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Black businesses celebrated in Birmingham

SUCCESS: founder of Medixus, Nicole Kayode

ONE OF the UK’s largest supplier diversity conferences will take place outside of London for the first time when it convenes at Birmingham’s Vox Conference Centre next month.

Several hundred minority-owned businesses from across the UK are expected to be represented at the MSDUK Conference and Awards at the venue, near the National Exhibition Centre.

The event, which has been organised by Leicester-based advocacy network MSDUK, aims to connect enterprises and organisational leaders from minority backgrounds with leading international companies, such as Accenture, EY, GlaxoSmithKline, IBM, Intel and CBRE.


The idea behind hosting the event away from the English capital is to help leverage the strength of the second city as a ourishing hub for entrepre- neurs from minority communities.

With the UK’s highest number of tech and digital businesses and start-ups outside of London, beating other rival cities such as Manchester and Liverpool, Birmingham was considered as a natural choice by MSDUK, which is itself on a quest to champion businesses from across Britain and give them easier access to larger corporations who are mostly based in the capital.

Mayank Shah, founder and CEO of MSDUK, said: “This conference is a unique opportunity to showcase the exceptionally talented ethnic minority business community from across the Midlands giving them access to senior procurement leaders from some of the Fortune 500 rms and help them in their business growth.

The conference, held from September 25-26, also provides these brands an opportunity to develop a more inclusive supply chain that brings competition as well as innovation in business.”

In recent years the conference has been attended by an impressive roster of star names from the political, sporting and media arenas, including Olympic gold medallist Colin Jackson, BBC News presenter George Alagiah and basketball player/ TV presenter Ade Adepitan.

This year’s special guests will include broadcast journalist Krishnan Guru Murthy, Ebookers founder and business entrepreneur Dinesh Dhamija and rising homegrown comedian Ava Vidal.

The event will also include an awards ceremony which honours both minority-led businesses and corporations alike for their commitment to supplier diversity; also ‘the Innovation Challenge,’ a pitching competition for innovative start-ups and scale ups.

In what will be second time the challenge is held, entre- preneurs from minority backgrounds will live pitch their original ideas or products in one of four categories: Tech for Good, Disruptive Businesses, Sustainable Futures and Wildcard.

After the pitches, three winners will be chosen from the panel of judges who will score the nalists on relevance, quality of innovation and marketing strategy. This year’s prizes include a $10,000 (£7,800) scholarship to the prestigious American Tuck School of Business, funding opportunities, a place on Accenture's Development Programme plus mentoring workshops


The finalists include Carl Thomas, below centre, founding director of Audio Wings, who is working with an audio manufacturer to create headphones that connect directly to cloud platforms and uses sensors to track the users’ environment and mood.

These are used as a basis to create a soundtrack that recommends music, audio books and podcasts the users want to hear. Founder Nicole Kayode is working on Medixus, a peer- to-peer app for healthcare workers across Africa and beyond. The app aims to connect and collaborate by “plugging gaps in physical proximity, empowering clinicians”.

Its mission statement continues: “We believe that through real-time, cross disciplinary collaboration, a higher quality of clinical decisions can be made leading to improved quality of patient care.

“At the core of Medixus is the ethos that no frontline healthcare worker should feel unsupported in his/ her decision making. We aim to harness the expertise that exists on the continent and ensure all healthcare workers can access this at the push of a button.”

CEO/founder of Mother Nature’s, Christiana Iliya, is also in the running. This year - old firm is passionate about making drinks of flavours from around the world, while observing environmentally friendly practices that have a positive impact on the lives of the people it works with. Using small/ independent farmers, Mother Nature’s clinched three supplier deals within two months of trading.

The remaining finalists include Mansata Kurangco-founder of VR: Calm, which provides an interactive, virtual reality app and headset to help dementia patients relive memories; and Rotimi Alabi, who at RAB-Micro uidics is working to diagnose early signs of failure in industrial machinery by analysing the lubricating oil in real-time using microchip technology.

Also set to feature at the MSDUK Conference and Awards are an exhibition with breakout seminars, workshops and question and answer panel sessions with business leaders.

MSDUK was established in 2006. Working to champion the inclusion of ethnic minority businesses in corporate supply chain, it has worked with more than 120 global firms, including the aforementioned and the likes MasterCard and BT, helping them drive a more inclusive procurement strategy.

MSDUK’s network of more than 3,000 ethnic minority businesses across the UK has been given opportunities to compete in global supply chains, generating and estimated £500 million in business.

For more information, on the event

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