The Changemaker Putting a Spotlight on Meeting Diversity in San Diego

Clara Carter works to bring minority groups to her city and showcases women in the meetings industry.

MeetingsNet’s annual Changemaker list recognizes 20 outstanding meetings professionals for their efforts to move their organizations and the industry forward in unique and positive ways. Find all the profiles here.

Clara Carter, CDMP
President & Founder
Multi-Cultural Convention Services Network
For focusing on inclusion in meetings and events

Making Change
I live in San Diego and I had attended a fam tour here as a planner and I thought, “You know, they’re missing the mark, why are they not trying to attract more diverse meetings?” I saw an opportunity here and I created and produced the Multicultural fam tour. The multicultural aspects of this tour were focused on both attracting minority organizations to San Diego, and also showing off the ethnically diverse cultural features of the city. The fam tours have drawn meetings to San Diego from associations predominantly representing minorities, including the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, the National Medical Association, the National Optometric Association, and the National Bar Association. Building on the success of these annual events my business has expanded to include national clients. 

Maintaining Change
Based on my success here, two years ago I launched a program, the W.I.T.H. Awards Luncheon, spotlighting women in tourism and hospitality. The first year I created a luncheon, in 2016, we had an awards event to recognize the achievements of women in the industry. We also had a panel discussion where women were able to share their successes and encourage others. Many of the attendees were C-level executives from the hospitality industry but all the women in attendance were looking for networking opportunities. As a woman and a small business entrepreneur, I have always struggled to find ways to get in front of movers and shakers in the industry, so we always need to find more ways to network! My goal for the next two years is to grow the event into a day-and-a-half conference with educational workshops. Women need to leverage all the resources and connections we can to support our businesses.

My Mentors
Over the course of my career I’ve had some wonderful mentors. Jackie Martin from SCORE, an organization where retired executives volunteer to mentor small business owners, has helped me to stay focused on my goals and objectives and is a good listener. I spent 22 years working for a corporation before starting my own business. Another of my mentors is Roy Jay. I attended a workshop of his on multicultural tourism in Portland, Ore. He taught me that minority businesses are a $100 billion a year industry, and he said if you don’t have a multicultural component in your city, shame on you. After the session I went up to him and asked, ‘if I start a business doing this, would you help me?’ He said he’d be happy to and 12 years later he is still there for me. As women, we don’t like to ask for help, but people are so willing and free with information.

Giving Back
I am an advisory board member and mentor at the Mount Miguel Matador Business Academy, giving high school students with a business focus the opportunity to learn about meeting planning. I was an instructor in event planning at Mira Costa College in San Diego, and this fall I am teaching an extended studies class in meeting and event planning at San Diego State University. When I’m mentoring young people, I tell them to get out and network, you need to identify resources and connections and be a supportive part of your network. It is also important to target people in your niche and know your audience and don’t be afraid to be persistent until you reach your goal.

Have a Spare Hour?
I love gardening. That’s where I find relaxation.


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