Charlene Reynolds, CEO of Creative Insurance Concepts and one of the first participants in Executive Education’s Minority Business Enterprises Executive Management Program, was given a special invitation to share her expertise as a small business owner.  President Obama invited Reynolds to participate on the White House Community Leaders Briefing series in June of this year, hosted by the Office of Public Engagement. 

Although the briefings began this past summer they have been extended to October 2011, due to such a significant reaction from the series participants, according to Reynolds.  The Community Leaders Briefing series incorporates breakout sessions with high-ranking White House staff members of the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Small Business Administration (SBA).

“So all of those different Departments invited their own business leaders and community leaders to the series,” she said.  “The series consists of about 300 people who were invited.”

Reynolds was assigned to the SBA breakout group whose objective was to address funding for faith-based, non-profit and community organizations. 

“The SBA has (kind of) stepped out of the box, and they are going to non-profit and faith-based organizations with the idea that they will provide loans to them, including the underwriting of loans,” she explained. During the session, the SBA shared its Capital Access and Underserved Markets Program initiatives, where faith-based and non-profit entities are being engaged in administering programs to offer loans for targeted small businesses (that is, businesses that have been unable to receive conventional business loans using traditional bank criteria).

Reynolds’ company, Creative Insurance Concepts, specializes in construction surety bonds and other miscellaneous bonds and focuses on small, woman, and minority-owned businesses.  She shared her own experience with her firm during the breakout sessions. 

Reynolds uses the SBA Surety Bond Guarantee Program to obtain bonding for small and veteran-owned businesses.  According to her, “These companies would not be able to obtain contracts without that assistance, but yet very few contactors are aware of the program even in federal contracting.”

Following the breakout session, the group was permitted to take a self-guided tour of the East Wing of the White House, and then they concluded the day with a White House briefing in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office building.  The briefing consisted of a welcome from Michael Strautmanis, deputy assistant to the president and counselor for strategic engagement to the senior advisor.  Mark Doms, chief economist of the U.S. Commerce Department gave an update on the economy.  Other speakers included Alexia Kelley, senior policy advisor of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and Anne Flippic, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

“I don’t think I was chosen for the series because of any special skills that I have,” Reynolds said.  “I have a lot of connection to the small-business community, and I’m known as an advocate for contractors across bonding because of the challenges that they face.”

Reynolds was able to give a voice to the contractors that she works with on a daily basis.  “I was there to advocate on behalf of contractors that have challenges that they face as far as being able to do bonding.”

The dialogue started at the White House Community Leaders Briefing series continues through telephone conferences, networking events and email communications that Reynolds is able to engage in. She recently participated on a conference call with the Office of Public Engagement and discussed President Obama’s job creation strategies last month. 

Reynolds encourages small business owners and others to get involved in the conversation as well.  “The president cannot lead this country alone,” she said.  “Let’s not lose sight of what this great country has provided its people. What can you do to help make it right?”

Reynolds is a graduate of the Minority Business Enterprises Executive Management Program, a member of the Public Risk and Insurance Management Society and a member of the National Minority Supplier Development Council (and the Virginia chapter of this branch). Robins School Executive Education partnered with the Virginia Minority Supplier Development to provide leadership training in a two-part series for minority executives. Robins School faculty provided expertise in strategic management, finance marketing and entrepreneurship to tailor the program to the VMSDC’s needs.  For more information on this or other Executive Education programs, please visit the website.  For more information on the VMSDC, visit their site.