The Southern Maryland Minority Chamber of Commerce (SMMCOC) is a regional voice for small, minority, women, and veteran-owned businesses. The organization has a new President, Pamela Minor, who brings 25 years of small business ownership, government contracting, and business counseling experience to her new role.
Though Minor has been involved in Charles County and the small business community for many years, her involvement with the SMMCOC was only recent. “I got involved in 2021 with the Chamber when they were looking to get a USDA Rural Development Agriculture Grant, and I was asked to help with that.” Minor met Doris Cammack-Spencer, Past President, and was soon asked to be the Project Director.
“I knew everybody because I had an Information Technology (IT) contracting firm for 25 years, then worked for PTAC [Maryland Procurement Technical Assistance Center] as a small business counselor, was also knee-deep in small business, and government contracting, and was a counselor for the Veteran Administration (VA) Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE) program as a counselor to Veterans (VOSB) and Service-Disabled Veteran owned business owners. (SDVOSB)”. As the wife of a service-disabled veteran (who, by the way, is not an SDVOSB, I can also help another community I am a member of. I am woman, minority, graduate of the Small Business 8(a) business owner.”
A Strategy for the SMMCOC
Minor became SMMCOC President in early January 2022 and is working on a strategy for the Minority Chamber going forward, post-COVID. She said, “One of the things I’m looking at is highlighting the small businesses--being able to identify the shining stars. Also, I want there to be a lot more engagement with others. The small business world is a very difficult place to be in, and engagement with other small business is important.”
Minor is also looking at creating more committees with similar needs and goals and web site improvements. “We want to be an engaging, collaborative environment--not a competitive environment,” she said. “As a small IT business owner, I often found that other businesses felt afraid to share information. There’s enough to go around.”
Networking is important, she says, even with COVID. “You can network virtually,” Minor suggested. “I’ve met some amazing people during this time. Some things, I like to do on Zoom, because I can share my screen and show them things and get them through the process.”
Benefits of Membership
The SMMCOC is different from other Chambers, as they’re a Regional Chamber, representing Calvert County, Charles County, St. Mary’s County, and Southern Prince George’s County. They serve as a regional voice for small, minority, women, and veteran-owned businesses.
“The overall Chamber functions in a world that all things are the same, and it really isn’t,” said Minor. “As the owner of a business for years, my banking experience has been totally different than my friends of the majority community. It’s just that simple.”
“There’s a book out that really touched me, called ‘The Memo,’ by John Hope Bryant. We financially, as a culture, didn’t ‘get the memo’ on how to get financially literate and secure,” said Minor. “I grew up not even knowing about black-owned businesses. What we thought of as business ownership was different. We didn’t have offices to go to. We never really learned the stuff we needed to. We didn’t understand the taxes and some of the things you must do, or you might be out of business. Those are things we want to make sure our minority businesses know.”
Business Lessons to Learn, Not Earn
As the new SMMCOC President, business trainings will be important to Minor. For her, she says many of those lessons in running a business were earned the hard way, not learned. “Because all lessons don’t need to be earned, we want to be that environment where our businesses can learn some of those lessons that they need. The Urban Dictionary defines didn’t get the memo. ‘To be or to remain uninformed, especially about something that is common knowledge to everyone else.’ We want to be that community where the small businesses can learn what they need to know.”
Minor brings many years of personal small business experience and counseling to the table. “I’ll be 67 in a couple weeks, and I thought I was just going to be chilling right?” she remarked. “I was not planning on doing something like this at this stage in my life. But I recognized that, while I was doing this, I had to earn all the things I did. And I want to share that. I’m in the legacy part of my life, and I’m trying to fulfill it.”