For the last 12 years, Sharon Pinder has served as an advocate for minority- and women-owned businesses and enterprises in Maryland and Baltimore City. During that time, she said she has seen involvement with those businesses evolve from a social policy paradigm, to the view that engagement with them is simply good business.
Pinder will soon depart the Mayor’s Office of Minority and Women-Owned Business Development to take over as president and CEO of the Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council, where she will continue her mission to build intergenerational wealth for minority and women business owners.
“Having the municipality experience, having the statewide experience, this [move] rounds it out in terms of my journey as an advocate for minority businesses,” Pinder told the AFRO.
Pinder was selected by former Gov. Robert Ehrlich as the first special secretary of the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs in 2003. After leaving that post in 2007, Pinder founded the Pinder Group, which advocated for minority-owned businesses. She later took over as director of the city office in 2012 at the behest of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
“I’m proud of being able to work with the mayor, and assisting with implementing her vision around women and minority businesses,” said Pinder. “There were a lot of firsts. The first time that the city has ever won a $900,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency. We’re the only municipality in the country to have a [Minority Business Enterprise] center. I’m real proud of that.”
Pinder’s service to Baltimore was recognized by Rawlings-Blake at the March 4 meeting of the Board of Estimates, at which the mayor read a proclamation declaring March 4, 2015 to be Sharon Pinder Day in the city of Baltimore.
Pinder will join the Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council, a non-profit that works to certify minority and women-owned businesses and connect them to business opportunities with larger corporate partners throughout the capital region.
“We’ve gone from letting [minority and women-owned businesses] get our foot in the door, and making sure that public policy dictated that at least a percentage be targeted toward [minority] businesses, to creating actual wealth,” said Pinder of the evolution she’s seen over the course of her advocacy. “I think that what has to continue to happen is [building] that generational wealth.”
Pinder says that 30 years ago, when the focus on minority and women-owned businesses began in earnest, most minority business owners were first-generation entrepreneurs. Many minority business owners still are, but she said the paradigm has shifted from a social policy effort to help minority businesses get off the ground, to seeing economic inclusion become a necessity for companies that want to remain competitive in an increasingly diverse marketplace.
“That is not to say that there still aren’t problems,” Pinder said. “There’s still discrimination in the marketplace. Let’s not say that it’s all gone away, it’s just that our paradigm is different.”
Due to that change, Pinder said advocacy for minority and women owned businesses has to focus on emerging industries and the Millennial generation of entrepreneurs, making sure that as new economic arenas open up, minority and women-owned businesses are represented at the ground level and positioned to take full advantage of the wealth-building opportunities those arenas will create.