EP 05: Pioneering Progress: Deshanna Wiggins’ Visionary Approach for the Albany Black Chamber of Commerce
“People can’t conceptualize what they don’t see,” says Deshanna Wiggins, CEO of the Albany Black Chamber of Commerce (ABCC) and Social Club, who was recently nominated into the Power 50 list for the Albany Business Review. Growing up in the capital region, Deshanna felt that her only opportunities lay in the public sector and left for Atlanta to pursue a career as a communications executive and director of courtroom operations. She has since returned to the area to help create platforms and spaces for Black and minority businesses and to inspire Black entrepreneurship and economic development. With 35 percent of the area population being over 65 and 30 percent of the area population under 18, she hopes to help that middle demographic who are enterprising and innovative and setting up businesses. She wants to show the rest of the country that the city is a formidable player on the national stage, and that diversity is a major contributing factor to its success.
No matter how much a majority-white organization is focused on inclusivity, representation is important, and emerging Black entrepreneurs need to see people who look like them running a variety of businesses. Deshanna describes the four pillars upon which her programs are built to establish equitable business in the bipoc community and the biggest challenges she faces as a leader. She explains the importance of collaboration and the benefits of promoting opportunity over charity, the latter of which often catches people in a bad cycle. More important than giving everyone a piece of the pie is creating opportunities for everyone to get their own pie with the flavor of their choice.
Staying true to your mission is crucial to yielding the results you want. Deshanna remains true to herself in every room she enters, and she discusses the importance of authenticity in leadership.
#blackentrepreneurship #diversity #representation
- “White men are great. They've set up the enterprise for this country but there are other people here…if we don't give them those opportunities, then we'll see the same that we've always seen.” (6:43 | Deshanna)
- “When I walk in the room, and I'm the only one, it’s a problem because people want to be in spaces with other people that look like them… if those environments aren't created, then we have issues.” (13:44 | Deshanna)
- “It is important because this area is not going to survive…in order for an area to exist, it has to embrace diversity, it has to embrace businesses of all colors and backgrounds, in order to really thrive.” (21:32 | Deshanna)
- “A lot of time, if you go to a majority white organization, and they're wanting to be inclusive and do programming, yet, the vendors that they use are not of color…I think the chamber will be that middle ground of bringing those conversations where people come and feel safe enough to open up to be able to foster those relationships.” (28:19 | Deshanna)
- “Investment is the biggest piece. We've got the time, we've got the talent, but…capital is certainly necessary to get us there.” (39:53 | Deshanna)
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