Todd Gilyard

Gamal Williams | September 20th, 2021
Todd Gilyard

Todd Gilyard

According to the 2019 Annual Business Survey, racial minorities owned 18.3% of all businesses in America. Those numbers begin to look bleaker when one understands that all non-White business owners fall into that 18.3%. 2019 U.S. Census data shows that the White population comprised 76.3% of America yet owned 81.7% of all businesses. Minorities comprised 23.7% of America yet owned less than 1/5th of all businesses. Many factors have hindered business development and economic growth amongst minorities: racial bias preventing opportunities to government and private sector contracts, lack of access to capital, lack of business financial literacy, but none more important than mentorship and support. What these businesses have lacked is a champion, someone that is willing to not only extend a helping hand, but to speak up for them, support them, guide them on their path to success.

Enter Todd Gilyard.

Todd Gilyard formed his consulting firm, The Gilyard Group, LLC, in 2010, after previously serving as the Assistant Project Lead/Job Developer for the St. Louis Housing Authority’s Job Plus Program, and Community Outreach Director at the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis. He now serves as the Project Director at the Missouri Branch of the Minority Business Development Agency. Originally established as the Minority Business Enterprise in 1969 by President Richard Nixon, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) mission is “to promote the growth of minority owned businesses through the mobilization and advancement of public and private sector programs, policy, and research. MBDA has accomplished this mission by funding a network of centers that provide Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) a variety of business assistance services.”* Yet, Todd didn’t see himself in his current position. In fact, prior to his appointment, even owning his own business wasn’t in the cards.

“I worked for the Urban League of St. Louis,” he explained. “In that role, anything that the Urban League gave away to the community, I was in charge of; toy giveaways, food giveaways, energy assistance, any special programs, I was basically in charge of. Being in that role helped me build relationships with city and state government officials and CEOs of major corporations. People began to come to me asking for help with funding or to make a business connection.”

“One day, a woman approached me that had a home healthcare franchise out of Florida. I explained to her that she should be working with the churches. The churches should get back to being that resource for the community like they were in the ’50s and ’60s. I told her I knew the President of the National Baptist Convention-Midwest. I reached out to him and discussed her presenting her business to the minister’s union. I explained to him that churches were missing that community connection; if you needed a doctor, you went to the church; if you needed a lawyer, you went to the church; if you needed a handyman, you went to the church. I presented the woman’s business and after my presentation, he encouraged me to form my own business.”

Todd formed The Gilyard Group shortly after, and while it was a business at its heart, it was Todd’s desire to help reconnect the community that shined through. These traits were instilled in him by two strong, powerful, and beautiful women: his mother, Schatoun Gilyard, and his grandmother, Francis Jean Gilyard.

“I grew up in Kinloch, MO. My grandmother was heavily involved in many grassroots efforts devoted to social justice issues, improving educational rights for children, food programs…she was committed to making sure the community was fed, not just with food, but fed with knowledge. I grew up in the church, thanks to my grandmother. I am now a minister, and God has put it in my heart to want to see everyone made whole. I want to see everybody live their best life. If I’m in a position to help somebody, I think that is an honor that God gives certain people. Since I was a child, through my adult life and professional career, I’ve been in a position to help people. Jobs of service. It’s because of how my grandmother raised me.”

When asked to elaborate on his mother’s impact on his life, Todd becomes reflective and emotional. “My mom…man, my mom is someone that inspires me because of how she made sacrifices for my brother and me. Even though those sacrifices hurt her, I see what she did for her now that I am older. And she is still like that. She will give people the shirt off her back, or if she hears that someone is in need, she’s right there to say, ‘I got it!’ Anything to see people comfortable. Even in the church, she was always serving others. It just stuck in me.”

Todd’s reputation as a selfless, devoted, and knowledgeable leader led to his current position at MBDA. When the position for Project Director became available in late 2020, Todd’s name was submitted by people that knew him for his years of dedicated service. Once the position was offered to Todd, his actions displayed the virtues of kindness and selflessness he was raised with. Knowing that he could impact more people in this new position, he folded the highly successful Gilyard Group and accepted the higher calling.

“I tell my current staff all the time; we are in a blessed position. If we make a phone call for someone or a business, we have an opportunity to do something that could change their lives. That can change the way they feed their families. That is tremendous for me. I get a paycheck, but more than the money, it’s the joy I feel that I was able to help these companies. I am so happy to be a part of that that I had a little bit to do with it. That gives me such joy.”

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