Small and minority- and women-owned businesses were asked to change the way they think about their business during a workshop Thursday on a mentorship program designed to help participants improve business plans and leverage new opportunities.
“This program forces you to step back and look at your business differently,” said Bernard Willingham, HISD Team Lead for Supplier Diversity. “Oftentimes, you may get so busy doing the work of your business that you don’t take time to really think about how to improve and grow your business.”
More than 20 people attended the workshop to learn more about the Interagency Mentor-Protégé Program, sponsored by HISD, the City of Houston, Metro, and the Port of Houston Authority. The application period for the next class of participants will open in July.
The program matches each applicant with a mentor, some of which represent Fortune 500 companies. Applicants known as protégés in the program are required to submit their business plans and share current business plans and financial data. Together, mentors and protégés then work on developing a new business plan to assist with current business challenges in order to help companies compete better in the procurement process.
“We’re going to help you break down that plan and make it more solid, so that it will serve as a roadmap for what you need to do strategically as a company,” Willingham said. “We want to enhance your business by improving your ability to present your products and services and handle scopes of work for various contract opportunities.”
Taylor Construction President Troi Taylor, a graduate of the program, says the experience led to tremendous growth for his company which is now pursuing national contract opportunities and even doing business with others he met in the program.
“The program makes you look at how other companies and banks look at your business,” Taylor said. “This is what you don’t get in a MBA program. And it will disrupt your comfort zone, which is what I think a lot of small businesses need to get them to where they want to be.”
Another graduate of the program, Melissa Ellison, also shared her experience as a protégé. Her company, ServiceMaster Professional Cleaning, a janitorial and commercial cleaning services business, is currently a vendor for HISD. “The program has meant so much to me in terms of getting my business financials together and getting connected to those in the construction industry,” Ellison said. “What you put into the program is what you will get out of it.”
For more information on the program, contact the HISD Office of Business Assistance at (713) 556-7273. In order to apply for the Interagency Mentor-Protégé Program, protégés must meet the following criteria:
- Completed online application
- Submit a current business plan and be able to identify the type of guidance needed for development
- Must be currently certified as a small, women-owned, veteran-owned, minority-owned or disadvantaged business enterprise by the City of Houston, METRO Small Business or hold a current registration from the Port of Houston Authority or HISD
- Business must be in continuous operation for the past two years
- Business revenues must be between $150,000 and $4 million in the most recent fiscal year
- Business must have at least four employees