About the Award
The Chamber Business Diversity Council (CBDC) established the John F. Bell Sr. Vanguard Award in 2015 to recognize an outstanding business person or individual who promotes diversity within the business community in our Greater Charlottesville area.
The CBDC Vanguard Award is named in honor of John F. Bell Sr., a strong, determined and respected business leader and citizen who established successful businesses during a time when society wasn’t so welcoming to people of his cultural background. The Bell family understood the importance of entrepreneurship. Mr. Bell not only taught his children about business, but he also employed many within the African American community and taught and mentored them as well. The funeral home he founded in 1917, J.F. Bell Funeral Home, is the area’s oldest existing business owned by people of color. His granddaughter, Deborah Bell Burks, and her husband Lieutenant Colonel Martin Burks, III (US Army, retired), now run the business. The Burks continue Mr. Bell’s legacy of being successful business leaders and active citizens making significant contributions to their community in many ways.
Why Business Diversity?
It’s the right thing to do. A strong diverse business community is a strong community. Minority groups represent a large and growing population in markets across the United States. They’re also becoming the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs. This presents tremendous opportunities for businesses to gain a diverse work population as well as attract new business clients where buying power and investment needs will rapidly increase. That said, it’s a win-win all around.
The purpose of the Chamber Business Diversity Council is to grow and support minority business enterprises by facilitating the startup of new businesses and the successful running of existing businesses. A Minority Business Enterprise is a business that is at least 51% owned by one or more minority individuals (African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, Native American) who are United States citizens or legal resident aliens.