On a bright spring day in 1991, Ray McFarland envisioned a new and different kind of company. His dream was to be the best full-service exposition and event management firm in America. But, that is only part of the story. This vision included a team of hard working experienced individuals that mirrored a United Nations Convention.
Yes, Ray was truly a dreamer and desired to break the mold. With his wife, Leslie, by his side and in full support of this ambitious undertaking they set out to diversify an industry that was completely dominated by people that did not look like them. In this moment 21st Century Expo Group was born.
But like most success stories this to did not lack it’s share of struggle and hardship. When Ray was dismissed from his job as President of R.P. Exhibit Services in 1990 he wasn’t immediately sure of what was next. With a 3-year-old little girl and the pressure of supporting a young family, he knew that failure wasn’t an option. But one phone call from a very familiar number changed everything in an instant and set his vision in motion.
Ray’s alma mater, Howard University, needed his services in February of 1991. Ray and his wife Leslie now had their first client and successfully executed their first event in less than 30 days. With this momentum Ray was able to use his existing reputation and contacts to secure business with the likes of the NAACP, Congressional Black Caucus, and United Parcel Services. As things unfolded they realized their vision was being realized. But their biggest achievement was to be able to support the very organizations that promoted the change they were seeking to make.
“Supplier Diversity may mean different things based on who you are and how it impacts your existence” shares Ray. “What supplier diversity means to me is that it provides a means to develop relationships and opportunities.” Ray believes that these relationships birth opportunities to level the playing field in the exhibit industry and promote social responsibility for the greater good of all American families across the nation.
“Allowing opportunities for relationships to happen organically through Supplier Diversity initiatives can foster change not only in business but in life” says Leslie McFarland, President of 21st Century Expo Group. “We are proud to participate in such meaningful initiatives and have seen many walls come down and glass celling shatter not only for us but our peers.”
For the past 26 years, the company has successfully translated each client’s unique needs into a creatively customized package of services and products that has raised the bar in the exposition and event management industry. Being able to support clients like American Council on Education, Centene, Major League Baseball, National Minority Supplier Development Council, Google, Intel and Time Warner has been an honor for the company’s owners and their diverse partners and staff. “We are proud to say we are the epitome of diversity in a very non-diverse industry.”