Building a business community

MCC’s Chris Kelly is tirelessly working to support KC’s minority- and women-owned businesses.

BLOG mar 20141The office of procurement and purchasing for an organization like Metropolitan Community College involves more than just buying pencils and papers. For supplier diversity coordinator Chris Kelly, the office offers endless opportunities to give back to a community that has supported the college.

Kelly oversees a variety of programs and events at MCC that supports dozens of women- and minority-owned businesses throughout Kansas City to help enhance business practices and to spotlight those who desire to do business with us.

“I know it seems small,” Kelly said. “But when we extend contracts with one of these suppliers, it can mean a world of difference. They see we are walking the walk when we talk the talk.”  For the first time the majority of suppliers stocking the shelves at MCC five bookstores are provided by some of Kansas City’s best women- and minority-owned business.

“These organizations are not just grateful for the business, they truly understand that MCC is making an investment in the community,” Kelly said. “They see the work we are doing and some, in turn, send their own children to school here.”

Not only does working with women- and minority-owned businesses help grow those individual businesses, but it indirectly affects MCC’s own bottom line.

Kelly has spent 20 years working in the field of supplier diversity starting with Marion Laboratories where Ewing Marion Kauffman acted as her mentor as she served on a committee to mentor students in a college work-study program, which eventually became one of many initiatives in the formation of the Kauffman Foundation.

Kelly’s dedication to help community businesses stems from her own family’s tradition of business leadership.

Raising a family in a rural community in Arkansas, Kelly said, “My grandfather was one of the first African-Americans to own a car and his own business. I come from a family of business owners and I, today, see it as my job to share that experience with others.”

In her time at MCC, Kelly’s continued advocacy for women- and minority-owned businesses has garnered a number of accolades and awards. She has been named Supplier Diversity Coordinator of the year and received national recognition as a recipient of the Charles D. McDonald award, which honors those who have made significant contributions in supplier diversity. She has also been listed as one of 50 Most Influential Women in the Midwest and is a member of one of the most prestigious organizations in Kansas City; the Black Achievers Society founded my Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver.

But Kelly does not count the awards she has received. Instead, she says, she prefers that her tireless work ethic and dedication to supporting small businesses stand as an example of how important her work has been to the college and the growing network of women- and minority-owned businesses and the community at large.

“I don’t feel like I should shout through a bullhorn about the work I am doing,” she said. “You see and hear about it in the community.  Business owners can attest to the progress we are making.”

Still, she adds, there is much more work to be done and she intends to keep working to build the MCC supplier diversity program and strengthen the business network in the Kansas City metropolitan area.