President and CEO
Ernest D. Strickland, President and CEO of the Black Business Association of Memphis, holds an MBA from Bethel University and a Bachelor of Professional Studies from the University of Memphis. Strickland has led a multitude of successful economic and workforce development projects throughout his career. He recently served as an architect of Memphis’ community-wide workforce development initiative, Upskill 901 – a program aimed at upskilling 10,000 individuals over a three-year timeframe.
Strickland comes to the BBA after a stellar 15-year career with the Greater Memphis Chamber. At the Chamber, his most recent role was Senior Vice President of Workforce & Talent Development. Before this position, he served the Chamber as VP of International, Director of Workforce Development and Public Policy, Existing Business Consultant, and Business Development Associate.
Before working at the Chamber, Ernest owned and managed Investors First Realty. In this capacity, his responsibilities included managing cash flow, driving property acquisitions and sales, and serving as property manager for the firm’s portfolio of real estate owned.
As a native Memphian, Ernest is passionate about growing the CITY. He enjoys investing in his community through civic duties such as serving as former Chairman of the W.E.B. DuBois Charter School Consortium, Board Member of the Memphis Kings Youth Organization, Board member of The Consortium MMT, and New Memphis Institute Board of Trustee. Ernest was recently appointed to serve as a Greater Memphis Local Workforce Development Board of Director. Also, he is Past Chairman of the Downtown Memphis Commission, former board member of Memphis World Trade Club, and Leadership Memphis.
Chief Relationship Officer
Roby Williams, Chief Relationship Officer for the Black Business Association of Memphis, is a graduate of Lemoyne Owen College where he received a Baccalaureate Degree in History. Upon graduation, Mr. Williams began his career in Banking at First Tennessee Bank. At First Tennessee, he worked in the Branch Division in Commercial and Retail Lending in the Marketing Department where served as the assistant to the advertising Director for the First Tennessee National Corporation and he was the first African American to work for the First Tennessee National Corporation.
After 5 years of banking, Mr. Williams began a career in Sales. He sold Yellow Pages Advertising for South Central Bell. He then went to work selling “Communications Related Solutions to Business Problems” for South Central
Bell Business Marketing and later for AT&T in Memphis. In other words, he sold telephone systems and network services for the Phone Company. Following his six years in telecommunications sales, Mr. Williams sold mailing and Manifest Systems for Pitney Bowes.
Mr. Williams then began a career in Broadcast Advertising Sales. He sold Radio Advertising for WDIA and K-97 FM Radio Stations. From Radio, he moved to TV sales. He sold television advertising at WREG News Channel 3 and WLMT UPN30. After six years in the television sales business, Mr. Williams became a Mortgage Broker and financed new homes here in Memphis. Mr. Williams became the president of the Black Business Association in October of 2002. There he assists minority and women owned business owners achieve success in their business operations.