There’s much to celebrate this month during the two hundred and thirty sixth birthday of our country, including the benefits of being a SDMWVBE (Small, Disadvantaged, Minority, Women or Veteran Business Enterprise) in the United States. Most of the time we talk about the issues and challenges we business owners face competing for our places at the procurement tables of this country’s large corporations and its federal, state and local government agencies. We’re even known to complain a bit about red tape and less than level playing fields. It is easy to forget how fortunate we are to live and work in a country that allows us to fulfill our potential and that, though not perfect, supports our various quests to do what we love in the business world.
I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer with the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women in their Peace Through Business program. The 2012 program involved mentoring and coaching students in Rwanda and Afghanistan as they prepared business plans. I was partnered with a young Afghani woman and each exchange helped me appreciate what I, for one, have so often take for granted.
- Formal education was always available to me, female or not.
- There’s no armed checkpoint on my way to the office.
- Can’t remember a car bombing in western Pennsylvania during my life time, though I have visited and said a prayer at Oklahoma City, Ground Zero and Flight 93’s final landing field.
- My ancestors may have been thirled (old Scottish term for serfs who were not allowed to trade masters, hmm) but at least were not executed in recent times for being of the wrong tribe.
- I don’t know anyone imprisoned for having an abortion, as the young women of Rwanda can be.
- We don’t typically experience any sort of road blocks, but we’re certainly not Tutsi in need of a Hutu identity card to get through roadblocks.
This reorders my perspective a little. If I have the time and the ability to assist other SDMWVBE business owners, in this or other locations, I’ll give it my best shot. Next year, when the IEEW is looking for mentors, I hope you’ll consider it, too.