Grantee Spotlight:  Greater Akron Chamber

Burton D. Morgan Foundation recently made a grant to the Greater Akron Chamber Foundation to support the Inclusion Marketplace, a platform that connects minority-owned businesses with growth opportunities.  Last week, we sat down with Robert DeJournett, Vice President, Opportunity & Inclusion and Veronica Cook-Euell, Executive Consultant, Equity & Inclusion to discuss Inclusion Marketplace efforts.

Foundation:  Tell us a little more about what the Inclusion Marketplace is and how it works.

GAC:  Developed by Greater Cleveland Partnership Equity & Inclusion, the Inclusion Marketplace is an online portal that facilitates connections between buyers and suppliers. This tool gives minority businesses (MBE’s) access to growth opportunities and helps organizations diversify their procurement spend by connecting them to our regional, diverse suppliers.

Whether you’re a buyer, a supplier or both, the Marketplace allows you to customize your user experience. Make connections, bid on projects, submit opportunities, share news about your business and so much more—all on one seamless platform.

Foundation:  How does the Inclusion Marketplace fit into the Elevate Akron plan?

GAC:  Elevate Greater Akron is a collaborative economic development plan between the City of Akron, County of Summit, GAR Foundation, and the Greater Akron Chamber. This plan focuses on five key strategies: business retention and expansion, economic inclusion, igniting innovation and startup potential, investing in urban centers and job hubs, and creating a forward-looking culture of economic development for Greater Akron.  

The economic inclusion strategy, Opportunity Akron, directly relates to the work being done with the Inclusion Marketplace. The goal of the Inclusion Marketplace is to create equal opportunity for minority and women-owned companies in Greater Akron while also increasing the awareness and engagement of the corporate community in our efforts.

Foundation:  Can you tell us who can sign up to be a supplier, and what potential impact the Inclusion Marketplace can have for them?

GAC:  All businesses that are listed as a minority/women owned or who consider themselves a minority/women owned can sign up in the Inclusion Marketplace as a supplier.  A minority-owned company is a business enterprise that is 51% or more owned or controlled by a member who is either African American, Native American, Asian or Hispanic.  In addition, a woman-owned company can also sign up as a supplier in the inclusion marketplace and the criteria to be considered a woman-owned company is 51% or more owned and controlled by a woman-owned enterprise.  Businesses must be for-profit entities. 

As a business listed as a supplier in the Inclusion Marketplace, you can expect to connect to buyers who are looking for goods or services that match your profile key words and/or profile NAICS codes.  Once a buyer posts an opportunity (contract) in the Inclusion Marketplace, a connection is made with suppliers who have indicated similar goods/service offerings.

Buyers can also post events in the Inclusion Marketplace such as information sessions, matchmaker events, meet and greet, or other opportunities to do business. Suppliers enrolled in the Inclusion Marketplace can view and attend based on the criteria of the event. 

Foundation:  Similarly, who can sign up to be a buyer, and what potential impact can the Inclusion Marketplace have for them?

GAC:  Any company looking to increase their diverse procurement efforts can sign up for the Inclusion Marketplace.

This tool will make connecting to qualified minority-owned and women-owned businesses extremely easy. The portal allows you to post your opportunities to a database of minority businesses in all types of industries. Leveraging the Inclusion Marketplace will impact your purchasing moving forward by giving you a one-stop-shop place to identify, connect, and hire minority suppliers.

Foundation:  The Inclusion Marketplace has already demonstrated success in facilitating connections between buyers and suppliers, enabling organizations to diversify their vendor base while providing revenue-generating opportunity for underrepresented businesses. Can you tell us about a successful connection that was made?

GAC:  According to a Hackett Group Report, minority-owned businesses exceed expectations 99% of the time.  With this in mind, the following are just a few successful matches that have been made in the Inclusion Marketplace:

  • More Construction successfully made a match and received a contract with the City of Akron through their listing in the Inclusion Marketplace.
  • Bearded Geek Tech received a contract with the Akron Urban League after a successful profile post in the Inclusion Marketplace.
  • Julie Brandle of Metis Construction was successful in meeting with prospective projects in the marketplace because of her listing.  Although the project never took off, Julie was excited that she was able to make meaningful connections through the power of the marketplace. 
  • The Cleveland Cavaliers identified an opportunity for marketing materials needed for a quick turnaround and they received a response from a minority-firm.  Not only did they appreciate the quick turnaround, they also appreciated the price-point and the two have been doing business ever since. This is an example of a notable corporation putting the tool to the test!
  • GAR Foundation connected with a minority contractor through the Inclusion Marketplace that left them extremely satisfied. Foundation President Christine Mayer shared, “If not for Inclusion Marketplace, I would have never found Rodney McCraney with Rodney’s MC Power Washing and Painting Services.  For years, we had been using a reliable vendor to handle the annual refinishing of our porch.  But in the interest of diversity, we were looking to make changes.  I found Rodney on Inclusion Marketplace, called him, interviewed him, and man – a golden nugget if ever there was one!  He stripped, sanded, refinished, and stained our porch and restored it to a luster it hasn’t seen in a really long time.”

Foundation:  What are some goals for the Inclusion Marketplace over the next year?

GAC:  We are simply excited about the next year with the Inclusion Marketplace.  We are looking to increase our reach with even more corporations, as well as identify a new group of mid-marketer firms to get more involved on the buyer end. We are facilitating matchmaking opportunities for both buyers/suppliers by conducting our own outreach efforts after providing customized action plans to our buyers.  We will continue to provide one-on-one presentations and demonstrations specifically designed to address the uniqueness to each corporate. Our goal is to have a significant percentage of MBE’s that have created a new profile and increase the number of corporate buyers registering in the marketplace, as well. 

The Inclusion Marketplace will be expanded to the entire State of Ohio according to our partners at the Greater Cleveland Partnership starting this fall.  This expansion will allow for additional large Tier I Minority-owned companies to register in the marketplace, as well as pursuing Tier II spend with majority companies by inviting them to be inclusive of smaller local Minority-owned companies.

Click HERE to learn more or register with the Inclusion Marketplace.