Section Image: Garry Bruton's class and members of FWMBCC

New Class Project Shows Students the Relationship Between Ethnicity and Economics

TCU Neeley Management Professor Garry Bruton and the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce (FWMBCC) join forces to bring the stories of Black business owners to the classroom.

November 15, 2021

By Nicholas Ferrandino

For the first time in the TCU’s history, the Neeley School of Business is collaborating with the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce (FWMBCC) to bring the voices of Black entrepreneurs to the classroom.

The FWMBCC is an independent non-profit organization founded in 1979 with a mission to make Fort Worth a better place to raise a family. “This chamber exists because there was a time when it did not represent the people that we [the FWMBCC] represent,” said Bob Ray Sanders, director of communications for the FWMBCC.

Since its founding, the FWMBCC has created leadership and education programs, helped underrepresented minority groups secure contracts in both public and private industries, and assisted in the construction of public amenities to achieve their stated mission of improving the quality of life for all citizens of Fort Worth.

One of the FWMBCC’s most recent achievements is helping secure the land to build the Tuskegee Airmen Veterans Center in Fort Worth, named after the 932 Black airmen who flew during the second World War and were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame for their achievements.

This new partnership between TCU Neeley and the FWMBCC began with Garry Bruton, professor of management and leadership. Bruton was interested in developing a class project for students in his strategic management class that would give them the opportunity to evaluate the influences of ethnicity and race in the business world.

Garry Bruton's class

Bruton reached out to the FWMBCC to ask for their assistance in interfacing with Black entrepreneurs eager to share their stories.

“The FWMBCC have been very gracious in trying to get students to understand more about what happens with the Black community in Fort Worth,” Bruton said.

While coordinating with the FWMBCC, Bruton’s main sources of contact were the organization’s Economic Development Manager Darryl Brewer and their Director of Communications Bob Ray Sanders.

One of the first Black writers to ever be hired by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Sanders went on to work as a reporter, host and producer for KERA and its various news outlets. He has spent his 40-year journalism career creating award-winning stories for print, radio and television news.

When Sanders was first approached by Bruton with his idea for the class project, he was excited not only by the educational opportunity of it, but also by its potential as a new resource for Black business owners seeking to advance their company.

“When Bruton approached us with this idea, I felt it was the kind of thing that would be beneficial to the businesses they would be working with,” Sanders said.

Together, Bruton and the FWMBCC brought in two Black-run businesses in Fort Worth: Smoke-A-Holics BBQ and the construction company DIG. The owners shared their stories with Bruton’s class about what it took to start their own businesses in Fort Worth. The students analyzed the two companies and how they were run – from management to finances – and then provided feedback and recommendations for improvement and growth.

Bruton’s class project is a mutually beneficial relationship where students get to tackle unique, real-world problems in the world of U.S. economics, and Black entrepreneurs are provided with another resource to help advance their businesses.

Class presentation

Here is what some of the students from Bruton’s class had to say about the project:

“I think the course has given each student the opportunity to learn more about the different communities in Fort Worth.”

“This project helped me realize that minority entrepreneurs struggle the most to start a business and survive in this economy.”

“Being able to see the tangible results of our analysis is exciting, and I think it could add more to the community surrounding Fort Worth at large.”

Though modest in scale, both Bruton and the FWMBCC are optimistic that this class project will act as the first spark, igniting a new and prosperous partnership between the FWMBCC and TCU.

“We’re hoping this project can be a good start,” Bob Ray Sanders said.