Supplier Diversity Programs Bring Out the Entrepreneur Within
This piece was authored by guest blogger Jasmin Herro, founder and CEO of Outback Global Australia and vice president of Outback Global USA. Outback Global is an Indigenous-owned business certified with Supply Nation, along with Cisco Australia, which is also a member. Supply Nation is an organization dedicated to growing diversity within the supply chain.
I woke up one morning and suddenly realized I was an entrepreneur!
Those who know me, even for a short time, realize that I am an ideas person, I am constantly thinking, joining the proverbial dots, making connections and never taking myself too seriously. Every day starts at 5:30 a.m. and ends the next morning around 1 a.m., or when I drag myself to bed after falling asleep at my desk.
There are things that constantly go through my mind, random sets of ideas that could at any moment be the next big thing. Was I always like this? I remember, as an 8-year-old child needing money to go to the annual fair and thinking that if I could convince Glen, the man who worked for my dad, to help me pick all the mandarins off the two big trees in our yard, I could sell them in my dad’s petrol station. After some gentle persuasion (begging), Glen harvested all the mandarins off both trees and I convinced him to help me set up a table at the petrol station with a sign that read “Mandarins 10 cents or 6 for 50 cents.” After 2 days I made $23 and with my best puppy dog eyes offered half the money to Glen. He of course declined but offered to make me an extension arm so I could reach the top of the trees and pick the mandarins myself the next year. This was my first taste of entrepreneurial creativity and from then on I’ve looked for value and opportunity in everything around me.
So how did I become an entrepreneur? I learned how to sell from an early age, how to promote my products, whether it be a 10-cent mandarin or $5 gingerbread house. I learned to listen, take interest, qualify and understand the needs of the other person — all of which can be found in regular conversation. Most importantly, I dream big dreams with no limitations. I have developed these skills over time and they continue to help me grow Outback Global Australia.
Outback Global Australia is a strategic sourcing company specializing in uniforms, work wear, personal protective equipment, and promotional merchandise. We have direct relationships with over 50 factories in Australia and the Asia Pacific region.
Outback Global attended the 2012 National Minority Supplier Development Council conference and business opportunity fair in Denver, Colorado, where we met Denise Coley from Cisco, who leads the company’s global supplier diversity business development program. Denise introduced us to Donald Fairconeture of Unity Promotions and we formed Outback Global USA – the first joint venture partnership between an African American minority business and an Australian Indigenous business.
Cisco continues to mentor us through the processes of talking to other companies, as well as suggesting contacts with other organizations that might be suitable for us to engage with. Cisco does a lot to promote diversity within its own supply chain, and here in Australia, so they provide excellent mentorship. For example, as a member of Supply Nation, formerly the Australian Indigenous Minority Supply Council (AIMSC), Cisco supports the growth and development of Indigenous-owned suppliers and promotes Indigenous-owned ICT partners to its customers.
In the video below, Cisco’s Denise Coley talks about the importance of supplier diversity, and diverse suppliers share how they are bringing economic growth and vitality to Australia and beyond.
According to data from the Australian government, Indigenous people have lower rates of self-employment than non-Indigenous people, and there was little change in this statistic between 1994 and 2008. I hope I can help improve these numbers through Outback Global USA and by being a model to other Indigenous businesses. Presenting, networking, and relationship building are key to entrepreneurial success. Establishing what customers want and expect and how to deliver on those expectations comes out of the conversations you have when you are building those initial relationships. We have been fortunate to have tremendously supportive mentors who assist us in clarifying where we are heading and they offer suggestions and strategies that can help us accomplish our goals.
Of course, I do wonder if entrepreneurship is to some extent genetic. Recently, my husband was due to leave for a buying trip in China. My 9-year-old daughter, Alyssa, took him shoe shopping before he left. She showed him a pair of black, glittery sneakers on sale for $190.00 AUD (very expensive for any pair of sneakers, let alone for a 9-year-old girl). However, she didn’t want him to buy the sneakers. She wanted him to look for them on his trip, and if he found them for a cheaper price, to buy 4 pairs — 1 her size and the other 3 in any other size available. When asked why, she explained that if she could sell the other 3 pairs on eBay, the profit would make up for the price of her sneakers, which would essentially be free.
It reminded me of my long-ago negotiations with Glen, and made me realize Alyssa has become an entrepreneur by osmosis. I’m a busy person and sometimes when the situation arises the children end up at business meetings and presentations. Being around business people always talking about opportunities has immersed her 9-year-old mind in entrepreneur culture. So, is entrepreneurship inherited or learned? I think it’s probably a little of both. I suspect in the future, like me, Alyssa will wake up one morning and suddenly realize she is an entrepreneur.
Learn more about Cisco’s Supplier Diversity Business Development Program.