The “Purple Rain” movie soundtrack was playing in Lisa Tabor’s head. Her retail management career was relocating her from the East Coast to her choice of one of five large cities in the Midwest, and Minneapolis, Minnesota was one of the options. But the only thing she knew about Minneapolis was that it was where “Purple Rain” was filmed. And that Prince, the iconic musician who starred in the movie, lived there and was biracial like her. Lisa wanted to feel welcomed and accepted in her new surroundings. Surely the city that brought the world Prince would wrap its arms around her and provide a sense of belonging, she thought.
Lisa packed up her life and headed to the Midwest. As she settled in, she began to appreciate what the Twin Cities had to offer. But she also realized it was not as culturally diverse as she’d thought it would be. She left retail for a position as an education manager for the Saint Paul Chamber of Commerce and then moved into a membership director position for the city’s convention and visitors bureau, Visit Saint Paul. In these roles, she began asking the business owners she came in contact with about what they were doing to make diversity a priority. She learned there were many well-intended companies and leaders that wanted to do so. Only their efforts were falling short. They struggled to create environments where a diverse workforce could succeed.
The informal research Lisa was doing sparked the idea for her own business. She knew she could educate organizations on the importance of leveraging cultural diversity to create workplaces where everyone benefited and could thrive. She hadn’t thought about entrepreneurship up to that point, but now friends and colleagues were encouraging her to take the leap. In 2005, Lisa launched CultureBrokers, a consultancy that partners with businesses, nonprofits and government organizations to help them get immediate, measurable and valuable results from their diversity, inclusion and equity efforts.
In order to deliver results to her clients, Lisa developed the Diamond Inclusiveness System. It’s a proven formula where diversity plus inclusion times discipline equals equity. The discipline part is where many businesses get stuck. According to Lisa, it requires leadership to take a good look at the organization’s infrastructure—communications, operations, policies and practices—and consider how each stakeholder group is being served. She provides her clients with a two-year roadmap to achieve meaningful and measurable diversity, inclusion and equity results. Her goal is to empower organizations to deliver on promises to staff, customers and the community, to build credibility and achieve better business outcomes.
When Lisa started the business, benefit corporations had not yet been established in Minnesota. But Lisa was a pioneer. Her goal for CultureBrokers was to use it as a vehicle for creating a positive impact for workers, the community and society. So she simultaneously established the CultureBrokers Foundation, a nonprofit connected to her business, to ensure her services were accessible and she could bring her bigger vision to life.
Lisa is especially proud of her work with the Ramsey County Corrections Facility to reduce the juvenile detention rate. CultureBrokers dug into systemic issues within the organization and how those systems were influencing the number of teens incarcerated. They pinpointed practices that were having a negative impact on entire populations of people. She and her team made recommendations to address the structural problems, which has resulted in a decrease in the number of juveniles detained in the county by more than 70 percent.
Influencing cultural intelligence at the government level is especially energizing for Lisa. She’s inspired by organizations that are open-minded about possible solutions and dedicated to making change. She says it’s not uncommon to look for the quick and easy answer when tackling complex problems. But when it comes to diversity and inclusion, it’s important to take the time to explore and understand the root issues. “Only then can we create environments where everyone can thrive, regardless of race or culture.”
To learn more about Lisa’s business, visit CultureBrokers.com.
Photo: Kate Pearson Halyburton for My Founder Story
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