In It TogetherJul 01, 2023 ● By Lisa Sciortino
by Lisa Sciortino
Kevin Westerfield has made it his mission to unite area business owners and entrepreneurs.
A resident of Frisco for more than two decades, last year he founded the Frisco Diversity Leadership Council (friscodiversity.org) after recognizing a need in the community for an organization that, according to its website, works “to encourage one another to promote the success of businesses, as well as providing opportunities for the members and guests to connect and learn more about our diverse community.”
Members of the organization gather for monthly networking meetings at Gidi Bar & Grill on Main Street in Frisco. Westerfield says it is an opportunity for them to give “elevator pitches” about themselves and their businesses, participate in Q&A sessions and listen to presentations from guest speakers, among other activities.
The council is “a group of diverse business owners, which I like to believe is a cross section of our entire community,” says Westerfield, who is director of business development for the Texas Legends, the NBA G-League team that is based in Frisco and plays games at Comerica Center during its regular season.
Previously he was the membership manager of the Frisco Chamber Commerce, where Westerfield says he attempted to “bring in minority- and women-owned businesses and nonprofits. In doing that I saw an opportunity … to lead that kind of effort in Frisco.”
Given Frisco’s development in recent decades, he says, “Our demographics have changed dramatically. Looking at the Indian community, the African American community, the African community — the Kenyans, the Nigerians — the Asian community, they’ve all exploded. … Our community is probably as diverse as any in Texas maybe next to Austin. (Frisco) is a hotbed for everybody.”
In 2000, Westerfield was himself a newcomer to Frisco. He was living and working for a minority-owned company in Memphis, Tennessee, that provided packaging services for Frisco-based Frito-Lay.
When that job ended abruptly, he decided to relocate to North Texas and began “doing a little bit of everything” including working in a variety of industries such as real estate, merchant services and distribution and manufacturing.
At one point, Westerfield says, he was the maître d at Cowboys Club, a private social club and restaurant at The Star. There, he says he met many of Frisco’s industry and city leaders, among others of influence, which helped him become “pretty well-connected” in the community.
Assisting business owners and professionals has “been a function of my career path in the roles I’ve been in over the past five to seven years,” he says. “When you’re in business development and you’re directly touching business owners in the community, then it just gives you a direct link to … affect them by bringing diverse businesses and cultures together and showing them how to work together.”
The Frisco Diversity Leadership Council, he explains, is a vehicle for “folks to come in and feel comfortable and build relationships and support each other” as well as their businesses
That support can take on a variety of forms.
“You’ve got business owners with all kinds of experience that have gone through the trials and tribulations of running small and even large businesses. They have experiences with tons of success and tons of failures (and) can be coaches (and) mentors,” he explains.
At its core, the council and its members provide one another with valuable resources.
“The core group that we have together now, there’s not a resource or a service that we don’t have or have someone within the group who knows somebody that has access to those resources or services.”
The Frisco Diversity Leadership Council also serves as a sort of “sounding board” for its members, especially when it comes to discussing timely business concerns and networking.
“There really is a vacuum around knowledge and resources and understanding that building (business) relationships is the key. That really is the only thing that is recession-proof,” Westerfield says.
“People don’t always purchase (goods and services), but they’re going to buy from people that know and like. Trying to get folks to really understand that those relationships and the time that you spend networking and marketing isn’t a cost, it’s an investment in your business.”
Although its current membership is primarily comprised of African American business owners, Westerfield says, “There is a smattering of every community in Frisco that’s part of this, and each one of them are growing. … I try to keep it as simple as possible so that people really understand the mission is for folks to have a vehicle … to come together and support each other and their businesses.”
During its first year in existence, Westerfield says many of the council’s initial goals were accomplished “faster than I expected,” such as having local politicians present to its members during the recent election cycle.
“Because of the quality of the people and the leaders that we have involved, I had a vision of having some amount of influence (in the community), but I didn’t expect it to come as quickly as it came,” he says.
Next on the council’s agenda is compiling what Westerfield describes as a “business directory” as well as creating “value-added propositions” that can be monetized to help the organization (which plans to one day achieve nonprofit status) become self-sustaining.
Future phases of growth may include educational opportunities for members to learn more about financial literacy, business acumen and other related subjects.
“Right now, we’re keeping it simple,” Westerfield says. “It’s about finding out what these businesses do, sharing that and then having those businesses support each other.”
Lisa Sciortino is managing editor of Frisco STYLE.