When Debra Harris, president of Especially for You Gift Baskets, was asked by Major League Baseball to fill an order worth $50,000, she was ready to play ball. The custom-designed gift-basket maker created and delivered more than 300 gifts for organizers, players, and their wives who attended the 2003 All-Star game.
“We decided to emphasize that our company has provided gift baskets for major sports events, and we already demonstrated our ability to fill large orders on time,” Harris says.
So far, Harris’ approach has won Especially for You Gift Baskets (www.especially4youbaskets.com) approximately $100,000 worth of contracts during the five years that she has been providing gift baskets to the Chicago White Sox, her local baseball team, and other teams within the organization. MLB is Harris’ second largest client, helping the company post revenues of $300,000 in 2005, with expected revenues of $400,000 in 2006.
If your company is successful, it’s possible to tap into a wealth of opportunities. In 2004, MLB spent $64.8 million with minority- and women-owned businesses, more than doubling the money spent the previous year, when $21 million was spent on goods and services. MLB’s purchases range from food services to marketing specialists, financial consultants, janitorial services, and construction companies.
While more dollars went to minority businesses in 2004, they represented only 7% of MLB’s total expenditure for goods and services, says Wendy Lewis, MLB’s vice president of strategic planning for recruitment and diversity. “For sports that’s a huge number, but for me, it’s still too conservative. We really want to improve that, and I’ll really be proud when we get to 20% or 25%. I’ll be happy then,” Lewis says.
According to Wendy Lewis, MLB’s vice president of strategic planning for recruitment and diversity, minority vendors must take several steps to do business with the organization.
Certify your business. “First, we want suppliers to get themselves certified as a minority-owned business enterprise or as a woman-owned enterprise,” Lewis says. MLB recommends that businesses contact the National Minority Supplier Development Council Inc. (www.nmsdcus.org) for certification.ooo Get acquainted with the game of baseball. “They must know their local teams and when the season starts and ends. They should know that the season officially opens in April, but in February and March, we have spring training in Arizona and in Florida,” Lewis says.
Go to MLB.com and learn about diversity programs. “There’s a lot of information about our programs on our Website, and anyone interested in doing business with us must make sure they’ve read everything,” Lewis says. Harris says she followed the steps suggested by MLB for potential minority business partners when she began contacting the Chicago White Sox. Once you’ve read the site and assessed what you can and cannot provide, you must register online and follow up with phone calls, but be patient, adds Lewis.
Submit a Request for Proposal. If you are asked to bid on a contract, take this step seriously. “You’ve got to realize that the RFP process is like trying to apply for a job,” Lewis says.