By Rebecca Keister
PBN Staff Writer
By Rebecca Keister
PBN Staff Writer
When Lisa Ranglin helped announce the creation of the Rhode Island Black Business Association in October 2011, she said there was a serious need for a central advocacy program for small businesses owned by minorities and females in Rhode Island.
The idea was to create an association open to all Ocean State business owners that would become an active part of the state’s urban revitalization and economic recovery by opening doors for minority business owners and providing them with growth tools.
RIBBA this past October marked its first anniversary with a gala celebration featuring keynote speaker Cheryl Snead, president and CEO of Banneker Industries, Inc. and a host of spotlight awards to businesses that demonstrated community development, commitment, inspiration and entrepreneurship.
PBN: By what would you define the success of the association’s first year in operation?
Ranglin: I think it’s really strong advocacy, as it relates to the state and economic development, to promote minority and women-owned small businesses. It’s really all around making sure that employers are aware that minority contractors do exist.
PBN: What has been the biggest challenge in organizing the association?
Ranglin: I think that with anything the biggest [challenge] was around securing membership, the consensus around the structure and [defining] the purpose of the organization in terms of ensuring we weren’t going to duplicate anything out there. We wanted to be unique. I would consider that not a challenge but an opportunity.
PBN: How successful were you in recruiting members?
Ranglin: With any new organization, you have the issue of people being reluctant to join. The goal we had was to attain at least 100 paid members and I think we have approximately 112 paid members. We started out … with 40 or 50 people. We did email blasts, we had folks who were members have other people join with them. We tapped into other organizations that deal with people in the business sector to develop a broad base. We used whatever you could think of, all different mechanisms.
PBN: Is it a bad thing that advocacy groups for minorities are still needed in the year 2012? Should we be past that?
Ranglin: I see it as that more reform is needed as well as monitoring what is on the books from a legal and regulatory perspective. I don’t like to highlight bad things. I like to highlight the solution. … I think if small businesses were able to hire more people, we would see a reduction in unemployment.
PBN: Why do you feel there still is, as you’ve called it, a “significant gap” in the minority-business community?
Ranglin: We have on the books that 10 percent of [state business] contracts should be going to minorities. We know that’s not happening. We know that minority companies sometimes lack knowledge and access to information. Most companies are very small; maybe one or two people. Their focus is on making the next dollar, not going out to shop for all programs in our state. We’re doing different things through educational avenues. We’re not looking to reinvent anything, but to partner where it makes sense so our members know what’s available and how they can benefit.
PBN: One of the association’s goals is to encourage entrepreneurship within Rhode Island’s black youth community. How are you progressing on that front?
Ranglin: It’s really through working with the schools. … One of the things that allows anyone to get into anything is to be able to address that interest through workshops and seminars where we talk about why someone should consider starting a business – [about] the benefits and challenges.
PBN: Do you, as a successful businessperson who also is a member of a minority community, feel a personal responsibility to promote future minority business leaders?
Ranglin: I believe if I am able to leverage people [who have helped me] and feel that I have gained so much, I do feel it is my responsibility. I do a lot of coaching young women for interviews. … I do that because it’s very rewarding for me and someone had taken me by the hand at some point when I needed that support.
PBN: What is your greatest hope for the association going forward?
Ranglin: We intend to meet with key selected private and public leaders to identify resources and make them available to our members either through access to capital or training. We will continue to work to close the gaps, from the minority and female perspectives. We hope to be able to move into our home and office space. We will continue to be that strong advocacy organization that ensures minority and female businesses continue to thrive. •INTERVIEW
Position: President of the Rhode Island Black Business Association and a vice president at Bank of America
Background: Ranglin came to the United States from her native Jamaica, West Indies, at age 18 when her mother relocated here for work and the family settled in Providence. She has been with Bank of America since 2001 and primarily manages large projects that affect multiple lines of business and applications. She is a certified project-management professional and has served on the boards and committees of several local and national organizations, including United Way and the Urban League of Rhode Island.
Education: Bachelor of science in computer programming, New England Technical College, 1993
First Job: Babysitting her niece