Updated: May 22
Presently serving as the Procurement Program Manager for the Business Equity for Indy (BEI) Procurement Program with Indy Chamber, Christina Snorten shared time with us about how BEI has allowed her to find her purpose in helping businesses grow and flourish. Being
community-driven and an avid fan of the arts, Christina is also a writer with a career journey that has led her through the nonprofit section and banking and financial services all while exploring her entrepreneurial endeavors along the way. She’s an Indianapolis native with a degree from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis and currently pursuing her MBA through the Indiana University Kelley School of Business.
BEI is centered on a mission to cultivate a robust business climate in Indianapolis that is inclusive and equitable, specifically for Black residents and people of color. Through BEI, goal-centric teams are working together to create impact for the Indianapolis Region. This work would not be done without the Indianapolis Urban League and Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, organizations working in tandem with the Indy Chamber. As we got to know Christina and her role, Indy Chamber shared with us, the priorities set for BEI and how they're moving the mission forward.
BEI's Priorities: Five Pillars for Advancing Equity
Hiring & Promotion: Increase equity and the diversity of Indy’s workforce by eliminating and reducing hurdles to Black entry, advancement, and promotion across Indy’s employers and corporate board rooms.
Procurement & Participation: Increase the launch, growth, and success rates of Black-owned businesses and enterprises owned by people of color through expanded supplier diversity and participation opportunities.
Learning & Talent: Promote opportunity and access for Black talent to employment and business future.
Impediments to Health: Address impediments to healthcare access, public health funding, and community health challenges that disproportionately affect Black populations and people of color in Indianapolis.
Public Policy: Convene business and community leaders to build relationships, identify, and advocate for policies to remove barriers to opportunity for Black people and other people of color.
Q: What led you to champion for equitable opportunities for business owners?
I think that’s just part of who I am. For me, the entrepreneurial spirit is really seeing opportunity gaps and seeking ways to feel them. I think that a lot of business owners enter the market because they have that drive, but there’s a second side to it. There is the operations side that kind of trips people up sometimes because it is a completely different skill set. Not everyone has access and resources to even learn how to manage that side.
Being able to offer those resources to business owners, especially those from marginalized communities, is key. The market place and society misses out when there are business owners with ideas to offer the world, but they don’t have the support to sustain those services.
Q: How can businesses hold space for equity when making decisions?
There are eight best practices that we like to look at when it comes to supplier diversity. We try to make sure that minority business owners have space at the table as well as in larger corporations.
Doing this allows for contracts to be made that benefit both parties, rather than setting up barriers. An example of this are payment practices. A lot of larger corporations might have payment terms that are 60, 90, even 100 days out. For some business owners, this can be a barrier because they need to pay employees, buy supplies, or buy a new piece of equipment. It takes money to make money. So looking at flexible payment terms is one way to hold space.
Another way, is making sure the supplier diversity initiatives are well resourced. So is there someone who’s responsibility is to check those numbers? To make sure that the opportunities are being managed equitably. Another one is just the prioritization. This needs to be a number one priority and the people in charge of the supplier diversity need to be held responsible.
Q: How has BEI reduced barriers for minority communities in the Indianapolis workforce?
From the business owner perspective, one of the main things has been through the best practices that BEI has set in places. Opening the doors to large corporations to have conversations about the way procurement practices are employed currently and what possible adjustments can me made.
Q: Over the last few years, how have you seen companies be more strategic and intentional in the way that they allocate funds?
Something important to reminder — BEI just got started in 2020. The first year of the procurement round table was in 2021, and it carried on through 2022 and 2023 as well. As part of these roundtables, the corporations and corporate partners that are participating agreed to track their spending, specifically with Black-owned businesses, within central Indiana. The idea is to create an impact, so the only way to track the impact is through data.
A lot of corporations weren’t previously tracking this number, so it started as a conversation in 2020. Throughout the first year, it was about setting a baseline and setting up practices to be able to look at the number with a new ability to look back at their vendors and see what dollars were going to Black-owned businesses. Having this ability, allowed space and opportunity to evaluate where there they could increase their spending.
In the next year, we started looking at progress. From 2021 to 2022, on average, we saw a 45% growth in tracked spending with Black-owned businesses from our corporate partners.
"So because the business community brought this to the forefront, BEI went on a listening tour."
Q: How has your advocacy strategy shifted and grown as the work has continued?
The Business Equity for Indy initiative was really spear headed by our corporate partners. They came to the table and said that they knew changes were needed and wanted to see how they could lend support to issues of racial justice and equity. So because the business community brought this to the forefront, BEI went on a listening tour asking minority businesses what challenges they were facing and how the business community could lend assistance.
Our initiatives were born out of that. Our efforts have all pointed towards the same goals. The policies of the organization haven’t really shifted since 2020.*
For many of us, shopping consciously means knowing the businesses and organizations we support. To be a good business owner, it can often mean knowing that you’re working amongst like-minded folks.
Whether we are consumer looking to shop with a mind that is asking questions like, “How was this made?” or “Was this ethically made?”, it’s important to not only question the business we support, but also the organizations that support these businesses.
With Indy Chamber’s work to create equitable business opportunity for all business owners of all backgrounds, we are proud to partner in this effort to seek MORE for our home community — together.
*Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Christina Snorten interviewed by MORE staff. Photography courtesy of Indy Chamber. Indy Chamber has partnered to seek MORE, and we are proud to have partnered with Indy Chamber to create educational content.