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Going Far by Going Together

Pittsburgh-based Chair collaborated with Black business leaders and Vistage members to fuel growth

Tricia Warrick arrived at a career crossroads in 2015. After working for years in leadership roles in banking, consulting and advertising, she wanted to leverage her business acumen and connections to give back to the community. But how?

Warrick had an idea. During her career, she saw that Black-owned businesses had challenges scaling. These businesses were often left behind due to lack of resources, lack of experience, lack of connections and centuries of societal discrimination. She wanted to use her skills to help these businesses expand, enter new markets, gain access to larger customers and avoid setbacks by making better decisions.

Warrick reached out to others to gauge interest but was met with tepid responses. Then, in 2020, the world seemingly changed.

Amid the pandemic and national uproar over the death of George Floyd, more awareness came to issues facing Black Americans. Warrick — now a Vistage Chair in Pittsburgh — believed she had found a moment when her idea of helping Black businesses would resonate.

She thought to herself, “OK, it didn’t happen then, maybe it can happen now.”

NARROWING THE WEALTH GAP

Warrick was introduced to Joel Burstein, a consultant with Sandler Training who also saw a need to help Black businesses expand. In turn, Burstein suggested that she talk with Will Allen, a former Pittsburgh Steeler and partner with Magarac Venture Partners. The idea resonated. Having found others who shared her passion for the idea, Warrick met with the two over Zoom in the summer of 2020.

“We brainstormed this idea of starting an organization that would help minority-owned businesses scale,” Warrick says. “In turn, we’d help to create generational wealth in the Black community to narrow the racial wealth gap through entrepreneurship, which has become our mission.”

After months of brainstorming and networking, Warrick, Burstein and Allen co-founded the BEAM Collaborative. BEAM stands for “build, expand, attract, and merger & acquisition,” the group’s strategy to scale Black businesses.

Burstein has become CEO and runs day-to-day operations, while Warrick and Allen sit on the board and provide guidance. “We want to make a measurable mark in the greater Pittsburgh Black community over time,” Warrick says.

Early on, Warrick presented the idea to her Vistage CEO group for input. Founding member Tom Buchanan, a senior partner at the law firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, offered pro bono legal services. Buchanan wanted to be involved immediately after seeing how serious BEAM was about providing focused coaching, resources and strategic guidance for Black businesses.

“We immediately understood the value for those businesses and for our region at large, and we wanted to be a part of the initiative,” Buchanan says. “Providing pro bono legal services is just part of the way that we can help BEAM, and we’re thrilled to be part of the effort.”

Vistage Chair and BEAM Co-Founder Tricia Warrick (second from right) with founding CEO group member Tom Buchanan, BEAM CEO Joel Burstein, and Co-Founder Will Allen.
FILLING THE GAP ON BOTH SIDES

BEAM uses a “two-sided” collaborative business model, says Warrick.

One side consults with small and midsize Black businesses looking to scale, helping them to forge partnerships with large, established companies.

The other side consults with larger corporations, which BEAM calls its “anchor partners.” BEAM works with anchor partners to find ways to form long-term working relationships with Black businesses.

After interviewing more than 50 large, anchor-sized companies, Burstein found that almost all wanted to effectively contribute to social causes; they simply didn’t know how. BEAM intends to help them, he says, which will also fuel the growth of the Black businesses BEAM advises.

“It’s about filling gaps on both sides of the equation,” Burstein says. “For our large corporations that want to do more and for our Black businesses that want more opportunities but don’t know how to find them or scale for them, we built BEAM to fill that gap between these two sides.”

BECOMING SUCCESSFUL BY COMING TOGETHER

Within a year, BEAM’s founders knew the Collaborative would be a success.

Black businesses were taking an interest, hoping to learn more and grow bigger, and anchor clients wanted to support them. Carnegie Mellon University, for example, had agreed to become an anchor partner, finding ways to work with Black businesses in BEAM’s portfolio.

One of BEAM’s biggest moments to date came at a meeting with the president of one of Pittsburgh’s largest foundations. He and his team loved the idea and agreed to provide substantial support. Several foundations are now providing the necessary funding to build BEAM’s team and secure its long-term success.

“It’s unbelievable that this has all come together,” says Warrick, who hopes that BEAM can expand beyond Pittsburgh in the future. “When we all talk, we say, ‘Do you believe where we are?’ We are so excited about it. I knew instinctively that there was a need. But on my own, I never would have gotten us to where we are. It’s like the old Vistage saying: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’” By the end of 2024, Burstein says he hopes to have eight businesses and eight anchors working together, with a goal to expand to 13 of each by 2025.

“If we can get eight that are hoping to scale, that’s a lot,” says Burstein. “The best number we found about the total revenue generated by Black businesses in Pittsburgh is $300 million. If we can get eight companies to do $10 million, that’s a huge percent increase within one year.”

For others who want to find a way to help their community, Warrick suggests proactively looking to where their passion lies, especially if it intersects with a societal need.

“I had the concept of BEAM in my head for a long time, but I had to find the right people and the right timing. Our actions speak louder than our words. And people are watching and learning. We accept that it will take time to make our mark.”
TRICIA WARRICK
Co-Founder,
BEAM Collaborative
Find the intersection.

A CEO friend gave me the book “Act Three” in 2014, which inspired me to pursue this dual path of becoming a Vistage Chair and starting a minority business accelerator to help close the racial wealth gap. The book helped me define the intersection between my unique gifts, my passion and an unmet need in the world.

Be persistent and patient.

After five years of networking my idea with no traction and a few naysayers, I found my moment. It took the tragedy of George Floyd’s death plus a chance introduction to my gifted co-founders in 2020 for the timing to be right to start BEAM.

Listen, focus and pivot.

Because BEAM’s founders have business backgrounds, we know that it’s critical to challenge the business model. We listen to the needs and insights of our Blackowned business clients and large corporate anchor partners, continuing to adjust the model to achieve our objective of closing the racial wealth gap through entrepreneurship

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