The Conway Area Chamber of Commerce awarded four local minority business leaders during the 2018 Minority Enterprise Development awards on Tuesday.
Ken Patel, chairman and co-founder of Conway Management, received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Patel moved to Conway from India in 1981. He and his wife founded Conway Management at that time. They were the sole employees of the company, which handled tens of thousands of dollars back in those days. Today, the company employs more than 300 people and handles tens of millions of dollars each year.
“People in Conway supported us,” Patel said as he accepted his award. “Anything we needed, we go the answer. I feel proud to call this my home.”
An emotional Tenecia Roundtree, whose business TreeHouse Cleaning, LLC won Outstanding Minority Business of the Year, said if anyone would have told her a year ago she would receiving such an honor she would have told them they were crazy.
She recalled her mom suggesting she start her own cleaning business after a tough financial year. A suggestion Roundtree said she initially rejected.
“I remember telling my mom ‘I wear suits, I don’t clean toilets.’ She told me to humble myself,” Roundtree said, adding it was the right decision and addressing her mother who watched her receive the honor. “I found a passion in it. Mom, I hope I made you proud.”
Local activist Jimmy Warren was named the Outstanding Young Minority Professional.
Warren thanked the Chamber for the award and also for taking a chance on him when the organization hired him five years ago.
“Diversity matters,” he said. “Diversity is not just a check in a box but something that should be painted in bright colors across organizations.”
Warren quoted Sean Jay-Z Carter, whom he called “the greatest philosophical orator of our time,” saying: “Leave a mark they can’t erase, neither space nor time.”
University of Central Arkansas Associate Professor Angela Webster received the Advocate for Opportunity Award.
“Dreams should be lived and not just longed for,” Webster said. “We engage in this work for the least, last, lost, looked over, left behind and left out.”
Rita Moreno — who is one of only 15 people ever to join the EGOT club, meaning she has won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony — was guest speaker at the event. Moreno’s career has spanned six decades beginning with her Broadway debut at 13. She also earned the Kennedy Center Honors, the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Arts.
Moreno said she was thrilled to see Conway celebrating minority leaders.
“It’s great to see you want to promote diversity in your community,” she said. “I am so pleased to be asked to come here.”