• Kathey Porter

    Kathey Porter
    Director of the University of Florida Small Business & Vendor Diversity Relations

    Describe your role as director of UF Small Business & Vendor Diversity Relations. 

    I am responsible for inclusive programming focusing on ensuring equal access for Small/HUB Zone/Minority/Small Disadvantaged/Veteran/Service-Disabled Veteran/Women-Owned businesses, by providing them equal opportunity to compete for procurement and contracting opportunities at the University of Florida. I work to increase awareness of the program among internal and community stakeholders including university personnel and university providers and suppliers. I coordinate local statewide outreach events and activities with strategic partners while overseeing reporting of small business utilization and monitoring small business expenditure activity through various tracking, monitoring and reporting measures. Within the community, I coordinate training and technical assistance for small businesses through workshops, seminars and one-on-one assistance, as well as serve as the university’s small business liaison to the small business community. I Collaborate with various governmental entities and the business community and actively participate on boards and committees of various professional and community organizations. 

    Your job requires communication between a wide diverse group of people, how do you try to effectively communicate your goals or a specific message? 

    My style is definitely more collaborative. Additionally, I like to provide my teams with the flexibility, encouragement and empowerment to give their input and thoughts on how a task should be accomplished. People are usually surprised when I say that I am an introvert and not necessarily overly communicative by nature, which works for some aspects of my career. As my job requires me to be very communicative, I tend to be very facts driven. This is something that I have to work on to ensure that I am giving people the information that they need to make decisions. 

    What do you think your strengths are and how did you identify them? 

    I do not think that anyone starts out knowing one’s strengths. It is through trial and error that you are able to identify what your strengths are. After a disastrous first year of college, I ended up going to the basic training for the Army National Guard. That was the best decision I could have made, or should I say, that was made for me. It was during basic training that I was really challenged for the first time, and it helped me identify my leadership abilities. I am happy to say that experience has taken me far and served me well in my professional career. 

    What challenges have you encountered in the process of starting up not just one, but three retail stores? What have you learned from the successes and failures of your business ventures?

    I got into the retail business by accident. At the time, I was considering a variety of entrepreneurial opportunities and came across the opportunity to open a store in the mall. Having worked in retail, I knew what it took to be successful. As an owner, however, it was harder than anything than I imagined. As challenging as it was, during my first year, we went on to be one of the top 10 stores in the country, and it was because of this they offered me the opportunity to open more stores in other markets. 

    I have experienced many failures and embarked on numerous projects over the years, not always sure what the outcome would be. Whether it was deciding to write a book, planning major events, becoming an adjunct instructor or moving across the country, I always knew that despite the challenges, I would work hard to ensure that it was a success. 

    How have you learned how to make a space inclusive and diverse? 

    My career has been spent working in multicultural divisions or leading diversity efforts. Because of this, I have had to embrace diversity as a core function of my professional being. Sometimes it is tough because everyone does not use the same lenses or have the same experiences in which to process and relate to each other. It does not mean we will always agree or even get along, but we will be respectful, and people will be heard, given an opportunity and accepted for who they are. 

    As a woman, have you ever struggled with asserting yourself and gaining respect as a leader from your peers? 

    I think everyone, at times, has experienced what is called the “impostor syndrome” in that, you are afraid to speak up for fear that you might sound inadequate or inferior amongst your peers. This fear keeps many women from asserting themselves in the workplace. I have been fortunate over the years to have had great mentors to guide me professionally, and I enjoy helping other young women identify what type of leader and professional they want to be. 

    How do you want to make an impact through your career? 

    I have a strong sense of pride and take real enjoyment in the work that I do with small, diverse and women-owned businesses. When you impact someone’s livelihood, and in my case, their business by directing them to a contract opportunity, you are impacting their lives and the lives of their families which then impacts the community in which we live and impact them for generations to come.