Governor Rauner promotes minority opportunities in Illinois - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Governor Rauner promotes minority business opportunities in Illinois

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CARBONDALE -- Governor Rauner says Illinois has one of the most diverse populations in the country. But a recent disparity study reveals some stark new details about minority businesses. 

Kathena Clemons took her love for beauty and opened Tom's Weave & More in Carbondale nine months ago. 

"The first thing that I was worried about is, you know, you are always at a new place with new clients. Like how in the world am I going to get myself out there?" said Clemons. 

That's just one of the fears first-time business owners have when they come to Greg Bouhl's office at the Small Business Development Center at SIU.

Bouhl said, "Just knowing the path to move forward is a big challenge and making sure you're taking the right steps."

Every year, Bouhl helps hundreds of people, like Clemons, start businesses in southern Illinois. 

What makes Clemon's success story so unique? She's one of the first African American women to own a business in Carbondale. 

"We are underrated," said Clemons. 

Clemons has a point. A new study reveals a gap between minority and women-owned businesses who do business with Illinois.  

Bouhl said, "There are sometimes set aside programs where female minorities and veterans. They get preferential points to be able to score higher in those bidding processes."

The governor signed an executive order, requiring the Department of Central Management Services to set up a mentor program to assist minority and women-owned businesses. The office will also monitor contracts awarded to businesses.

It's something Clemons hopes will open more doors for women.

"It's a wonderful accomplishment, but I want to be this role model so people can know," said Clemons. 

The governor hopes this new initiative will not only increase diversity in the state, but also promote more business with the state.

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