Giant automaker Stellantis is partnering with the National Business League to create a one-stop portal for Black businesses to sell goods and services to potential customers ranging from the federal government to Fortune 500 companies.

The maker of such brands as Chrysler, Fiat and Jeep and the NBL are kicking off the Stellantis-NBL National Black Supplier Development Program. It intends to support the development of over 2.9 million Black businesses in America and internationally to do business with public and private sources.

The partnership reports the program — featuring a virtual training and development portal and robust resource marketplace that will qualify, train and develop sustainable Black businesses — will be the first of its type because another one like it does not exist.
Among its objectives, the program aims to provide Black suppliers with benefits that include getting access to capital, training and helping them secure future contracting and procurement opportunities in a post-COVID-19 pandemic economy. The program’s announcement is part of the 2021 observance of Juneteenth.

Plans call for Stellantis to anchor the development of a virtual training and development portal. It will allow the program to qualify, train and develop Black businesses for future contracting opportunities. Through the portal those firms will gain access to many resources, including mentorship, executive coaching, supplier training, supply chain solutions, along with talent placement and acquisition, to name a few.

So when will Black suppliers be able to tap into the new program?

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Stellantis plans to begin a pilot run with several suppliers in January that will include companies outside the automotive space, Marvin Washington, the automaker’s director of electrical and electronics purchasing and head of the program, told Today News Post. The initial target was 10 companies for the pilot, but Stellantis is uncertain what the final number will be given the high demand already being generated. The partnership plans to open the program to all black suppliers by June 2022.
The fresh effort may allow Black suppliers to potentially reach big and small corporate customers in the U.S. and abroad they could not reach on their own.

Dr. Kenneth Harris, the NBL’s president and CEO, says the program is about building capacity and enabling companies to become qualified to take advantage of and be prepared to compete with future opportunities in the supply chain. The NBL calls itself America’s oldest and largest trade group for black businesses.

Harris notes statistics show that out of the 2.9 million Black businesses, 95% are not connected to the ecosystem and less than 3% of that 2.9 million are certified at a particular agency/certification. “It’s incumbent upon us to develop this future marketplace,” he says.

The effort could also help Black suppliers increase their revenues and gain new customers.

Harris added the new online virtual procurement and contracting marketplace will build a bridge between the public and private sectors to create substantive business opportunities for Black suppliers.

The program is needed to help advance stronger black entrepreneurship.

About 95% of Black-owned businesses today are mainly comprised of solopreneurs — home-based, one-employee enterprises — or are considered micro-businesses, officials stated in a news release. Of these, fewer than 3% are minority or agency certified, and most do not have the capacity, scope, and scale to meet the demands of future contracting and procurement opportunities with Fortune 500 companies and the federal government.

Further, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Black businesses nationally. An estimated 40% of Black-owned businesses closed permanently in 2020, according to CBS News, while the digital divide has created a systemic barrier to entry into the marketplace among Black businesses.

“The upside potential for Black Business Enterprises is immeasurable when the focus is on development, equity and inclusion,” Harris stated. “This is where we truly start to level the playing field by bringing commerce solutions to the marketplace to solve economic problems.”

Washington told Black Enterprise via email data supports Black businesses are behind, as they have not shared economic prosperity in this country. “We know they are capable and what they need is support, building capacity and the best way to grow is through this supply chain in order to create sustainable businesses, opportunities, and generational wealth that has largely been denied over many years.”

Stellantis NV was formed this year after Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Peugeot-maker PSA Group up their merger in January, making the combined company one of the world’s largest automakers.

Mark Stewart, COO, Stellantis — North America, commented on the partnership.

“As a key part of our corporate diversity, inclusion, and engagement strategy, Stellantis is excited to partner with the National Business League to ensure that all Black Business Enterprises and suppliers have an equitable and inclusive stake in the global marketplace. Post-pandemic and in response to rising demands for social and economic justice for all people, finding equitable and impactful ways to engage and empower Black businesses is critical to the sustainable development of Black entrepreneurs and communities.”

Isiah Thomas, chairman and CEO of ISIAH International LLC, also reflected on the initiative.

“The Stellantis-NBL National Black Supplier Development Program is an idea whose time has come,” Thomas stated. “Equitable access to both international and domestic business opportunities by Black businesses is fundamentally important to the future of our economy and opportunities available to Black people and communities.”

See more details on the partnership here.

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