Accelerating diversity outreach to businesses in local communities

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 | 1:39 PM

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)

This is the latest post in our Official Google Blog series profiling entrepreneurial Googlers working on products across the company and around the world. Here, business development manager Chris Genteel tells how Googlers across the U.S. are diversifying our marketing and sales outreach efforts to help communities of minority-owned small businesses around the country build an online presence. - Ed.

In May 2009, a team of Googlers and I attended the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference near our office in Ann Arbor, Mich., where we talked with dozens of small business owners. These folks were true entrepreneurs and clearly not afraid to try new things, yet many were unaware of Google’s products and services, such as AdWords and Apps for Enterprise. In fact, many of them didn’t even have an online presence.

The following Monday, two women Googlers who were new to the team and passionate about Google’s diversity initiatives busted into my office already on a mission—to help educate small businesses on Google tools in order to help them better connect with their target audience. They had attended the conference as well and decided to start a 20 percent project to increase awareness of and engagement with small, minority-owned businesses. Two months later, we proposed a business plan to Bonita Stewart, vice president of sales, to start reaching out to businesses. She approved our proposal and gave us the go-ahead to lead the initiative; it was our responsibility to find people who wanted to help.

We found our first volunteer when an intern on the team decided to make our initiative her 20 percent project, and, throughout that summer, more people were inspired to contribute their expertise part-time as well. Before we knew it, we had more than 40 Googlers working on what eventually became Accelerate with Google—a program to help minority-owned small businesses grow their online presence by working with organizations and partners who encourage the adoption of web tools within their local communities.


Throughout 2010, we traveled across the country to places like Detroit, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Miami, Chicago and New York to learn more about the minority-owned, small business community. Along the way, we built partnerships with leading business organizations, such as the National Minority Supplier Development Council, which already have respect and support from these communities. Our original goal was to build partnerships with minority community organizations nationwide, but that quickly developed into a larger mission to not only help small businesses move online, but empower them to be the web tools educators in their communities as well.

This May, we’re excited to be part of the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council annual conference; they’ve been our chief partner and recipient of a grant for $175,000 to support the development of our program within its business community. We’ve trained Council representatives to be experts in Google tools like AdWords, and in turn they’ve led workshops for small business owners on how to build an online presence. We’ve built a similar partnership with the Louisiana Council by funding a $100,000 initiative to build outreach to small businesses in the area through programs such as Google Certified Partners and Trainers, which help people certify and demonstrate their proficiency in our ads tools.

All of this is just the beginning. This month marks the two-year anniversary of the initial inspiration for this project, and our team will once again be attending the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference, this time with a very different perspective. A project that began as a side job has now become a full-time role for myself and one of the project founders, with our ad hoc group of Googler volunteers still helping out part-time. We’ve seen measurable shifts in online engagement with the communities we’re working with—adding more than 100 minority-owned businesses in 2010 alone—and I’m excited to keep pushing this initiative out to business owners everywhere.