrived back in Sydney from Detroit, Michigan USA on Saturday October 28, having been part of the Supply Nation Study Tour that attended the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) Business Opportunity Fair and Conference.
NMSDC is the sister council to Supply Nation, and where the supplier diversity movement first began. NMSDC certify and connect Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American business enterprises and connect them to member corporations. This was the NMSDC’s 45th Conference, and my fourth time as a delegate attending. This time my experience was through the lens of a certified business, and the objectives far greater.
Our delegation included certified businesses, member representatives from corporate and government, and for the first time had representatives from New Zealand who are exploring establishing their own council.
My purpose with attending the study tour was simple:
As Supplier Diversity Advocate of the Year, it was also important for me to learn as much as I could, to bring back and share as an advocate and expert.
The agenda Supply Nation prepared for us was jam packed with 12-13 hours days.
Saturday October 21 was International Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) Day, and we had two events to attend. The first was NMSDC’s International MBE Forum. This event hosted three panel discussions with a diverse group of panellists that included USA Corporations, Supplier Diversity Professionals, USA MBEs and the President/CEOs of each of the Global Councils. The panels focused on globalisation and discussed the opportunities, risks and nuances of doing business in different countries. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing an update from the councils from South Africa, Canada and the UK, which demonstrated that although Supply Nation is similar in challenges, we are very fortunate to have government policy driving the agenda for us in Australia.
Our next event was the Global Supplier Diversity Alliance (GSDA) Connections reception. This event attracted more than 100 attendees and hosted three panel discussions. I was very fortunate to be invited as a speaker on a global supplier panel. The first two panels focused on the changing landscape of supplier diversity, how it drives the economy and the opportunities for growth. On my panel discussion, I was joined by James Wong (Canadian MBE) and Farida Gibbs (UK MBE) to explore using your council for growth and business success. I received great feedback for sharing my journey and how I have sought support from Supply Nation. Later that evening we gathered as an Australian and New Zealand delegation for dinner.
Later that night we attended the NMSDC Welcome to Detroit Reception, which was held at the Detroit Lions home ground, the Ford Field. NMSDC never fails to impress with their lavish themed events. The entry and along the path was lined with different styled food carts and bars. At the end of the path were round tables lined in front of a stage, with a Motown Band playing in honour of being in the home town and birth place of Motown music records. The band was flawless as they sang old favourites, and had a dance for every single song.
After breakfast the Business Opportunity Fair was opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The tradeshow had more than 500 exhibitors. The money and time exhibitors had spent on their booths was mind blowing! This year there appeared to be more MBEs with booths. I made my way around to each on my hit list, but also took in the usual big-name corporations, because they have some awesome promotional gifts. I once shopped for gifts for my kids at the tradeshow, and many of our delegates understood why, as they walked out with as many as three bags full of freebies.
The conference workshops that followed had themes of digital, technology and going global. Later that afternoon we were joined by a team from Northrop Grunman to exchange ideas and learnings about Supply Nation and working in Australia, and learn more about their business and supplier diversity program. That evening we were joined by our GSDA counterparts for dinner with our delegation. The networking, connecting and sharing amongst the delegation was rich, and I feel like I’ve made many new friends and connections.
Wednesday October 25 was Conference Day 2. This was a half-day event as the Awards Banquet was being held that evening. The workshop session focused on innovation, development and commercial opportunities.
Thursday October 26 brought the end of the journey. I had some free time to walk the streets of Detroit and take in the sights of the river that joined Detroit to Canada. It was such a memorable journey with lots of learning, connecting, new friendships and relationships established, and lots of promising ideas for the future.
- Kristal Kinsela