Twenty years ago, Marie Gill could not stop crying tears of joy when her company, M. Gill & Associates, was awarded a government contract to lead the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Business Center in Florida.
It would allow her to assist other minority businesses in accessing capital, contracts and diverse markets through the federal program funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Gill was elated because, similar to the proudest moments she experienced in her homeland of Jamaica, she would be able to help others.
“There I was with another opportunity to serve in such a profound way,” Gill said.
For 15 years, Gill excelled as the Business Center’s executive director and operator, and since 2016 has served in the same role at Florida’s MBDA Export Center. Under her leadership, it was recently named No. 1 out of 46 centers throughout the nation for reaching 150.5% of its goals.
As the executive director, Gill has assisted in facilitating more than $5 billion in financing minority businesses, serving hundreds of companies each year, and creating and retaining more than 15,000 jobs.
One of MBDA’s latest efforts to support minority businesses is an inaugural launch of Buy MBE (Minority Business Enterprise) Day, an event intended to encourage corporations, government buyers and individuals to shop and purchase goods and services from their local minority-owned business communities. The event will take place on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020.
On Buy MBE Day, the Export Center will be joining the national network of MBDA Business and Specialty Centers across the country in demonstrating support and commitment to the minority business community.
“We encourage others to shop with their favorite minority business owner or other minority business owners that they don’t know,” said Gill. “We have to do this. We really have to focus on supporting one another.”
Gill said that she and the rest of her Export Center team, which includes staff throughout the state, will wear shirts that promote the initiative and will also mention the event and minority businesses that they support on social media.
“We just want it to be like a holiday,” Gill said. “It’s a celebration day.”
According to her, supporting minority firms strengthens the overall health of the nation’s economy.
“Minority businesses contribute $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy,” Gill said. “They have the expertise to compete but are often locked out of opportunities.”
Gill works with a strong determination to help minority firms. Over the years she has traveled throughout Miami-Dade helping businesses, including Allapattah, Overtown, Liberty City, Wynwood and Florida City. She said she has worked a lot of late nights and early mornings, but is grateful and blessed.
“I come from the perspective of running an MBE myself,” she said.
This week, Gill and her team will celebrate the 30th anniversary of M. Gill & Associates on Sept. 17.
“I know there are problems in getting to the front of the line,” Gill said. “I know the regulations and if you make a mistake how financially costly it can be.”
She mentioned that the business owners she works with sometimes become discouraged or depressed because of problems they face while trying to develop their companies. But she reassures them that she and other staff at the Export Center can assist.
“I have lost opportunities [myself],” Gill said. “But I know that it’s possible to bounce back.”