In our latest partner spotlight, we spoke to Nikita Devereaux, PMP, member of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Black Chamber of Commerce, where she is also on the Communications and Marketing Committee.
Nikita relocated to Charlotte from Detroit in 2004 in pursuit of better opportunities for her career and family. She’s raised three sons, all of whom graduated from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. One of her sons is currently pursuing a BA in Psychology at Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina.
She is a professional speaker, corporate trainer and certified Project Management Professional (PMP). She owns SIMPLY VIRTUAL™, a management consulting firm, which delivers consulting, training and technology solutions to help organizations and leaders solve challenges experienced in today’s flexible workplace. You can learn more about her company at www.simply-virtual.com.
In the interview below, we discuss our recent partnership with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Black Chamber of Commerce and how it emphasizes Charlotte’s African American businesses and professionals, as well as how Nikita herself is involved. Enjoy!
- We are excited for our recent partnership with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Black Chamber of Commerce (CMBCC)! What can our readers and followers expect from your resources?
Charlotte Mecklenburg Black Chamber of Commerce (CMBCC) supports black-owned businesses in Charlotte with opportunities for growth and economic development. While still in our infancy, we’re putting together programs and resources to connect, educate and empower black business owners. In 2016, we will launch an 8-week business “academy” to help Member Businesses learn what it takes to compete in today’s market, and we’re proud to have just launched a monthly eNewsletter, Charlotte Black Business EDGE, which educates our members and advocates while showcasing Member Businesses.
- How did you personally become involved with CMBCC? How has it benefited you, and how have you seen it benefit others?
Our Past Chair, Will Peters invited me to join CMBCC about a year ago. I serve on the Board of Directors and Chair the Communications and Marketing Committee.
My company has been in business for more 17 years. As a result of volunteering with CMBCC, I have built lasting relationships with other black business owners in Charlotte. This pairing has provided a unique and invaluable support system, which I did not have in my first years of running SIMPLY VIRTUAL™.
I co-organize the Black Chamber’s business after-hours event, CMBCC Connect, held at Imani’s Fusion Café on the 4th Thursday of each month. I have seen black business owners new to Charlotte, like Michelle Conelly-Gore, use events like CMBCC Connect to build relationships and grow their business. It’s exciting to be a part of that.
- In what ways does the CMBCC work to market and emphasize Charlotte’s African American businesses and professionals?
CMBCC promotes member businesses in our Membership Directory, which includes links to their respective websites. We also market member businesses via our Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter channels and post member events on our events page. Members may also be showcased by writing an article for Charlotte Black EDGE. It’s a member exclusive benefit that exposes them to nearly 3,000 CMBCC members and advocates on our mailing list.
- How have you seen Charlotte’s business climate and economy evolve over the years, and how is CMBCC working to promote business and economic growth?
One significant difference I’ve noticed in Charlotte’s business climate since moving here is more small businesses. While jobs are coming back, it seems the economic downturn kept so many blacks unemployed or underemployed*, they elected to freelance or consult.
*A 2013 Economic Policy Institute press release indicated North Carolina’s black unemployment rate (17.3%) in 4Q 2012 was 2.5 times that of whites in North Carolina (6.7%) around the same time, making it the fourth highest in the nation.
I’m pleased to see so many new entrepreneurs and also delighted that CMBCC Programs provide opportunities to aid them in their professional education and economic growth.
We also want to influence local and state policies that impact black business. In partnership with Member Business, Queen City Audio, Video & Appliances, we hosted our first Economic Development Roundtable in November 2015, where community leaders met with small businesses to have that much needed discussion.
- CMBCC values our city’s diversity. Can you tell us more about its programs and involvement in this aspect of Charlotte’s business community?
CMBCC partners with Carolina’s Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council (CVMSDC) in an effort to help Corporate Supplier Diversity programs connect with black-owned businesses. We also partner with organizations like the Latin Chamber, the Guild, etc. to ensure our programing reaches minorities of any background and ethnicity.
- How do you hope to see Charlotte change over the next 5 years? 10 years?
Charlotte remains segregated. I’d like to see the city address affordable housing and better embrace its growing portfolio of black and other minority owned and operated businesses.
- What benefits are available through a membership? What types of memberships are available through the CMBCC, and how can interested individuals apply?
Any business owner or professional can join online. Membership levels range from $25 for students to $400 for small businesses and $2500 for larger corporations.
Benefits vary with each level, but all Charlotte Mecklenburg Black Chamber of Commerce members enjoy a listing in our online member business directory, CMBCC’s weekly events, monthly eNewsletter and announcement + promotion via our social media channels, The Charlotte Post and Queen City Metro, as well as access to CMBCC events, programs and educational workshops
- If you could give entrepreneurs and business owners one piece of advice, what would it be?
Get involved! Similar to other growing cities, Charlotte is relationship oriented. People do business with those they know and trust. Volunteer roles with Charlotte Mecklenburg Black Chamber, PMI – Metrolina and Junior Achievement of the Carolinas keep me engaged and allow me the opportunity to improve our community and afford SIMPLY VIRTUAL™ exposure my company may otherwise not have.
Thank you to Nikita Devereaux for sharing more with us on the Charlotte Mecklenburg Black Chamber of Commerce. To learn more about CMBCC or becoming a member, visit them online. And be sure to check out SIMPLY VIRTUAL™ for more information about Nikita’s business!