Minority Business Development Center to open in Bloomington
BLOOMINGTON — A new resource for local businesses arrives at the Eastland Mall this week, prepared to help Bloomington-Normal residents find jobs, grow small businesses and develop new skills.
The Minority Business Development Center, a nonprofit organization associated with the Black Business Alliance Peoria chapter, opens with a ribbon cutting at 3 p.m. Wednesday at 1615 E. Empire St. in Bloomington.
Representatives from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the McLean County Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Development Center and other community members are planned to be in attendance at the new site, near the Aeropostale and Rue21 stores.
MBDC CEO Denise Moore said having spent time in the business world in both Peoria and Bloomington, she’s seen a need for this center as a free resource in Bloomington-Normal.
“An organization that was culturally conscious, that was women focused, that respected the fact that, you know, this is your hustle, this is your gig, and you didn’t need to dress up to come here. You can come in your jeans and your overalls, and that’s fine because we want folks to come and be comfortable,” she said, noting the mall offered an accessible location for the community to utilize the resources. “It’s also a place where, I have to tell you, we speak the truth.”
That doesn’t always mean telling entrepreneurs and business owners their ideas are wonderful.
“I’m going to ask you critical questions, and you will decide if you still think that your ideas are wonderful,” Moore said, noting the key is helping clients understand what it takes for a business to work, and how to improve a business.
Moore started the Black Business Alliance in Bloomington before moving to Peoria and expanding to a Minority Business Development Center there.
After seeing Bloomington-Normal clients driving to Peoria for workshops and meetings, it was time to “come full circle with a development center designed to help women, veterans and minorities in the business space,” she said.
The MBDC team plans to offer entrepreneurship training, contractor development and IT workforce development, which will include the opportunity to gain national certification.
“We have discovered that in the community we serve — for the most part: low income, minority women, veteran — these are some things that they have told us that they would like to receive training in. So that’s what we provide,” Moore said.
Training sessions, primarily held in the evenings, will be offered in person so participants will be able to ask questions and interact with instructors, but a video conference option will be available for folks who cannot attend in person.
MBDC has partnered with the Small Business Development Center and SCORE, both focused on working with small businesses, and Moore said as their clients go on to use their partner organizations’ resources, the MBDC will keep in contact to help ensure success.
“We stay in contact with them to make sure they’re receiving what they need from our partners, and our partners have not let us down yet,” she said.
The MBDC will also serve as a workforce readiness center, offering resume assistance, with computers available for submitting applications, as well as interview training and support once clients have secured employment.
“We follow them to make sure that they’re having a good experience at the company. If they need to talk to somebody about something that’s going on, we stay connected to those folks” for the first several weeks, Moore said. “To make sure that they are firmly entrenched in the corporation, or they tell us, ‘hey, I don’t need you anymore.’ And that’s what our goal is, to not be needed anymore, because then that means we’ve been successful.”
Moore said the SBDC encouraged her to create the MBDC, forming a lasting partnership.
“There is so much need to go around. We don’t feel like we’re in competition, because we aren’t,” she said. “There’s just so much need, and so we want to continue to fulfill that need. If we can’t provide the answers for you here, we will connect with our partners, because together we can make it happen.”