University of South Florida


Woman stands at front of room during symposium

USF helps connect women, veteran and minority business owners looking to learn and grow

By Althea Johnson, University Communications and Marketing

The University of South Florida hosted hundreds of women, veteran and minority business owners in an all-day event aimed at providing procurement and networking opportunities to help local companies expand. The sixth annual USF Small & Diverse Business Symposium & Opportunity Exchange took place Friday, Oct. 27, and is considered the university’s largest symposium of its kind to date.

Mercedes Nunez

Mercedes Nuñez, MGN Productions Inc.

This year, the event featured more than a dozen sessions and panel discussions to educate small business owners on a variety of subjects, such as maintaining clean financials, cybersecurity strategies and business taxes. For the first time, a mental health and wellness roundtable was also included. 

“I’ve been in business for 28 years and I found these sessions informative and proactive as we learned about getting in on the bidding process. I look forward to doing business with USF,” said Mercedes Nuñez, owner of promotional products company MGN Productions Inc.

USF alum Derek Mateos looks forward to continuing to conduct business with USF. He owns Tampa-based general contracting firm Matcon Construction.

Men stand in front of room for presentation


“The university always does a great job of getting all the vendors together and allowing the small businesses in the community to come and see what’s available for them to potentially work on," Mateos said. "We are here year after year, and we will continue to partake. Go Bulls.” 

Attendees were able to meet with buyers from corporations, government and non-profit organizations to make connections for future opportunities. This includes receiving information about major projects at USF, such as the on-campus stadium. The event also provided a forum for USF employees to build new relationships and broaden their pool of suppliers.   

The event was hosted by USF’s Office of Supplier Diversity in partnership with the Tampa Bay Chamber, the Florida Small Business Development Center at USF and the State of Florida Office of Supplier Diversity.

Terrie Daniel

Terrie Daniel, USF Office of Supplier Diversity assistant vice president

“This is a wonderful opportunity for small, diverse business owners to take steps that will help launch them to the next level,” said Terrie Daniel, USF Office of Supplier Diversity assistant vice president. “The University of South Florida is focused on growing lasting relationships and providing resources to promote the economic development and sustainability of these businesses in the Tampa Bay region.”

In recent years, USF’s supplier diversity initiative has added a variety of programs to support local businesses, including a lunch-and-learn series for USF staff and faculty to educate them on best supplier diversity practices, a business empowerment series geared toward diverse suppliers and a mentoring program that has helped dozens of local companies thrive. 

More information on the Office of Supplier Diversity can be found here. Click here to sign up to receive the office's newsletter, which contains information about new events and partnership opportunities at USF.

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