NMSDC 2016 Conference

12 Company Booths to Visit at the 2016 NMSDC Conference

It’s that time of year again! The NMSDC Conference will be held October 23-26 in Chicago. The conference will showcase the nation’s largest forum in support of supplier diversity. The following companies will be part of the P&G Community of Partners at the 2016 NMSDC Conference. P&G launched this program to further advance education about supplier diversity amongst suppliers, consumers, and partners while driving greater connections between prospective diverse suppliers and P&G’s supplier network. Read more

Supplier Diversity Raises up 21st Century Expo Group

ConnXus Share Your Story Series


Rayford McFarland, CEO of 21st Century Expo Group

Supplier Diversity may mean different things based on who you are and how it impacts your existence. What supply diversity means to me is that it provides a means to develop the resources and relationships that companies, large and small, need to help level the field of competition, social responsibility, and community development for the greater good and success it brings to American families and their communities.

Since our founding in 1991, 21st-Century Expo Group, Inc. (21stCEG) has participated in various initiatives established by government, corporate, and professional sports organizations. They have served as a part of our unique niche that has kept us viable and relevant to our client base over the past 25 years.

Most critically our association with the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) and my local council, The Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council (CRMSDC) have been strong supporters and catalyst for 21stCEG’s growth in the trade show and special events industry.

After the tragedy of 9-11 and the 2008 Great Recession, the industry and our clients suffered a dramatic downturn that affected our very survival.

To endure the downturn, we depended heavily on NMSDC and CRMSDC to continue building our business while taking the necessary steps to maintain financial and operational efficiencies.

Starting in 2010, we were able to create a model of sustainability including sales, marketing, and business development trajectory that dramatically improved our financial and operational success. In 2012 we were selected to receive The CRMSDC’s Supplier Of The Year Class II Award. That same year we won the contract to produce Major League Baseball’s Inaugural Diversity Business Summit in Chicago. Things were clearly looking up.

During the NMSDC Annual Conference in Denver, 21st Century Expo Group received its 2013 National Supplier of the Year Class II Award to our delight. That award represented the accumulation of support and assistance received from our clients and the supplier diversity professionals in their organizations.

Since receiving these awards, we have been able to create a new course of success that continues today. We are now the only African-American women owned and operated general service contractor in the nation. Our client list now includes organizations such as Google, Time Warner, McDonald’s, Centene Corporation, Major League Baseball and of course ConnXus.

In addition we’ve been able to move into a new warehouse facility, double our minority staff, and establish our Project Expo Initiative. This initiative is designed to provide personal growth development and employment opportunities for unemployed young African-American men from the underserved communities in Washington DC and Maryland.


Through our relationship with Major League Baseball’s Supplier Diversity and Inclusion office, we recently presented 21stCEG’s services to the Diversity in Inclusion Sports Consortium (DISC) that consist of representatives from the NFL, NBA, NASCAR, US Olympic Committee, US Tennis Association, and Major and Minor League Baseball.

For 21stCEG, none of this would’ve been possible without the existence, support, and continued efforts of NMSDC, CRMSDC, corporations, and minority businesses working together collectively to achieve the American Dream.

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Every Step is a Step

Connxus Share Your Story


2016 ConnXus Cares Share Your Story 3rd place winner, Way To Be, a promotional product and uniform supplier shares their philosophy of “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 supplier member since 2011, Way To Be continuously seeks strategic opportunities through the ConnXus opportunity finder and bid-match notifications, and also pass along fitting opportunities to MBE’s within their network.

Way To Be’s top services, branded merchandise and apparel, uniforms, and turnkey ecommerce 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 was one of four Bay Area companies to provide products in the 2015 year Super Bowl.

Congratulations, Way To Be, on placing 3rd in the 2016 ConnXus Share Your Story campaign!

‘Kam’s Kettle Cooked’ Finds an Open Door in Supplier Diversity

ConnXus Share Your Story Series

Kams Kettle Kooked: Kam Owner 

I’m Nancy Kam, an artisan sauce manufacturer for Kam’s Kettle Cooked that launched back in early 2014. Shortly after I incorporated, I joined the Specialty Food Association and rolled out at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. Meanwhile, we had already received our WBENC Certification as a Women’s Business Enterprise, which I knew may come in handy when trying to get the attention of buyers.

Entering into the grocery game is not an easy thing, especially for a small company such as Kam’s with limited financial resources. Most everyone in the industry warned us that it could take years to gain shelf space in a major grocer, and the best thing was to stick with small local specialty food retailers. Well, that’s not actually how it went, and as for me, I don’t ever do anything half rate, I like to shoot straight for the top, avoiding the path of least resistance and blaze my own trail.

After considerable sales efforts, trade shows and banging on doors of major grocery chains, we got a break, a buyer at The Kroger Co. had received some product information about Kam’s from the Kroger Diversity Division. And, that little push from diversity, in combination with our all-natural product attributes, gave us the boost we needed to get further reviewed by the buyers. Actually, in 2015 we ended up going on the shelves of over 1,425 Kroger Stores nationally, and in total are now in over 1,700 retailers including Safeway.

Recently, we have been looking to expand our products into the food service channel. Of course, being who I am, I had to contact one of the largest restaurant chains in the nation and who did I ask for? The Supplier Diversity Division, and after talking at length with the rep, got a promise for an appointment at corporate headquarters with a buyer. I did get that meeting, and they loved our sauces, as a matter of fact they now want us to return and present to their chefs in product development!

Kam's Kettle Cooked Logo: Making Food Taste Better

Many of the larger companies these days have committed to continually increasing their diversified vendor base, after all, in our case, we have a higher quality, healthier product, at a competitive price and everything is made in America. In addition, Kam’s is sustainable for the local economy where we buy our produce and are packed. So, every time I attempt a sales call, I ask for Supplier Diversity…I’m proud to have come from such humble beginnings and have the opportunities afforded us. Kam’s Chili Sauce is a comfort food that brings me back to my childhood… harvest season, the aroma of tomatoes and chili’s cooking in a stove-top kettle.

Old fashioned, home-cooked foods tell a story about people and their families, and our products do just that. Kam’s “Authentic American” Chili Sauce started out exactly where it all began at home, in my great grandmother’s kitchen in Buffalo, NY. Now, 100 years later, our recipe is exactly the same with the taste of home-style goodness!

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The 8 Questions Small Business Owners Should Ask When Seeking Capital


Publishing Note: We’re pleased to introduce 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.


Since 2007, The Business Backer, a Greater Cincinnati-based company, has helped thousands of small businesses across the country secure the financing they need to thrive. Their area of expertise includes factoring B2B invoices into cash, purchase and specialty financing, equipment leasing and help accessing traditional loans and lines of credit.

The 8 Questions Small Business Owners Should Ask When Seeking Capital

Just like we need water, oxygen, Netflix, and other basic human necessities to survive and thrive, you need capital for your business. From covering payroll during a lull in business to capitalizing on an opportunity to expand, working capital is essential to your livelihood. While the importance of working capital has remained the same for decades, accessing it through traditional means has changed dramatically.

It wasn’t more than ten years ago that you could pop in to your local bank, talk to your banker and access the capital you needed in a few weeks. Unfortunately, times have changed. The economic collapse of 2008 resulted in a regulatory environment with an even more conservative approach to commercial lending, and the sector that has taken the brunt of this conservatism is small business. While market conditions are slowly improving for small business, it is still an uphill battle.

Read more here.

Reshoring Opens Opportunities for Diverse Suppliers


Rosemary Coates, Founder of Blue Silk Consulting (WBE) and The Reshoring Institute, recently shared insightful information with ConnXus regarding reshoring initiatives and the opportunities it presents for diverse suppliers, including woman-owned, minority owned and veteran-owned businesses. Learn more about how The Reshoring Institute supports the diversification of US supply chains in this guest blog authored by Ms. Rosemary Coates.

A recent study by the Boston Consulting Group found that 54% of companies over $1 billion in revenue are reshoring their production now or at least considering it. Reshoring is the process of bringing manufacturing back to the US – the opposite of offshoring. While there are a lot of news articles and people talking about reshoring, there are very few resources to help companies through the process. The US Department of Commerce offers ACE, an analysis tool for evaluating your reshoring program, and there are other organizations doing some work in this area, but it is not enough for most companies to complete a Reshoring project.

To fill this gap, Blue Silk Consulting and the University of San Diego established The Reshoring Institute, a 501c3 Non-profit organization. The Reshoring Institute is organized under the umbrella of the University of San Diego Supply Chain Management Institute, to provide research and support for companies trying to bring manufacturing and services back to America. This research may include things like site comparisons, tax incentives available, science and math education available by area, marketing and PR and cost comparison development. The Reshoring Institute Directors oversee and guide this reshoring research and support work, using graduate student interns from the University.

The Reshoring Institute has a dual purpose:

  • To provide support and research for companies trying to reshore manufacturing to the US
  • To educate students about manufacturing in America

The University of San Diego was chosen for this collaboration because of its strong programs in global supply chain management, its proximity to Mexico and production that could return from there, availability of graduate-level interns and its very active Supply Chain Management Institute.

The ConnXus Connection

As companies reshore production, they must also rebuild their supply base in the US. During the past 25 years, production has moved offshore and supporting suppliers have followed. Whole industries such as furniture, apparel and footwear and plastics left in the 1990s and 2000s, but are now starting to come back. Rebuilding a supporting supply base is a non-trivial task and can easily take a year or more. This presents a grand opportunity for woman-owned businesses, small businesses and disadvantaged suppliers. The doors are open to new ideas and new suppliers.

To discover new Reshoring opportunities, suppliers should:

  • Be alert for news articles about companies that are reshoring
  • Stay in touch with local and state Economic Development organizations – these people are usually the first to know about new businesses in their area
  • Subscribe to the Reshoring Institute’s Quarterly Newsletter (www.ReshoringInstitute.org)
  • Visit the Reshoring Institute’s on-line free library of articles on Reshoring and other research

The future is bright with pathways to bringing manufacturing back to America and supporting these efforts with American suppliers.

About the Author

Ms. Coates is the Executive Director of the Reshoring Institute and the President of Blue Silk Consulting, a WBE Global Supply Chain consulting firm. She is a best-selling author of: 42 Rules for Sourcing and Manufacturing in China and 42 Rules for Superior Field Service and The Reshoring Guidebook. Ms. Coates lives in Silicon Valley and has worked with over 80 clients worldwide. She is also an Expert Witness for legal cases involving global supply chain matters. She is passionate about reshoring. 

​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 shareyourstory@connxus.com 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.

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

Share Your Story 1st Place Winner: netlogx

Nine diverse suppliers submitted their supplier diversity stories in the first-ever ConnXus Share Your Story blog campaign.  Three judges determined three winners based off the suppliers’ history with supplier diversity, community impact and relationship with other diverse suppliers in their own business. This year’s judges included Tamara Lang, Program Manager for Women Excel Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber; Sheila Mixon, Senior VP of Business Development for Greater Cincinnati Urban League and Executive Director of ORV-WBE; Debra Quade, Kellogg’s Manager of Supplier Diversity. 

netlogx, an information risk management service provider based in Indianapolis, IN, is the first place winner of the ConnXus Share Your Story blog campaign.


Once upon a time, a determined young lady traveled across the pond from England to America seeking employment and a grand adventure. As this story unfolds, months slip into years and her new-found city, friends and work feel like home. She stays, and the story of netlogx begins.

Through the nearly 18 years since netlogx first opened its doors, CEO, Audrey Taylor has remained constant in her commitment to fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion. As a direct reflection, she and the team embrace the spirit of diversity in the workplace and through our supplier diversity program, Diverse by Design, which is reflected in our core values and position of our leadership. Our goal is to provide a culture of excellence and inclusion that is demonstrated with our commitment to all employees. We believe that an inclusive culture is one that recognizes and respects differences and actively seeks participation with diverse suppliers which delivers value and drives innovation for our clients.

As diversity is woven into the very fabric of the organization, leadership serves as strong advocates at every level. netlogx has created a Diverse by Design committee that is fully committed and supportive of initiatives which include increased participation in all facets of the company’s goals and planning, ongoing education and strategic community involvement. This is reflected in our senior management which is 88% diverse and includes minorities and women. Additionally, over 50 % of our team members are women.

Diverse suppliers are integral to our 360 degree approach to participation. netlogx purchases over 60% of our goods and services from minority and women-owned firms. We have also developed processes to identify and partner with diverse companies such as our self on potential business opportunities in an effort to fuel economic growth and build long-lasting partnerships.

As a direct result of our supplier diversity registration efforts we secured a contract with a public utility company. We have engaged and continue to seek utilization of MWVBEs on contracts as well as having served as a WBE on several contracts. Not only is it the right thing to do but we have also seen the economic benefit.

Strengthening relationships with Minority, Women and Veteran-owned businesses (XBEs) in the community through promotion and active participation with organizations and companies that strive to maximize opportunities for XBEs has resulted in countless and unimaginable gifts. Our involvement with organizations such as NAWBO, WBENC, MNSDC, city and state programs and company supplier diversity programs has increased awareness and served to elevate our partners, diverse companies and all of those squarely committed to supplier diversity.

In May 2015, netlogx was selected as a Top 5 finalist in the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) National’s “No Small Thing” video contest highlighting the one thing that’s contributed most to their business success. The video conveys our story and how diversity has helped build netlogx into a successful and caring firm that is Diverse by Design. Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NszoenzRWqM