Top 5 Supplier Diversity Predictions for 2016


Authored by ConnXus CEO, Rod Robinson


Many supplier diversity trends that began in 2015 will gain traction as we enter 2016. Here are my top five supplier diversity predictions for 2016.

1. Increased focus on supplier diversity data accuracy. As the importance of supplier diversity continues to grow, more companies leverage it as a source of competitive advantage. Additionally, as increasing numbers of third-parties use the underlying data in decision-making—accuracy and reliability are critical. Just do a quick google search to see the numerous embarrassing and costly episodes associated with reporting erroneous diversity data.

2. Heightened focus on Tier 2 spend tracking & reporting. As I wrote in a previous post, many best practicing companies leverage technology applications to collect, track and analyze the relevant diversity spend associated with several of their prime suppliers. As the trend toward supplier consolidation continues, Tier 2 programs are a great way for large companies to foster the development of small and diverse suppliers who will become the primes of the future. Some companies, like P&G, are going as far as connecting key primes with top performing diverse suppliers to create value-added relationships that benefit both the supply and demand sides of the equation.

3. Supplier diversity will be more tightly aligned with procurement and supply chain. In many organizations, supplier diversity has historically been a disconnected bolt-on to procurement. However, as the demographics and dynamics of the business world shift—supplier diversity practices are also changing. Given the rapid growth of minority- and woman-owned businesses, representing over 70% of all U.S. businesses, the relationships and knowledge base of supplier diversity professionals will play a key role in the future sustainability of supply chains.

4. Diverse supplier relationship management processes will expand to broader supply chains. Supplier reliability, risk, transparency, validation… These are all buzz words being tossed around to emphasize the importance of effectively managing supplier relationships and supplier data. Many best practicing supplier diversity companies have captured relevant supplier qualification data on diverse suppliers for years via registration portals. However, many of these same companies are now realizing the benefit of having the same level of transparency for all suppliers.

5. Increased emphasis on innovation. As large corporations continue to reduce the number of suppliers participating in their supply chains, this will make it that much more difficult for small and diverse suppliers to breakthrough without significant size and scale. The best way to combat the scale challenge is coming to the table with unique, innovative solutions that bring value. These solutions could come in various forms including development of new software applications to streamline manual processes or a new innovative approach to product marketing.

The key message for small and diverse suppliers looking to breakthrough large corporate supply chains is this: Innovation will overrule size and scale where true value is delivered. Above average gross profit margins will follow. Here is to a rewarding 2016!

​Why Share Your Story?


Crystal J. Davis, ConnXus Senior Member Services & Affiliate Program Manager since 2012, brings over 12 years of experience certifying over 200 minority business enterprises in Ohio. Davis shares her story and experience on the highs and lows of supplier diversity as a kickoff to the Share Your Story blog contest February 1 – March 4.

Crystal Davis:


People enjoy stories because they can relate to and learn from others. Whether it’s the latest celebrity drama to business successes and failures—we all love a good story. That’s why I believe it’s especially important for diverse businesses to share their story to inspire and connect with others who may be stuck in a rut or are looking for business growth opportunities.

From my experience certifying small, diverse and women-owned businesses, I cannot underestimate the power of networking. Whether you’re attending a national trade show such as NMSDC or WBENC, or a local diversity conference—networking is the key to connecting with like-minded businesses and accessing educational opportunities.

On Becoming Certified

There are many realistic (and unrealistic) expectations when certifying your diverse business. Several third-party organizations are available to gain certification—including national, state and local certifying agencies. The most recognized are NMSDC, WBENC, CPUC and state municipalities.

After twelve years of certifying businesses, I’ve found the most successful companies were proactive about promoting their company’s strengths and capabilities. Just because you are certified, doesn’t mean that you instantly gain a contract with a Fortune 2000 corporation. Your business must hold the internal capacity and dedication to do business with major corporations.

Why Share My Story?

Sharing your story not only brings a sense of pride that you are helping someone else, but it brings awareness to your company by allowing others the insight into the failures and successes that you’ve endured.

I have encountered an ample amount of diverse business owners who feel as if they’ve hit a wall when trying to do business with corporate America. My advice to minority, women, veteran or disability-owned businesses who might be asking “Why should I share my story?” Here are my four reasons why:

  1. To educate other diverse business on what resources are to gain certification, what trade-shows produce the most ROI, and what educational opportunities will help grow their business needs.
  2. To connect and network with like-minded companies and those who have been through similar business paths.
  3. To inspire those who are in a rut or feel as if they can’t grow their business, and to see the bigger picture.
  4. In order to grow, your business needs to take inventory of where you’ve been, where you are and where you’d like to be.

What’s your story?

Submit your supplier diversity stories to from Feb. 1 – March 4 for a chance to win $3,000 for your business needs or a charity of your choice.

Select for full contest details.

Share Your Story the Month of February


We want to know…. How has supplier diversity impacted you, your business and/or your employees?


ConnXus Spearheads a Brave Frontier with Supplier Diversity Sustainability Dashboards


MASON, Ohio, April 26, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — ConnXus, a supplier diversity software company based in Mason, Ohio, now streamlines products into a smart dashboard—opening the gateway for procurement, supplier diversity and supply chain professionals to access a wealth of supply chain analytics in two clicks or less.

The ConnXus supplier diversity sustainability dashboard is complementary with all product purchases and includes two brand-new product offerings:

  1. SmartScrub, an automated, streamlined data enrichment and validation service
  2. ConnXSmart, a “matchmaking” tool that connects large companies with diverse suppliers


“That’s right,” said ConnXus chief operations officer Daryl Hammett. “We are giving away state-of-the-art dashboards with every product. We believe everyone should experience the visibility that supplier diversity brings to an organization’s supply chain.”

“Our unique, smart dashboard is a game-changer—disrupting more traditional approaches to supplier diversity management,” announced Anthony Mitchell, senior manager of product management. “ConnXus equips clients with visual representations of their supply chain data that can be easily exported for boardroom presentations and many other purposes.”

Hammett elaborated, “As ConnXus continues to make strategic global partnerships, our dashboard’s recently expanded international supplier registration portal offerings now reach eight different countries—providing corporations and suppliers more opportunities to connect.”

The software company will debut its upgraded suite of dashboard-based applications as a first-time corporate exhibitor at the 2016 Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) National Conference in Orlando, Fla. June 21-23. During the conference, ConnXus will again leverage its unique supplier matchmaking tool—ConnXSmart—to facilitate meetings between Procter and Gamble’s (P&G) community of partners.

ConnXus continues to innovate the supplier diversity industry space. Upcoming software releases include business intelligence, networking, blogging and category management capabilities.

To learn more about ConnXus supplier diversity software solutions, feel free to schedule a demo prior to the WBENC National Conference. Please contact

About ConnXus

ConnXus ( is a supplier diversity software-as-a-service (SaaS) certified minority-owned business (MBE) headquartered in Mason, Ohio. The SaaS-based company helps small and diverse businesses, including woman-, and minority-owned companies, grow by connecting them to Fortune 2000 corporations.

View press release on BusinessWire and PRNewswire



What’s New in Business: ConnXus gains traction at linking clients with diverse suppliers

Revenues double in 2015, more hiring planned

By: Kevin Eigelbach, WCPO contributor

Posted: 6:01 AM, Feb 5, 2016


Rod Robinson, founder, president and CEO of ConnXus, in the companyÕs offices in Mason. Founded five years ago, the company now has 21 employees. (Kevin Eigelbach for WCPO)

Rod Robinson, founder, president and CEO of ConnXus, in the companyÕs offices in Mason. Founded five years ago, the company now has 21 employees. (Kevin Eigelbach for WCPO)

MASON, Ohio — ConnXus, which helps companies find qualified, diverse suppliers and keep track of their spending with those suppliers, is ready to scale up.

“We have companies that are demanding our product,” said founder, president and chief executive Rod Robinson. “We want to get in front of them and help them.”

After five years in business, the Mason-based company has started to gain traction, doubling its revenue last year to well more than $1 million but less than $10 million (Robinson would not reveal the exact amount). It now has 21 employees, including Robinson, and plans to add more sales and development staff this year.

What does it do?

The most basic service involves taking a customer’s accounts payable or spending records and matching them against the company’s database of 1.7 million diverse suppliers to validate the customer’s spending on diverse suppliers. Different companies have different goals for diversity spending, Robinson said, but it generally means money spent with women-, minority- or veteran-owned businesses, or with small businesses generally.

More advanced services include enabling customers to track their secondary diversity spending — money spent on contractors who then hire diverse subcontractors — and enabling them to search the ConnXus database to find diverse suppliers.

How did it get started?

Florida native Robinson, now 48, moved to Cincinnati in 2002 when he became chief procurement officer for Cincinnati Bell. In that role, he learned firsthand how hard it is for large companies to find diverse suppliers and keep track of money that goes to them.

In 2005, he started his own consulting firm and spent many hours going over accounts-payable data line by line to find diverse suppliers. That reinforced his conviction that a software solution was needed, and he started ConnXus in 2010 to provide it.

Who are the investors?

They include local startup investor CincyTech; Boulder, Colorado-based TechStars, which invests in tech startups; and New York-based Serious Change LP, which invests in high-growth, high-potential minority-owned companies. Management hopes to raise $3 million to $5 million more this year from venture-capital firms, Robinson said.

He added that he and the other employees have also invested a significant amount of their own money with the company through an employee stock option plan. Altogether, the company has raised about $4.7 million, and, while it’s not yet turning a profit, Robinson said, it’s getting close.

Who are the customers?

They include large organizations such as Louisville-based distilled spirits maker Brown-Forman Inc., the National Basketball Association, American Express, Harley-Davidson USA and local clients that include Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Who else is on the team?

Daryl Hammett was consulting as a business coach when he met Robinson and became the chief operating officer of ConnXus two years ago. He’s a former vice president and general manager of Sears Optical and an executive for 15 years with Luxottica Group in Mason, a maker of eyewear. He replaced 90 percent of the existing team, he said, and took the company from a scrappy startup to more of a global business.

“We have built the most user-friendly platform in the marketplace,” he said. “At the end of the day, we are taking supplier diversity to the next level, which is supplier inclusion.”

That means not just hiring diverse suppliers, he said, but also listening to their ideas and seeing how they can add value to the hiring company’s strategic plan.

What has the journey been like?

The highs are really high and the lows are really low, Robinson said, but he wouldn’t trade owning this business for anything else. “I wake up every morning excited about what lies ahead,” he said.

In the early days, the challenge was attracting capital and getting clients to take a chance on a startup, he said. Now, the company has both capital and good talent.

“For a long time the wind was in our face,” he said. “Now, the wind is at our back.”

Select for Original Article.

From ConnXus Intern to Young Entrepreneur

A former ConnXus intern, DJ Hammett, shares his insightful experiences on internships and how his time as a ConnXus operations services specialist intern boosted his ability to launch his own company. Hammett, from Mason, OH, is currently an engineering student at Washington University in St. Louis. Co-founders Michael Ashley, DJ Hammett and Tsavo Knott began LingoHop, a foreign-language acquisition application, in November of 2015.

Here’s what Hammett has to share on his journey from a ConnXus intern to a young entrepreneur:

ConnXus: What was the inspiration for LingoHop’s mission?

DH: After spending years teaching foreign languages, Ashley and I realized there was an overwhelming problem in the language-learning space: a lack of personalization. A recent study found that the leading language software sees only 0.6% of their users complete their program, yet over 70% of Americans want to learn a new language. We realized that each person has their own language goals and learning style, and there was no solution that addressed this need. After speaking with Tsavo Knott, an expert in computer programming and development, the Lingohop concept was born. Co-founders Michael Ashley, DJ Hammett, and Tsavo Knott teamed up with the goal of creating a personalized environment for learning a new language and culture, regardless of your current skill level.

ConnXus: What were the main takeaways from your internship as a ConnXus operations services specialist?

DH: Having an interest in business, I believe my favorite aspect of my internship was being in the “startup” environment. Sitting in the back of meetings in which the ConnXus team effectively strategized to build a successful startup helped fuel my confidence in working to build one myself.

Having no experience with business before my internship, ConnXus helped nourish my interest in entrepreneurship, especially in the startup field. I learned that with a startup, there are many moving parts at once and one wrong move can lead to its demise. ConnXus understood the value in recognizing the needs and interests of the customers early on in order to produce the most effective product.

One of the most valuable things ConnXus taught me was the importance of being flexible and open to change. What appears to be a great idea to some may not be the most viable or efficient option. Through council and feedback and despite challenges, ConnXus has overcome obstacles and continues to grow every day. The team’s endurance to exceed expectations helps reminds me that not only are my team and I working to build a company from scratch, but we are also creating a product that will help people in many ways.

ConnXus: How many employees does LingoHop currently employ?

DH: Michael Ashley is the president and CEO of Lingohop. He is the original founder of the company and primarily oversees brand development, product development, and all financial models, including fundraising the capital to bring Lingohop to life.

Tsavo Knott is the vice president and is spearheading the technical development of Lingohop, such as program design, programming, and SEO/SEM marketing planning.

Ramón Padilla-Reyes, a PhD candidate for Hispanic linguistics, is our director of Hispanic linguistics. Ramón’s research background is utilized to develop the methodology behind Lingohop and the content to make it happen. With his help, we’ve been able to create a user experience that is backed by years of scientific research, unlike many of our competitors. Our dynamic team is coming together to create the language-learning experience that will connect people across the world.

As Chief Product Officer, I work mainly on content development. We are slowly pacing out content inside of a beta version of LingoHop, and we are hoping to complete this phase within the first quarter of 2016.

ConnXus: Starting a business is very time-consuming. What are your main priorities during these early, critical stages of LingoHop?

DH: Most of our time is split between two main projects. First, we’re dedicating a lot of time to preparing for our crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. We plan to utilize the amazing community behind Kickstarter this April to help bring Lingohop to life. Second, we’re seeing a majority of our time spent towards beta development. We’re working hard to put the proper design, code and content behind Lingohop to get it in the hands of eager users before the next holiday season.

ConnXus: What distinguishes Lingohop from other language apps?

DH: Most language-learning programs offer an age-old approach to learning. Lingohop will transcend this norm by providing a platform in which the user is placed at the center of the experience. People will not only be able to learn at their own pace, but also in a completely personalized environment. The needs of a traveling business person, for example, are completely different those than a group of students backpacking abroad. We’ve designed Lingohop to not only recognize those differences, but to make them the foundation of your experience. At the end of the day, however, we’re simply trying to do our part to connect the world by creating an experience that is more than just a language.

ConnXus: What advice can you offer other millennial, prospective entrepreneurs?

DH: My best advice would be to not rush the process. It’s definitely important to keep goals and do your best to reach them but plans will almost never work out as you expect. It’s important to remember that you are trying to build a business so there are a multitude of moving parts at play from the company name to legal actions. Try and find a great mentor that will help with the process and to verify that all bases are covered to create a solid foundation for a successful start-up.

Lingohop was recently mentioned in a Huffington Post article. Select to read the full article

ConnXus Spreads Global Wings with ITC Translations

As ConnXus continues to expand international software product offerings, ITC Translations recently partnered with us to provide high-quality Spanish and Portuguese language translation services. 

The global translations company’s headquarters in Lyon, France was founded in 1999, with additional office locations in Canada and Jupiter, Fla.—a suburb of Palm Beach. ITC Translations is a certified woman-owned business enterprise (WBE) and today they employ 35 staff members.

Companies in need of translation services range from technical manual writing to translating niche marketing communication rhetoric. ITC touts their ability to tailor to their clients’ specialized requests in technical, medical, marketing, software, tourism, agricultural, food and legal realms.

“What makes ITC unique are our Linguistics Resources Managers—these linguistic experts thoroughly test each translations team by performing monthly evaluations of each translator to make sure the quality of work meets our high standards,” explains Callie Holt, Business development representative.

Project management technologies paired with an expert team of dedicated multi-linguists all contribute to ITC client satisfaction.

On Partnering with Small and Diverse Suppliers

Holt concurs, “We love the opportunity to collaborate with other diverse businesses. We are able to tailor our services better as we have ample occasions to get to know our clients better than in a corporate structure. We currently partner with minority-owned voice-over and dubbing companies, as well as a woman-owned publishing and design firm.”

Considerable benefits to working with small and diverse service providers include quick, more flexible and innovative results.

As a small, supplier diversity company and certified minority-owned business, ConnXus strives to bolster diverse business partnerships. ITC Translations equips ConnXus with undoubted confidence as our software flourishes in new languages and international markets. 

WBE’s Go Above and Beyond in Supplier Diversity

SHARE YOUR STORY 2nd PLACE WINNER: Evolution creative solutions

Cincinnati-based creative and printing company, Evolution creative solutions, is a certified woman-owned business (WBE) that has reaped myriad benefits from supplier diversity opportunities while giving back to local WBE communities.

Cathy Lindemann, president of Evolution creative solutions, attests to the innumerable growth and opportunity that supplier diversity has offered to her business, her personal growth, employees and extended community.


The impact that supplier diversity has afforded my company is insurmountable—not only in the way of gaining contracts, but the knowledge, experiences and increased opportunities that otherwise would have been left in the dark.

Being a part of a supplier diversity program has provided opportunities for me from networking to growth, to giving back and everything in between. The benefits have benn vast and continue to expand.

On My Growth as a Woman Entrepreneur

Since becoming part of a supplier diversity program, I have grown tremendously as a leader while expanding my knowledge base not only about successful business leadership but also on managing more efficient business operations. The increase in my confidence and leadership skills has helped me recognize my company’s strengths and weaknesses, and equipped me with the tools to improve the weaknesses and leverage the strengths. The ample networking opportunities have allowed me to interact with and learn from a variety of new businesses and diverse business leaders, whom I otherwise might not have met.

On Growing my Business

Supplier diversity has significantly impacted the financial success, operations efficiencies, and unique niche of Evolution creative solutions. Not only has supplier diversity streamlined our business procedures, but it has revolutionized the ways in which we market our product offerings to new markets. Because of the increase in audience reach, our small business has experience an outstanding growth in revenue.

On Creating a Positive Work Culture

Additionally, supplier diversity has positively impacted my employees. Through supplier diversity, they’ve been offered better benefits, and more opportunities for personal and professional growth. As a result, our team has grown closer and increased our growing culture of positivity, giving employees a newfound sense of pride, equality and empowerment through leading.

On Giving Back to the WBE Community

I have become a mentor to other women-owned businesses, specifically during the WBE-certification process. Once they are certified, I help them narrow down which events and networking opportunities are best suited for their specific needs. Furthermore, Evolution creative solutions has made financial donations to other WBE’s and small businesses to help them succeed. Recently I have bolstered partnerships with small businesses in the Roselawn community in Cincinnati, OH, to create pro bono marketing materials which will directly benefit the surrounding communities.

The possibilities are endless with a supplier diversity program and the benefits exceed far beyond financial success. The knowledge, growth and culture enhancement is too great to put into words!

Select for Share Your Story first place winner: netlogx