Supplier Spotlight: Evolution creative solutions

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This month, the President of Cincinnati-based WBE-certified Evolution creative solutions’ spoke with ConnXus on behalf of their 21-year-old commercial printing supplier services. Since its launch in 1994, Evolution has been recognized for their award-winning print services for clients such as AAA, Anthem, St. Elizabeth Healthcare and University of Louisville. Evolution has been a ConnXus+ member since 2010.

Holding customer branding to the highest of standards, Evolution is notably the only commercial printer in Ohio and Kentucky with an all-encompassing seven-color digital press that can print on 3000+ substrates including plastics, wood and thick stock.

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Cathy Lindemann, President of Evolution creative solutions, proudly stands behind her creative team as she tells her story about becoming a majority owner of the company. She says, “In 2004, I was teaching high school chemistry and working part-time in various departments at Evolution (KPB at the time), and not too long after I joined the team, the CEO asked me to start lending a hand in running the company.” Honored by this offer, Lindemann accepted and began to make positive innovations for the company. “I knew I wanted the company to offer more than just printing services. I took a risk, changed the name to Evolution creative solutions to more accurately reflect the vast majority of creative services we offer, and it paid off.”

Since then, the firm has expanded their in-house printing services to include promotional products such as apparel, embroidery and direct-to-garment printing, as well as other creative solutions like graphic design and brand curation. Lindemann tells her clients, “If your logo is on it—we can produce it!”

The company’s new state-of-the-art even-color digital press has full capabilities to print vast breadth of colors to ensure that each customer’s brand is consistent with their style guide. Additionally, the company prints on a wide format machine that offers white and silver printing. Lindemann elaborates, “The blend of the two machines allows our creative team to confidently match products across all customer’s desired marketing pieces.”

Evolution’s work has been recognized by the following prestigious industry awards:

 

For more information on Evolution’s creative solutions, please visit http://www.evo-creative.com

 

 

 

 

Are you at ConnXus+ member? Interested in featuring your company in the Supplier Spotlight blog? Contact ConnXus Marketing Coordinator, Shannon Frohme at shannon@connxus.com

Supplier Spotlight: Way To Be

ConnXus+ member, and promotional product and uniform supplier, Way To Be, recently shared with us their philosophy on “every step is a step” and how they were able to gain contracts with Fortune 500 companies like McDonald’s and Autodesk.

The Way To Be founders, Wayne Beasley and Alan McIntosh, go way back—over 25 years to be exact— as entrepreneurially-spirited colleagues at a McDonald’s Corporation accounting center. Their determination to start a business of their own– coupled with a passion for serving customers with enduring care– led the two young colleagues to form their company, Way To Be, in Hayward, California, in 1993.

“We started off selling T-shirts out of our trunks, our office was in an actual garage, and today we’ve grown to become a supplier of high volume promotional merchandise, apparel and uniforms to mid-large size companies,” reflects Beasley.

Today the promotional products and uniforms company is certified as a Small, Local and Emerging Business (SLEB) in Alameda County, CA, a California Unified Certification Program Disadvantaged Business Enterprise(DBE), and a Western Regional Minority Supplier Development Council (WRMSDC) Minority Business Enterprise(MBE). View Way to Be’s complete list of certifications here.

Back in 2004, Way To Be scored a major contracting milestone when they partnered with McDonald’s Corporation to supply the Mcdonald’s national uniforms program. McIntosh reflects, “The addition of the program significantly grew our sales, increased our purchasing power with larger volumes, and diversified our business beyond merchandise and apparel. We grew from a promotions company into a sophisticated custom uniforms company.”

This breakthrough in their company’s history loops back to their humbling company philosophy thatevery step is a step. “While we have certainly reached some major milestones, we’re most grateful for the small accomplishments that ultimately generate the big wins, such as wow-ing our customers, never settling and taking care of our community and teammates,” says McIntosh.

A ConnXus+ member since 2011, Way To Be continuously seeks strategic opportunities through the ConnXus opportunity finder and bid-match notifications, and also passes along fitting opportunities to MBE’s within their network.

Way To Be’s top services, branded merchandise and apparel, uniforms, and turnkey e-commerce company store solutions, have been recognized twice by NMSDC Supplier of the Year Award (2011 and 2013). Additionally, the promotional company won the 2014 Teamwork Award, as well as the 2014 Inclusion and Diversity Award from McDonald’s Supply Chain. Way To Be has also been selected as one of four Bay Area companies to provide products for this year’s Super Bowl.

To Do:

Find out more about ConnXus+.

Are you already a ConnXus+ member? Contact us if you have great news and would like to be featured in an upcoming Supplier Spotlight.

Supplier Spotlight: Way To Be

ConnXus+ member, and promotional product and uniform supplier, Way To Be, recently shared with us their philosophy on “every step is a step” and how they were able to gain contracts with Fortune 500 companies like McDonald’s and Autodesk.

The Way To Be founders, Wayne Beasley and Alan McIntosh, go way back—over 25 years to be exact— as entrepreneurially-spirited colleagues at a McDonald’s Corporation accounting center. Their determination to start a business of their own — coupled with a passion for serving customers with enduring care — led the two young colleagues to form their company, Way To Be, in Hayward, California, in 1993.

“We started off selling T-shirts out of our trunks, our office was in an actual garage, and today we’ve grown to become a supplier of high volume promotional merchandise, apparel and uniforms to mid-large size companies,” reflects Beasley.

Today the promotional products and uniforms company is certified as a Small, Local and Emerging Business (SLEB) in Alameda County, CA, a California Unified Certification Program Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), and a Western Regional Minority Supplier Development Council (WRMSDC) Minority Business Enterprise (MBE). View Way to Be’s complete list of certifications here.

Back in 2004, Way To Be scored a major contracting milestone when they partnered with McDonald’s Corporation to supply the Mcdonald’s national uniforms program. McIntosh reflects, “The addition of the program significantly grew our sales, increased our purchasing power with larger volumes, and diversified our business beyond merchandise and apparel. We grew from a promotions company into a sophisticated custom uniforms company.” 

This breakthrough in their company’s history loops back to their humbling company philosophy that every step is a step. “While we have certainly reached some major milestones, we’re most grateful for the small accomplishments that ultimately generate the big wins, such as wow-ing our customers, never settling and taking care of our community and teammates,” says McIntosh.

A ConnXus+ member since 2011, Way To Be continuously seeks strategic opportunities through the ConnXus opportunity finder and bid-match notifications, and also passes along fitting opportunities to MBE’s within their network.

Way To Be’s top services, branded merchandise and apparel, uniforms, and turnkey e-commerce company store solutions, have been recognized twice by NMSDC Supplier of the Year Award (2011 and 2013). Additionally, the promotional company won the 2014 Teamwork Award, as well as the 2014 Inclusion and Diversity Award from McDonald’s Supply Chain. Way To Be has also been selected as one of four Bay Area companies to provide products for this year’s Super Bowl. 

To Do:

Find out more about ConnXus+

Are you already a ConnXus+ member? Contact us if you have great news and would like to be featured in an upcoming Supplier Spotlight.

​Suppliers: Have you signed into the new ConnXus?

We would like to share some exciting news with you! To better serve your needs, we have launched a new and improved web portal. Effective 10/1/15, you must begin using the new website, as the current portal will no longer be available.

As a registered user within our current site, please visit our new site as soon as possible to review/update your company and user information. Please follow the steps below to review/update your profile:

If you are ConnXus+

  1. Go to ConnXus.com and click on “My Account” or go to https://mysuppliernetwork.com
  2. Log into the Portal using your existing login ID and password
  3. The first time you log in, the system will send you an email requiring you to reset your password. (If you don’t receive the password reset email check your spam, and make sure support@connxus.com is on your safe sender list.)
  4. Review and/or update your company profile
  5. Click ‘Update Profile’ once finished

If you are not ConnXus+

If you are not ConnXus+, you will have to create a new user account. Due to technical challenges, some user accounts were unable to be transferred into the new system.

Questions?

If you have any questions about the new portal, please contact us atsupport@connxus.com. We will be live demoing the new site for suppliers, tomorrow Sept. 16 at 1 p.m. EST. You can sign up for the webinar below.

SIGN UP

A recording of the webinar will available for anyone who cannot attend.

Sincerely,

The Team at ConnXus

ConnXus feels the #startupcincy love on Social Media

After the Cincinnati Business Courier wrote about TechStars leading our $2.5 million funding round, the kudos came from all corners of over social media. Take a look at some of our favorites!

Staff Member Spotlight: Carrie Hawkins

Carrie Hawkins brings a strong background of leadership and team-building to the ConnXus team. As the newest Account Manager, starting in March 2015, Hawkins secures new business, maintains day-to-day client affairs, and sustains long-term customer relations. Carrie has proved to be an ongoing learner who actively seeks challenges to improve her professional development.

“Since I have joined the ConnXus team, I have been engaged and empowered not only by ConnXus executives, but by the entire staff. Both Rod Robinson, CEO and Founder, and Daryl Hammett, COO, have enabled my full potential allowing me to leverage my strengths and unique perspectives. Overall I really enjoy the feeling of being simultaneously valued and challenged to step outside of my comfort zone,” says Hawkins.

In five short months she has plunged into the supplier diversity space, turning heads at major Fortune 500 companies and forming collaborative relationships and partnerships at both the NBA and Procter and Gamble. 

Carrie Hawkins will be attending the 2015 National Minority Supplier Diversity Council (NMSDC) Conference in San Diego, CA, Oct. 18-21. 

Connect with Carrie on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Supplier Spotlight: GFG Asset Management

 

Duane Garth, Chief Investment Officer of GFG Asset Management, a Michigan Minority Supplier Diversity Council (MMSDC) certified minority-owned business, recently spoke with ConnXus.

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Founded in 2008, GFG Asset Management is a ConnXus+ member of two years. The company is based in Southfield, Michigan, a suburb of the reviving city of Detroit. With over 20 years of experience in the investment industry, including 12 years as a Merrill Lynch executive and six years as the founder of wealth management group, Garth Financial Group, Duane Garth brings a longstanding history of financial trust to GFG clients.

The asset management firm specializes in strategically selecting publicly traded small- and medium-sized companies for investor portfolios. These companies typically have a market cap of less than $20 billion in assets.

To ensure enterprise clients that their portfolios are being closely monitored, GFG holds the stocks until one or more of the following events occur, Garth tells ConnXus:

1. The price of the stock reaches the target price, set by the investor and GFG.

2. The price of the stock is overvalued versus what the industry indicates.

3. An extraordinary occurrence that causes the performance of the stock to drop.

Garth also has several recommendations for corporate entities or high net-worth individuals looking to work with an investment advisor. Most importantly, be sure to research the firm’s performance track record, as well the individual that will manage your portfolio. Look for a good fit between the firm’s management style and your own. For example, if you’re looking to invest internationally, find a firm that specializes and has a trusted track record in that specific cap space in order to maximize long-term capital growth.

On a similar note, Garth highly suggests, “Be sure to know the individual portfolio manager’s strength in order to have confidence in what added values they’ll bring to the table when managing your pension plans, bonds and/or real estate.”

Select for May’s Supplier Spotlight: The Deciding Factor

Staff Member Spotlight: ConnXus West Coast

 

As Tim Scruta approaches his 2nd year anniversary with ConnXus, we’d like to shine the spotlight on our Product Services Manager as he settles into the new ConnXus Portland office. Before working with ConnXus, he was a student at Bowling Green State University where he achieved a Bachelor of Science and Business Administration degree with a specialization in Supply Chain Management.

TimHere’s what he had to say:

What are your main responsibilities as Product Services Manager?

Scruta: For anyone who has ever worked for a start-up, you’ll understand when you walk in the office door each morning, your duties can change significantly from day today. We joke that we, the team members, wear many hats. Whether this means performing account manager duties for the afternoon, changing the water cooler or performing sales calls in order to help support one another. Aside from my many “hats”, my main responsibilities are being the product expert and providing our customers the support they need in order for them to be successful. This includes demonstrating our products, answering any product-related questions, and providing analysis on their current supplier diversity initiatives. Additionally, I am heavily involved throughout the sales and contraction process, providing the education and material our client needs.

How have your responsibilities progressed since you first started with ConnXus?

Scruta: Initially, I was hired in July 2013 to split my time between ConnXus and Rod Robinson’s other company Accel Advisors. On the ConnXus side, I was involved with the day to day customer service tasks and researching vendors as a part of the manual data validation process. For Accel Advisors, I was working as a sourcing analysis and consultant for a prominent real estate management client. On January 1st, 2014, I transitioned into a project management role with ConnXus where I was responsible for managing the scrub process from start to finish. Additionally, I was responsible for revolutionizing the scrub product from a basic flat spreadsheet to a dynamic interactive scrub Xperience for our clients. With this transition, I helped support and manage the supplier diversity program for a client within the medical industry. My main responsibilities included training the prime suppliers on how to report their tier II spend and developing strategies on how to increase our client’s supplier diversity spend. Most recently, I relocated to Portland, Oregon where I transitioned into my current role today. I am continuing my previous responsibilities along with creating brand awareness and selling the ConnXus Xperience.

What should existing and potential West Coast clients anticipate the most from ConnXus’ Portland expansion?

Scruta: Our existing and potential West Coast clients can anticipate industry-leading supplier diversity solutions and experience the customer-centric philosophy we pride ourselves on. Additionally, small and minority West Coast suppliers can anticipate great opportunities to work with our existing clients on the east coast, along with new clients in their backyard. Creating this bi-coastal connection within the supplier diversity space will be an exhilarating Xperience both our clients and suppliers will not want to miss.

CEO’s Desk: Driving Corporate Supplier Diversity: One Spend Category at a Time

 

Author: ConnXus Founder and CEO Rod Robinson

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When we launched ConnXus 5 years ago this month, we had no products, no customers, no supplier database to speak of, and two employees, including yours truly.

Today, we have more than a dozen employees, and our growing list of enterprise customers include some of the most recognized corporate brands on the planet. ConnXus provides a suite of technology-enabled solutions that help them better manage their supplier relationships as well as collect & manage data, track, monitor and report diversity spend activity at multiple levels of the supply chain.

The growth of our enterprise SaaS (software-as-a-service) business model has led to us building a database of nearly 2 million of the approximately 15 million diverse businesses in the United States.

But, how useful is it to have information on 2 million diverse suppliers when most major corporations only have 5,000 – 10,000 total active suppliers at any time?

This is when a new a way thinking can create change. Through our work, we’ve learned more about the many great diverse suppliers that serve our enterprise customers. Those suppliers are capable of real growth by serving even more of our customers.

Growing a Diverse Supplier Base: Pick a Category

One of our enterprise customers recently launched an initiative to increase diversity spend across numerous professional services categories including Information Technology (IT), a category worth tens of millions in annual spend. They realized that of the nearly 100 IT firms they were doing business with, only 5 were diverse.

With a database of nearly 2 million diverse suppliers across hundreds of spend categories, our IT category consists of 12 subcategories, including staff augmentation, consulting, software, information management and data services.

A quick search of the ConnXus database revealed a total 1,035 diverse IT providers nationally. After applying search filters based on our customer’s requirements, we ultimately identified nearly 300 firms qualified to do business with this specific customer, as well as for several others with similar requirements.

Our customer is now positioned to more competitively bid out IT projects to a broader set suppliers. That will ultimately lead to increased diversity spend, higher quality and lower cost.

It was truly gratifying to later learn that our enterprise customer has already started to engage with a handful of these firms regarding future opportunities. We look forward to replicating this across other high value categories. As I reflect back to the beginning of ConnXus, such value creating “ConnXions” was always the ultimate goal.

8 Questions Your Small Business Clients Should Ask When Seeking Capital: Question 1: What kind of lender are you?

 

Publishing Note: This is part one of an 8-part small business financing blog series in partnership with The Business Backer.This blog series will clear the financial fog, providing you with the tools necessary to make the best financing decision for your diverse or woman-owned small business.

Each blog will address a key question you should ask potential funders before accepting a deal. Making an informed financing decision can help you avoid the traps and find the right partner for your business.

 

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Question 1: What kind of lender are you?

Like many businesses in the world, there are lenders who work hard to deliver good solutions for their clients’ best interests, but there are others who don’t. Let’s first define these groups:

BROKERS

A broker is a third party sales office whose primary job is to bring together lenders and borrowers. Brokers find business owners in need of funding, collect their information and shop the deal to multiple funders. Seems like a good idea in theory; the business owner saves time by hiring someone else to do their research and comes out with the best deal in the market. The problem is finding a trustworthy broker who will do just that. While there are reputable brokers out there who put the business owner’s interest first, some will push deals that are much larger than the business owner originally wanted or can afford, simply to collect a larger commission. Others will conveniently leave out that they are, in fact, brokers and not direct lenders. Added commissions charged to the business owner can be as much as 20% and these are often hidden in blended invoices.

DIRECT FUNDING COMPANIES

Direct funding companies remove the middleman and work with the business owners directly for their funding needs. Direct funding companies typically offer a specific financing product built for businesses within their ideal credit box. Credit models, approved industries, deal amounts, terms and fees vary from funder to funder, which can make the search for the right product very time consuming. Compared to the lengthy paperwork and approval process required by traditional lenders, direct funding companies can typically provide approvals and funding within a matter of days with little to no paperwork.

NEW – FINANCING FACILITATOR

Facilitators are direct funding companies with the capabilities to not only provide direct funding themselves, but can also facilitate funding from partner funding companies, credit unions, banks and SBA lenders. Unlike brokers, facilitators not only have a network of partners representing the full spectrum of lending options available for their small business customers, but they also are a direct lender themselves. Facilitators evaluate the credit profile and borrowing circumstances of the small business to determine the best options. For instance, your clients may be “bankable,” just not with the bank where they currently hold their business deposits. There could be banks in other areas of the country that will welcome these clients, even if their current bank does not. By managing these partner relationships and staying up-to-date on new options and policy changes, facilitators can offer a variety of options to business owners so they can make an educated decision on their financing.

Whether your clients choose to work with a broker, direct funding company or financing facilitator, understanding who they are working with and what to expect are the first steps to finding the right financing option. Understanding their lender’s process and asking these questions before any agreement is sent can save a lot of time, headaches and money.

Stay tuned for next month’s question – What fees are involved?