Attendees at the Business Evolution Program. (Courtesy photo)

For 13 years, the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce (GLAAACC) has provided Black business owners with the tips and tools to grow and thrive through their Business Evolution Program (BEP).   

The eight-month business boot camp moderated by GLAAACC President Angela Gibson-Shaw brings in top professionals in their field to share their expertise and guide participants through a series of modules. BEP topics include financial management, business development, creating a capability statement, setting up a digital back-office, access to capital, certification and marketing.    

“During the pandemic, a lot of hidden economic disparities became apparent,” Gibson-Shaw said.  “In this post-pandemic business climate, many major corporations, the city of Los Angeles and the state of California are focusing on providing opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses.   

GLAAACC’s Business Evolution Program enables us to prepare businesses to recognize and take full advantage of those opportunities.” 

Lily Otieno (Courtesy photo)

The 2022 – 2023 BEP cohort consists of 35 businesses that range in industries from tourism and hair restoration to plumbing and teen mentoring. In a recent BEP session, two successful business owners and a corporate executive shared their journey and offered tips and resources. 

Lily Otieno, director of Supply Chain and Diverse Business Enterprises, is responsible for supply chain strategy, contracting and procurement of services and products and supplier diversity at Southern California Gas.  Previously, Otieno served as the CEO of her own consulting firm, Infinity Business Solutions.  She also chairs GLAAACC’s Business Evolution Program. 

Otieno reviewed in detail how business owners should set-up for success.  The six-point plan included:  (1) Clear Vision, Mission & Goals, (2) Build Your Team, (3) Process & Operations, (4) Marketing & Sales, (5) Network and (6) Exit Plan. 


Ronda Jackson (Courtesy photo)

Otieno stressed that it is important that entrepreneurs understand why they started their business and keep it in the forefront of their minds.  “If you know why you’re in business, that fuels you every day.   When you get beat down and knocked out, that will continue to fuel you.  You always have to have that anchor,” Otieno said. 

Former BEP participant Ronda Jackson spoke to the current BEP cohort about maximizing mentorship.  Jackson is owner and CEO of Décor Interior Design, a commercial design firm.  Her portfolio includes interior design projects for Warner Bros., US Bank, The Walt Disney Company Golden State Water and several government agencies.  Jackson also owns a retail paint store. 

In the mentee/mentor relationship Jackson said there are certain tenants that will maximize the benefits and opportunities for the mentee:  Know what you want from the relationship; agree on the expectations; be contract ready; connect regularly and often; ask for feedback and apply lessons learned. 

Dion Rambo (Courtesy photo)

“Having a mentor and a community around you to hold you accountable to the things that you would like to accomplish is pivotal to achieving your expectations,” Jackson said. “You want feedback that is going to help you grow and learn and develop as a business owner.”  

Dion Rambo shared his knowledge of what it takes to win contracts with the city and county of Los Angeles.  Rambo is a serial entrepreneur who has started and manages multiple businesses. He is the founder of Rambo House, a public relations and events agency. Rambo House operates several outreach programs for the City of Los Angeles, including Accessing LA:  Doing Business with the City.   

He is the creator of “Building LA Today,” a free video-only website for business owners interested in bidding on City contracts.  He also created TeleHealth Van, a fleet of 5G-enabled vans that allow unhoused and underserved communities to have virtual access to doctors and therapists.  

Like Jackson, Rambo stated that getting feedback and building relationships is key to winning a contract.  If a business owner does not submit the winning proposal, the next step is to request a meeting for feedback, Rambo said. 

“Ask them why you lost.  Ask them what they look for [in a proposal]. The next time they see your name and you’re bidding on a contract, they are going to really look at it because they know you’re paying attention.  Once they know you’re paying attention, it’s game over . . . that’s how you build relationships,” Rambo said.  

BEP sessions continue through May 2023.  The program is made possible by the generous support of title sponsor T-Mobile and presenting sponsor Wells Fargo.  Other sponsors include Southern California Edison, Union Bank SoCalGas, Citizens Bank and Microsoft.  

Registration for 2023 – 24 GLAAACC’s Business Evolution Program opens in June 2023.  For more on BEP, visit