Tips on starting a supplier diversity relationship

Breakfast with Brands: Food, Food Services and Retail with Kellogg Company, Wal-Mart Canada, Sodexo and Aramark.

Breakfast with Brands - Foood, Food Services and Retail

Major corporations throughout North America are interested in doing business with certified diverse suppliers. That message came across loud and clear at the January 21st, Breakfast with Brands. When asked they show up, give advice and answer questions to help women-owned businesses succeed.

Breakfast with Brands panel

Experts panel with supplier diversity professionals included:
Debra Quade, Manager, Supplier Diversity, Kellogg Company
Derek Bartlett, Category Manager Consumables, Wal-Mart Canada
Stephanie K. Fontaine, Supply Management Value Team, Supplier Diversity Lead, Sodexo Canada

Constantly looking for the next best ideas? Who are the best suppliers/allies they can get for their journey?

Debra Quade revealed that the Kellogg Company has a very developed supplier diversity program. Kellogg’s program is unique, as Debra covers all of North America so their buyers do not differeniate between USA and Canadian Suppliers. They are more interested in whether they have their certifications than which side of the border they are on. They are proud to be part of and give support to Canadian organizations like WBE Canada, GLCC and CAMSC whenever possible.

“We are part of the community in which we do business, obviously we can’t do business with everyone, but we do business with everyone we can and we work to make sure those opportunities are there.” ~ D. Quade, Kellogg Company

Derek Bartlett shared that while his main priority is ensuring Walmart has quality products on the shelves that meet the needs of customers at the right prices, the roles of their buyers go above and beyond that. He regularly attends events like WBE Canada’s Breakfast with Brands to help facilitate and really empower small businesses, or even established businesses in understanding how today’s retail landscape is changing and how millennials and social media are impacting business at Wal-Mart Canada. He emphasized that Walmart takes its social obligations and responsibilities to the community it serves seriously and actively partners with businesses to help them understand what it takes to move their business forward within Walmart. With both a buyer and supplier background he understands the struggles many businesses face and he encourages potential suppliers to ask questions which is one thing he doesn’t see a lot of.

“Many suppliers come in with a plan already as opposed to asking more questions as to how they could be a good fit with our business.” ~ D. Bartlett, Wal-Mart Canada.

In what she describes as a role that fits with her life and beliefs, Stephanie Fontaine is passionate about supplier diversity at Sodexo. They approach buying and suppliers from a slightly different angle to other organizations and for the past 2 years have managed these roles through functions, as opposed to categories.

As part of the Supply Management Value Team her group does the initial evaluations prior to the Sourcing Team. By structuring this way they have removed the silos of categories and have really been able to take advantage of a more collaborative model. As a result Sodexo finds it gets more constructive feedback and the end value for the company is better.

Looking to start a supplier relationship, the panel shared these tips:

  1. Get a meeting, don’t be late and come prepared
  2. Do the leg work. Come prepared to show us about how you can make a difference in our business and how you are going to differentiate yourself from what is already on our shelves. (Do your background on our business, go into our stores, learn about our customers. Why would we change from an incumberant? Learn how our customers shop.)
  3. Find an individual within an organization to answer your questions, you’ll learn about our culture too
  4. Find out how individual buyers like to be contacted
  5. Stay patient, if you have called and sent an email – wait we will get back to you. Don’t turn your passion into aggression
  6. Coming to events to meet us, but be prepared – use google. Start your conversations from a knowledge stand point.
  7. Make sure your materials are well branded and consistent. What does it say about your ability to work with us when you have white out on your business cards. Your cards, flyers, websites should be professional and reflect your brand.
  8. Know your compeititors, and how you are different
  9. Attending events can be very effective for marketing your business

Debra also shared that events like WBE Canada’s Breakfast with Brands can be very effective for marketing your business, and encouraged attendees to listen to the recent webinar where a WBE and Kellogg Company success story was shared.

Thank you to everyone who joined us especially Aramark, Kellogg’s, Walmart, Sodexo who came to meet women-owned business. Special thank you to Kellogg’s for sponsoring this event and making it possible.

Kellogg Company:


Wal-Mart Canada team in action:

Wal-mart Canada