Minority Business Accelerator Chat with Yvette Segura

A Chat with Tampa Bay Chamber Chair Yvette Segura

Q1 has wrapped, and the Minority Business Accelerator is in full swing. Program Director Avril Stinson, invited current Tampa Bay Chamber Chair Yvette Segura, to share some of her insight regarding the Chamber’s Inclusive Organization Pillar and the importance of DE&I to our business community.

  • Please introduce yourself. “Who is Yvette Segura?”  I am the Regional Vice President for USAA operations in Tampa and I’ve proudly been with USAA for 32 years.  I’m an Air Force brat and have moved many times growing up and throughout my professional career.  My career has provided me some great opportunities to grow as a leader and often as a party of one, being female and a minority.  Fortunately, that is changing and is happening intentionally.  
  • Please briefly share USAA’s stance on DE&I.  USAA recognizes the strength that comes with a variety of perspectives and beliefs and has an environment that encourages respect and trust. We believe attracting, retaining and developing talented, diverse professionals—including women, minorities, individuals with disabilities, LGBTQ+, veterans, among others–helps us achieve our goal to purposefully include diverse perspectives to achieve superior business results and fulfill our mission. It is a USAA business imperative to drive growth, promote innovation and sustain competitive advantage in the marketplace.
  • As Chair, why is DE&I important to the Tampa Bay Chamber?  Because Tampa Bay is so diverse, it’s important that our Chamber appropriately reflect the entire business community while embracing the various perspectives each brings, and to be intentionally inclusive in that journey.
  • Why do you support the Chamber’s Minority Business Accelerator?  The goal of the Chamber’s Inclusive Organization pillar is to create an environment where all feel welcomed.  Programs like the Minority Business Accelerator help to lift all businesses.  True inclusivity requires the involvement and engagement of everyone.  Through the experience and perspective of other Chamber members, we can all work together to accomplish our vision.

The Chamber can’t do this alone and needs the help and support of its members to continue the success of this program.  Everyone has a role to play in using their networks, reaching out to suppliers and others in referring companies to the program.   Volunteering is another great way to get involved, share knowledge and experience from a variety of vantage points.  It’s also a wonderful way to connect and learn from others while strengthening the bonds of our community.

The MBA program started with just a few companies and continues to grow.  It is a great opportunity to build momentum and extend its reach – but we have a long way to go.  I look forward to supporting this program for many years to come. 

If you are interested in learning more about the Minority Business Accelerator, please contact Avril Stinson at AStinson@Tampabaychamber.com or visit our website.

Hill Ward Henderson Lawyers Present to MBA Cohort

Written by Cory J. Person, Esq.

We have all heard the phrase “small businesses are the backbone of the community.”  The truth of this statement was never more evident to me and my colleagues at Hill Ward Henderson than during our presentation to the Tampa Bay Chamber’s Minority Business Accelerator (MBA) Program.  Our law firm has had a long and dynamic relationship with the Tampa Bay Chamber.  Thus, the opportunity to engage with the MBA program as subject matter experts was a natural extension of our relationship, and in-line with the firm’s core value surrounding diversity and inclusion. 

Hill Ward Henderson has made increased and improved diversity & inclusion a part of our strategic plan.  As the firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Shareholder, I help lead the execution of our D&I initiatives.  This includes impacting not only our firm’s internal diversity and inclusion, but also our engagement with diverse businesses and organizations in the Tampa Bay community.  Our participation with the MBA program as subject matter experts is a perfect example of the firm’s commitment to the development of diverse and inclusive community partners.

We first learned of the MBA program from my partner (and fellow presenter) Nicholas Outman.  As part of his corporate practice focus, Nick often provides counsel to small and start-up businesses, and had done so as a contributor to the Tampa Bay Chamber prior to the MBA program.  Of course, we were very intrigued by the opportunity to work with the Chamber on this project, and grew even more excited once we learned more about the program from its biggest advocate, Program Director Avril Stinson.  Avril informed us that the businesses are thoroughly vetted by the Chamber for the competitive MBA program.  Once selected, the “Cohorts” are provided developmental and growth information and training from subject matter experts and on-going counseling from business mentors.  As subject matter experts, we were privileged to host the Cohort on March 12, 2021 for a presentation on corporate structure, employer/employee relations and business liability. 

Prior to starting the presentation, my colleagues and I had the opportunity to talk with several of the MBA Cohort members and the MBA Cohort Chairs.  In addition to learning more about the companies, we also learned some of the drivers for creating the MBA program.   For instance, we learned that while approximately 50% of small businesses are minority owned, they account for just 5% of GDP growth.  So, the question becomes, “how do you equip these small businesses for stronger growth and greater economic impact?”  It was our hope that our presentation would provide another set of “tools” to better equip the Cohort members in reaching this goal.

We began with Nick’s presentation on corporate structure and other corporate governance issues.  Following Nick, my partner Jeff Wilcox (one of our employment law gurus) “presented” on employment issues facing many small businesses, such as medical leave, discrimination claims, and wage and hour disputes.  I put presented in quotes because Jeff only got to his second PowerPoint slide when he began fielding a number of questions from members of the Cohort.  It was apparent that Jeff’s presentation was timely, as we learned that many of the Cohort members were faced with certain employment matters in real time.   

I was joined by my colleague Nicole Walsh for the final presentation on premises liability.  Once again, the Cohort members were engaged, allowing for a more interactive presentation.  Nicole and I were joined by our colleague Sherilee Samuel during a lively Q&A session following our presentation.  Throughout the program, I was really impressed by the range of diverse businesses areas represented by the Cohort (catering, construction, automotive, staffing, etc.) and by the common thread among them – a sincere and all-out commitment to the health and viability of their business.  It was a great honor to share our firm’s commitment to them!

Minority Business Accelerator Guest Blog Post – Lifetime Moments of Impact

Isn’t it great when we have the rare moments in our careers to be around a group of people who want only to learn and succeed!  Do you recall a time in your career, or personal past, when you were a part of a selected team and how you felt to be around peers that made you want to be better?  Now, imagine how the coach, team leader, boss, felt to be part of the development of that group and the feeling of genuine purpose to help someone grow and develop.  This is how I felt when I was asked to support the Minority Business Accelerator program from its beginning.

At the genesis of the MBA program, I was contacted by the leadership at the Chamber to discuss how we might be able to support the selected participants.  One of the great rules we have in our Sandler business is “Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice!”  Meaning, we’ll perform a set of assessments of their communication skills as well as their leadership competencies so they have a clearer understanding of their strengths and areas of development.  This information would then be shared with their mentors to help them throughout the entire program.

Recently, I was able to debrief these results to the Cohort ’22 class of MBA participants.  And, like most people that complete these assessments, they were open and anxious for the feedback, and maybe a little skeptical since this was something they’ve not experienced before.  However, once they began to realize that this was their data and information, just simply interpreted back to them, they began to get into it!  Now, getting “into it” does not always mean they like or immediately agree with the information.    

However, these little moments of self-discovery are why being involved in this program is so important.  Being a small part of someone’s development and growth in their profession is the “why” I do what I do.

After the initial individual assessment debriefing, I spend a half day with the entire cohort to discuss how to apply the assessments in their professions and lives.  We also discussed how to navigate the numerous networking events they will be attending during the Accelerator program.  One comment made recently centered around how this program is not a “check the box” program around diversity.  They went on to ask how the Tampa Bay Chamber started this program, and Bob Rohrlack shared with them how the Chamber did their research; involved numerous people on the planning committee; and is now executing a program that will become a great model for other Chambers to adopt.  And, the impact already has been tremendous.

We all know the more we give, the more we receive.  I’ve had the pleasure of cultivating professional relationships with all of the participants of the cohorts and can assure you that I’ve received a lot more than I’ve provided. I encourage each of you to contact Avril Stinson and find a way to contribute your time and talents to the MBA Program.


Clint Babcock
Partner – Sandler Training