From the 2021 Minority Business Accelerator Program Chair, Ralph Garcia, RGA Advisory
Why I got involved.
As a young boy in West Tampa, I often would daydream what it would be like to have an important job where you got to wear a suit and tie to work (yes, those were different times). There weren’t many people in my neighborhood who did. My greatest blessing was to have wonderful parents who believed in the American dream and pushed my sister and me to be worthy of its bounty. Through diligence and extraordinary luck, I was able to reach many of the goals that my parents pointed out to me and yes, I got to wear more suits and ties than I ever imagined. Over time, as many busy people do, I began to not savor my accomplishments and take them for granted in the race to “better” myself.
It seems however, age has a way of finally making me reflect on the journey, not just the destination. While I am proud of the effort I have put into my life and career, I now realize how much help I received along the way. Many times, I expressed my gratitude but certainly there were times that I did not realize how many helping hands were there for me along the way. In some cases, those helping hands are no longer with us or their identity is not known to me. As such I made a vow to live my life with the mantra of Value to Others…. of “paying it forward” whenever I can.
One of the first steps in this new phase of my life was becoming a Mentor to a business owner in the Tampa Bay Chamber Minority Business Accelerator. Sincerely, whatever value I have brought to this business, the value I received back was tenfold. There is a reward in giving, in being a cheerleader and in seeing others excel. I feel renewed working with leaders who are passionate about becoming better…better businesses, better employers and better community citizens.
Imagine my surprise when I was offered the program chair for the 2021 Cohort. The bar was set very high with the recently graduated 2019 Cohort. I still have that competitive spirit and with my Value to Others attitude, I am up to the challenge. The businesses, and their leaders, that were selected for the 2021 Cohort are inspirational in what they have accomplished and their desire to continue their journey to get even better. These won’t just be good Minority Businesses they will be excellent Tampa Bay based businesses.
The Chamber has championed diversity of its members. They believe that the best community decisions are made when all representatives of the business community participate. The chamber has invested heavily in the success of the Accelerator by providing considerable resources and talented staff to work on this initiative. They have assembled a stellar group of Mentors for these businesses, as well. These Mentors are all successful and busy people, and yet all have made the 2-year volunteer commitment to be fully engaged in the program. There are several Chamber members who have also committed their time and skills to present educational seminars on valuable business and strategic topics.
I am the lucky one…I get to see our community grow and expand right before my eyes. I promise I will work conscientiously as your program chair (the task is made easier by the talented team at the Chamber) and I promise… I will savor every moment.