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  • Supplier diversity: How SMEs are tapping into major supply chains

Supplier diversity: How SMEs are tapping into major supply chains

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Sometimes the biggest challenge is just getting started. 

“Many companies I work with don’t even realize they’re a business of diversity, so they aren’t aware of all the opportunities that exist and where they fit in.”   
Karen Williams, Export Development Executive at Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI), has been working with Nova Scotia companies for many years, helping them export around the world. Currently, Karen’s focus is on businesses of diversity, preparing them for major supply chain opportunities. There is a new wave of potential for diverse businesses, and supplier diversity has now become a sector in and of itself.  

Businesses of diversity aren't alone in their business journey. NSBI is here to help.

Businesses of diversity are defined as at least 51% owned and operated by Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, LGBT+, veterans, visible minorities, and women. As Karen shares, “Businesses can be from any sector, and any size, but it’s also a sector on its own. There are conferences, shows and events dedicated to supplier diversity, and building relationships through these events is very important. Like any opportunity, it takes time and commitment, but the opportunities are very real.” 

Up until recent years, the growth of supplier diversity among Canadian companies had been sluggish. Today, we’re seeing a new emphasis placed on supplier diversity, thanks to government commitments and corporate initiatives. Approximately 40% of Canadian-headquartered organizations have supplier diversity programs, and the number is expected to grow over the next five years as the Canadian federal government commits more procurement dollars to businesses of diversity. 

Last November, NSBI led a trade mission of Nova Scotia companies to attend their first supplier diversity event in Toronto - ‘Connect, Collaborate, Succeed 2018’. It was an opportunity to network, meet corporates, and realize the opportunities ahead. In April 2019, another eight companies will head back to Toronto to attend the ‘Diversity Procurement Fair’, presented by the Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council, and ‘Breakfast with Brands’, presented by Women Business Enterprises Canada.  

“When businesses finally get in front of a corporate who can assist them in breaking into a multinational corporation, they have that ‘a-ha!’ moment and realize this is an opportunity that can really work for them,” shares Karen. 
It’s important to note that supplier diversity has nothing to do with preferential treatment or corporate social responsibility. Businesses still need to be highly competitive to secure contracts with large companies, they need to bring strong value to the table, and they need to work hard to build relationships. As a result, buyers are truly seeing value in diverse suppliers, realizing cost savings, achieving efficiencies, and collaborating on new, innovative ideas. 

As Karen advises, it's all about putting in the time and effort. “It’s a sector unto itself and an export opportunity. Like any opportunity, you need to put in the work.” 

Could Supplier Diversity programs work for your business? Watch our video to learn more and reach out to Karen.

Whether it's providing advice, helping with a business plan, or leading a trade mission, Karen can help you tap into the opportunities of supplier diversity programs.