On Wednesday, April 4, 2012, Black Enterprise teamed up with Walmart to host 20/20 Vision: Supplier Diversity in the 21st Century, a forum to explore opportunities with corporate entities and the City of Chicago. The economic forum was designed to explore how entrepreneurs can best position their ventures to form profitable partnerships with large corporations as part of their supply chain. The day long event, which was held at the Chicago Hilton, covered topics like “Navigating the Procurement Maze” and “Scaling Up To Meet The Right Contract.” Here are some of the highlights from the program:
(L to R) Black Enterprise President and CEO Earl Butch Graves stands with Vision 20/20 Forum participants, Walmart representatives, and event staff. Pictured here: T. Anthony Waller, senior director of corporate affairs at Walmart; former BE 100s CEO Robert Blackwell; Black Enterprise Editorial Director, Alan Hughes; Walmart corporate affairs, Adrienne T. White; Banneker Industries CEO, Cheryl Snead; Vice President of Johnson Security Bureau, Jessica Johnson; Volt Energy co-owner, Gilbert Campbell; and Black Enterprise Editor-in-chief, Derek Dingle.
The event began with opening remarks from Black Enterprise President and CEO, Earl “Butch” Graves Jr.; Stephanie Neely, City of Chicago Treasurer (Pictured here); and Reginald Reese, Market Manager for Northern Illinois Walmart stores.
Cheryl W. Snead, Founder, President and CEO of Banneker Industries provided a case study about how to develop mentor-protégé partnerships.
Black Enterprise’s Editorial Director Alan Hughes, moderated the session entitled Navigating the Procurement Maze featuring Amy Hilliard, founder and CEO of the Comfort Cake Co.
“I don’t think we should use this as a crutch, but I think the National Minority Supplier Development Council Certification is credible,” says Leon Richardson, CEO of ChemicoMays. “It won’t get you one piece of business, but it will get you an audience. That certification will get you access to virtually any organization that you want to talk to. It will get you to diversity coordinators, the president, the chairman. That certification is probably the most important.”
Audience member Donna Smith Bellinger, a business coach and motivational speaker said her takeaway from ComfortCake Co. CEO Amy Hilliard was to be aggressive with her sales techniques but retain her integrity. “Instead of trying to force yourself into something you can’t do…be honest about what you can and can’t do.”
Leon Richardson, CEO of ChemioMays and Kaitlin Wolfe, divisional merchandise director for Wal-mart Stores, Inc. were panelists on a session about navigating the procurement maze.
Audience participant, Ken Smikle, the president and founder of Target Market News, asked panelist Kaitlin Wolfe what were her pet peeves about those who approach her to do business with Walmart. She said she wants someone who can present a plan. If you can't tell her about your product and your sales then you are wasting her time.
“Do your homework upfront before coming to talk to us,” says Kaitlin Wolfe, divisional merchandise director for Wal-mart Stores, Inc. “Know our requirements, know your customers, and know our customers for the markets you would like to supply.”
“Maintain relationships with people in the supply chain,” says Michael L. Thompson, CEO of Fair Oaks Farms, LLC who provided a case study on how to be a valued contractor. “I can’t remember a time when I haven’t made a customer call…that shows them commitment and pride in your company.”
Audience member Sidney Dilliard, a partner in the corporate investment banking division at BE 100s company Loop Capital, asked Michael L. Thompson, CEO of Fair Oaks Farms, LLC to talk about the capital raising process for how his business has grown and the challenges and opportunities he experienced trying to get the capital he needed to scale up.
There was plenty of time to network at the Vision 20/20 Forum. Here T. Anthony Waller, senior director of corporate affairs at Walmart, talks with Matthew A. Johnson, group publisher of Girlfriends Health Guide For Everyday Women.
There were people representing a diversity of industries and ethnicities at the Black Enterprise Vision 20/20 Forum about Supplier Diversity in the 21st Century.
Black Enterprise co-hosted the Vision 20/20 Forum with Walmart, whose Chicagoland team members supported the event in masse. Pictured here from Walmart are Panelist Kaitlin Wolfe, Adrienne T. White, and Reginald Reese accompanied by Black Enterprise multimedia sales manager, Anthony Mootry.
“It’s really important that from the very beginning when you partner with someone that you understand your value, they understand your value, and you put it on a piece of paper what your value is,” says Robert Blackwell, founding partner of Blackwell Global, a management consulting company who did contract IT work with Accenture. “I always wanted to be sure when we partnered with anybody that there was something we could call our own. I don’t want to be a subcontractor where if there is a $1 million deal and they cut $100,000 out that we’re the $100,000.”
“We had about $350,000 in sales all with private firms and nonprofits. We were barely breaking even,” says Jessica Johnson, vice president of Bronx-based, Johnson Security Bureau who had to create a growth plan as a part of her participation in Goldman Sachs 10,000 small business program. “When I did our growth plan it made me look at what was the more profitable business. We started to get away from non-profits and look at sectors where there were higher returns. Having to create a growth plan helped us evaluate what we were doing right and what we weren’t doing correctly.”
“Sometimes it’s better to tell a partner no,” says Gilbert Campbell, Co-owner of Volt Energy, who says they had what they thought on paper would be an excellent strategic partner. “We made the mistake of assuming that a potential partner understood our value. When we got down to it, they said you’re a smaller company, we’re going to GIVE you 1%. We said, even though this is a lucrative opportunity, we’re bringing the client, so we'll wait. We know our value."
Local Walmart team members Al Rivera, Elena Payne, and Howard Kerr enjoyed networking with Chicagoland businesses.
Local Chicagoan, Hadassah Hickman, is president of the Sitar Group, which tries to minimize the entrepreneurial risks that most startups face. She attended Vision 20/20 to find more procurement resources for her organization. She is also founder of Lemonade Girls, which empowers young girls to consider entrepreneurship as a career option.
Attendee, Nicole Burroughs, a licensed speech-language pathologist and founder of Nikki4Kids.Net wanted to find out about possible opportunities to obtain contracts with the City of Chicago.