YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — A restructuring of the Minority Business Assistance Center at the Youngstown Business Incubator is aimed at better connecting minority-owned and women-owned enterprises to business opportunities with larger institutions, YBI CEO Barb Ewing said.
YBI announced Friday that Stephanie Gilchirst, who most recently served as director of the Women in Entrepreneurship and Youth Entrepreneurship programs, will now take over the MBAC-Youngstown Region office housed at YBI. The office serves Ashtabula, Columbiana, Mahoning, Trumbull, Belmont, Monroe and Jefferson counties.
The MBAC office’s former director, Vern Richberg, will assume the newly created position of director of supply chain diversity.
In other staff changes, Tanisha Wheeler, a part-time business counselor, will succeed Gilchrist as director of the women and youth entrepreneurship programs, and David Hood will serve as the program’s new administrative assistant.
YBI created Richberg’s new position in anticipation of funding it expects to receive in January for a full-time position to help large companies, government agencies and anchor institutions such as universities diversify their supply chains, Ewing said. His military background and the work he already is doing with the program’s clients made him the “obvious choice” to lead the initiative.
“He’ll be aiding us with getting our companies those necessary contracting relationships within our state,” Gilchrist said.
“By diversifying local supply chains we can create and advance economic opportunity and, at the same time, serve the needs of a cooperative community of local stakeholders with like-minded interests to serve a greater good,” Richberg said in the news release announcing the changes.
The most important way to support businesses that are owned by members of underrepresented communities is to buy from them, but there are no concentrated efforts – not only in the Mahoning Valley but regionally – “to make the connections to help both identify the opportunities at the anchor institutions and to help build the supply chain to meet that demand,” she continued. Federal requests for proposals increasingly include requirements for supply chain diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
Gilchrist founded the Women in Entrepreneurship program at YBI and the application to take over the local MBAC office was based on the platform that she built, Ewing said. She was originally intended to serve as the program’s director but left YBI to take a position at Inspiring Minds Youngstown, returning to the incubator staff earlier this year after three years away.
She is “a great resource” to take over the program and let Richberg launch the new program while she takes MBAC “to the next level,” Ewing added.
“I’m really excited about just being back and being able to not just work with women and youth but expand it to the whole minority community in the seven counties we serve,” Gilchrist said.
Wheeler also expressed enthusiasm for her new role.
“I am so excited to continue the work of the Women and Youth Entrepreneurship Programs here at the YBI, as well as help move MBAC forward under the vision of our new director,” she said in the news release. “We have many exciting things planned that will continue to positively impact the minority community, and I know we will continue to provide the resources needed to those in our area.”
Pictured: The reorganized YBI Minority Business Assistance Center is comprised of Tanisha Wheeler, director of the women and youth entrepreneurship programs; David Hood, administrative assistant; Vern Richberg, director of supply chain diversity; and Director Stephanie Gilchrist.