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April 2024
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Publisher Travels a Progressive Path

Magazine marks 10 years of promoting diversity, inclusion, and equity in contracting.

By Peggy Beach, DTM

Man smiling in white shirt and suit jacket
Shelton Russell, DTM

For nearly 20 years, Shelton Russell, DTM, of Raleigh, North Carolina, has been involved in helping advance women, minority, and small-business owners in local government, and the infrastructure, transportation, and construction industries.

In 2013, he realized there were many great stories about diversity and inclusion successes in transportation but no forum to share them. So, he created one: the American DBE Magazine.

The DBE in the title stands for Disadvantaged Business Enterprise and the magazine’s readers are primarily diverse business owners in the infrastructure, transportation, and construction industries, and organizations such as government agencies and private corporations that have programs to promote the inclusion of diverse companies in their procurement practices.

A quarterly publication, American DBE has digital and print editions and is distributed throughout the United States. The magazine highlights projects, industry best practices, and trends, but it also serves as inspiration, with feature stories, profiles of entrepreneurs, guest columns, and project updates. Most importantly, the magazine aims to be a strong voice for diversity.

“We want to encourage small businesses to keep striving for success, and to give them information and inspiration to help them along the way. Success stories are a key factor in each issue,” says Russell, who had previously worked as the director of Business Opportunity and Workforce Development for the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

A Toastmaster since 1999, he is currently Club President of the Hi-Rise Toasters Club in Raleigh. He joined Toastmasters after realizing his job increasingly involved making presentations in public settings. His early career was in banking before he decided to leave the financial industry behind and make more of a difference in people’s lives.

He became interested in diversity and inclusion and worked with the city of Columbus, Ohio, to help minority- and women-owned businesses win contracts with the city. “I found my passion when I had the opportunity to help people grow their business while using many of the skills I learned in graduate school and my banking career.”

The initial emphasis of American DBE was on projects in the federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program. Today, coverage has expanded to local and state government projects, as well as private industry work.

“Our goal is to connect diverse businesses with opportunities on major infrastructure, construction, and transportation projects,” says Russell. “We also want to make them aware of industry trends or significant legislation that can affect their business.

“Readers and advertisers tell me that the magazine is a success,” he adds. “That shows that we are doing well [as a business] while doing good [for people].”

Russell credits his wife, Valerie Fields, a public relations entrepreneur and journalism professor, with helping him launch the magazine. She has been his partner throughout, assisting with writing and editing stories, managing photography, and working with a graphic designer.

“She was there with me from the beginning. We launched the idea to start the magazine while sitting together in a coffee shop and talking about the future. Her journalism experience gave me the confidence to start,” he says.

Russell also credits Toastmasters with improving his professional skills. “Communication is important in business. The chance of success goes up when your communication skills are stronger,” he says.

A few years ago, Russell began the P3 Project Podcast as an offshoot of American DBE. P3 stands for passion, purpose, and profit. The podcast is focused on helping diverse entrepreneurs turn their passion into a business of purpose and turn their purpose into profit.

“Toastmasters has been instrumental in giving me the confidence to do the podcast. I have also been asked to do keynote speeches and longer presentations. Magazine publishers are often asked to speak. I have had to step up my game and Toastmasters has been a great tool to help me do that.”


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