Editor's Note: Khamil Scantling is a Forward Cities Navigator in Pittsburgh, PA, the founder of Cocoapreneur Pgh, and an advocate for Black business. Her experience and work to ensure equity and economic justice for Black entrepreneurs has led her to build solid connections with entrepreneurial champions like Jason Flowers, Executive Director, Omicelo Cares, Inc. In this select interview, Khamil shares the critical role entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) play in the success of under-invested entrepreneurs.
Our ESOs (Entrepreneurial Support Organizations) are an integral part of the work we do at Forward Cities. In the Greater Pittsburgh area, these organizations are the long-term champions guiding entrepreneurs through systems they may or may not be familiar with and easing the many challenges that come with owning and operating a business. One such organization we work with is Omicelo Cares, an organization with a specialized technical assistance program for small businesses.
For Pittsburgh, in recent years, there has been a push to increase the number of MWBEs, or Minority, Women Business Entities and Omicelo Cares walks businesses through growth plans that prepare them for growth and, potentially, MWBE certification. We reached out to Jason Flowers, Executive Director of Omicelo Cares, to hear about the approach they take with their clients and the impact the work has had. Check out his Q & A:
Khamil: What is your name, role, and organization?
Jason: Jason D. Flowers, Executive Director, Omicelo Cares, Inc
Khamil: What is your story within the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pittsburgh?
Jason: The 7 Pillars™ Business Accelerator is a specialized technical assistance program for small businesses that, with one-on-one direction & guidance, can take advantage of immediate revenue opportunities or reasonably-probable contract procurement prospects. By focusing 100% of our attention on small businesses led by underrepresented minorities, disadvantaged persons or businesses operating in low-to-moderate income neighborhoods, Omicelo Cares meets its charitable mission and addresses the corporate social responsibility goals of the larger businesses, health systems, universities, and governments that have yet-to-be met business and supply chain needs.
We have successfully delivered the 7 Pillars™ through: a customized assessment; 1:1 strategic planning; identified scopes of service; and tandem performance with our Service Delivery Partners. It is our goal to mitigate the risk of businesses failing and increase their probability of growth by providing front-end and back-end supports with the 7 Pillars™. In addition, these small business owners are often jaded and unencouraged to participate in the growing percentage of contracts being made available to small diverse businesses by the Federal, state and local governmental entities. It is our goal to mitigate the risk of businesses failing and increase their probability of growth by providing front-end and back-end supports with the 7 Pillars™.
Khamil: What role does your organization play in the ecosystem?
Jason: Our program and process is designed to support MWDBE growth stage companies. Many ESOs support the startup and early stage companies. We are equipped to ensure that the company and organization is holistically set up for growth success. WE specifically pay attention to the 7 Pillars we believe ensures success. Strategy, Technology, Communication, Legal, Capital, Finance, and People.
Khamil: Can you speak a little bit about the approach you take with entrepreneurs?
Jason: We put a company through four steps once they complete the 7 Pillars Assessment.
Acquire | Assess | Assist | Advance
Acquire New Revenue Opportunities for Small Businesses: The Omicelo Cares process of supporting small businesses starts with the discovery of high-probability demand for products & services from larger businesses, health systems, universities, and governments.
Assess Small Businesses: Thoroughly Omicelo Cares employs a three-step assessment process: Assess the small business owner’s desires and objectives. Assess the small business owners’ technical skillset and business acumen. Assess the small business owners’ willingness and ability to accept guidance, help, and assistance.
Assist Small Businesses Deeply: Omicelo Cares together with its closest partners, including The Enterprise Center in Philadelphia, work diligently to provide whichever of the 7 Pillars™ services that are needed by the small businesses.
Advance: Small businesses led by minorities, disadvantaged persons or located in low-to-moderate income neighborhoods are selected by Omicelo Cares because reasonably-probable revenue opportunities have been identified. Following a thorough assessment, small businesses are selected to
Khamil: What is your vision for an equitable, inclusive, and thriving ecosystem in Pittsburgh?
Jason: Our vision for an equitable Pittsburgh is to see organizations sharing resources and expertise to support Local Entrepreneurs. Through this synergy, the MWDBE or disadvantaged entrepreneur will be as prepared as their counterparts going forward.
Khamil: Can you tell us one or two stories about the impact you’ve had with entrepreneurs and what role you/Omicelo Cares has played in their success as a business owner?
(Because of the hands-on approach that Omicelo takes, this question was best answered by sharing one of the organization’s case studies. Please see the case study here.)
For more information on Omicelo Cares, the MWBE initiatives in Pittsburgh, or the Forward Cities work happening in Pittsburgh, please visit the following websites: