Not so long ago the concept of Supplier Diversity was a foreign one at NLOWE. Today, we could make the argument that we talk about it at least 10 times a day. If you work at NLOWE, you live and breathe Supplier Diversity. But why? And, why should you as a woman business owner be interested in Supplier Diversity too?
Supplier Diversity is a business program that encourages the use of diverse-owned vendors, including women-owned businesses, as suppliers to corporations and governments. Traditionally, women-owned businesses have been underrepresented in supply chains. Today, 47% of all small and medium sized businesses in Canada are owned by women, yet they comprise less than 5% of all domestic and international suppliers to corporations and governments.
So, what does that mean for women business owners? In point form, Supplier Diversity can help:
- Expand or grow your business
- Enter new markets
- Access contract opportunities
- Create business-to-business partnerships
- Expand business networks
Supplier Diversity can provide you an opportunity to expand or grow your business by entering new and diverse markets that you may have never considered before. Surveying the economic landscape of Newfoundland and Labrador, perhaps you may want to consider the Oil & Gas, Mining, Energy and/or Natural Resources industries. Supplier Diversity can prove to be your stepping stone to large contract opportunities in these industries, as well as facilitate the business-to-business selling process. Supplier Diversity also creates and provides opportunities to partner with other businesses, expanding business networks and marketing reach. Have you considered working with other local businesses to increase your capacity? To bid on larger and more lucrative contracts? To expand your customer base and ensure that the benefits of using our resources stay in Newfoundland and Labrador? Beyond the scope of local opportunities, you must keep in mind that business is borderless and Supplier Diversity is universal. There is a whole world of opportunity out there. Supplier Diversity is not limited to doing business in Canada- you can literally do business all over the world by taking advantage of suppliers’ willingness and desire to purchase goods and services from diverse owned businesses.
Here in Canada, there is an organization called WEConnect Canada that represents women owned businesses with certification, proving to corporations and big businesses that they are at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by a woman or women. This certification status is a key driver in the Supplier Diversity movement, and allows corporations to quickly recognize they could be purchasing from diverse owned businesses.
A few weeks ago, NLOWE attended WEConnect Canada’s national conference, “Opening Doors”, in Toronto. The conference had over 300 delegates attend from across the country (and some from the United States) who all came together to talk about Supplier Diversity and, most importantly, do business.
The delegates of the conference included corporate and government representatives, industry associations, regional partners (such as NLOWE), and women business owners, including three from Newfoundland and Labrador: previous attendee and newly certified WBE (women’s business enterprise) Andrea Sharpe of Karlande Designs, and first time conference attendees, Angie Parsons of Royal K9 Spa and Resort and Phyllis Reardon of CoachPhyllis.Com Inc. “This new experience was both positive and productive for me,” says Phyllis, “I had the opportunity to not only connect with many potential clients, but I created a tentative project partnership with an executive life coach from Ontario.” During one of the conference luncheons Phyllis also had the opportunity to deliver her ‘Elevator Pitch’ to the delegates. Speaking of the experience, Phyllis said, “I say with delight, the NLOWE staff had trained me thoroughly allowing me to proceed to the stage and pitch my business CoachPhyllis.Com Inc., with the greatest of confidence.”
During a conference networking activity, Angie Parsons had the opportunity to pitch her product to representatives from Walmart Canada. “My expectations were met 100% and I know I have to become certified to take advantage of the great opportunities,” Angie says. “My overall experience was fantastic; can’t wait to go again next year.” Andrea Sharpe also reaped the benefits of all the networking opportunities the conference provided and managed to make connections with key decision makers from corporations including Walmart Canada and Royal Bank of Canada. Andrea told us, “The experience was inspiring! There were hundreds of dynamic women business owners with diverse backgrounds, running unique businesses. Women were there to help other women- networking was definitely on the agenda.”
After reading about the opportunities Supplier Diversity can present you with as a women business owner, let’s once again revisit the question, “why should you, as a women-business owner, be interested in Supplier Diversity?”
Supplier Diversity equals better business: women-owned businesses grow more rapidly, corporations and governments gain value and innovation, and as a result our country’s national productivity and GDP increases.
Here’s the reality: Supplier Diversity programs and certifications are most likely not going to get you a $100,000 contract tomorrow- contracts take time and effort to land and secure. But what they will do is get you to the table and give you an opportunity to participate. How you leverage the certification is completely up to you.
Do you still want to know more about Supplier Diversity? Every month NLOWE presents a webinar on Supplier Diversity. Check the NLOWE calendar for more details!
Kristy Hoddinott, Assistant Director with NLOWE and Melissa Wheeler, Business Connections Coordinator with NLOWE, both attended the WEConnect 2012 Annual Conference in Toronto and both are well versed in the concept of Supplier Diversity as it applies to women business owners. If you would like to contact them, Kristy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and Melissa can be reached at email@example.com