Having recently joined Dell as the lead for Corporate Sustainability in EMEA, one of the areas I wanted to learn more about was how Dell supports women- and minority-run businesses by integrating them into our supply chain.
Women-owned entities represent more than 30 percent of registered businesses worldwide (International Finance Corporation). Yet according to WEConnect International, a global network that connects women-owned businesses to qualified buyers around the world, those women-owned businesses are earning less than one percent of the money large corporations and governments spend on vendors. It’s just one example of how these diverse businesses are missing out on opportunities.
At Dell, we are working to change this. Our customers come from every nation, culture and walk of life, so it’s important all aspects of our business reflect that diversity – including our supply chain. In FY16, we spent more than US$4 billion with small, women-owned, and minority-owned businesses. Plus, over the last decade, we have provided mentoring, training and networking programs to help thousands of our diverse suppliers to scale their businesses and find success.
To understand how this relationship is helping women-owned businesses to succeed, I sought out one of our women-owned suppliers OrangeDoor founder, Elizabeth Heron (pictured above).
Here’s what she had to say:
Tell us a little bit about OrangeDoor, how did you get started?
I originally started out in a very corporate environment alongside Boots Pharmaceutical on the launch of Nurofen in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. Those were incredibly tough yet exciting and formative years which broadened my knowledge of the industry.
Before I knew it, I was running fully integrated, highly innovative marketing campaigns for some of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world. However, it was a hard, heartless environment and I soon realised it wasn’t what I wanted. It was clear, 16 years ago, that something was missing.
I took the plunge to start OrangeDoor from my back bedroom in Bromley. Over 16 amazing years we have grown and built our reputation, becoming specialists in integrated marketing and events while creating a positive work environment – especially for women. I now have the pleasure of leading a team of 30 people providing that powerful secret ingredient clients look for: opening up emotional and targeted insights and delivering amazing results through attention to detail.
What were some of the challenges you faced when you started out?
The corporate environment was a completely different one to today. It was the era of power dressing, shoulder pads and women who fought their way into business. Women had to be, or at least look, invincible. Of course this wasn’t sustainable and we all felt pressured into presenting a hard, “iron lady” façade - and even worse, we were discouraged to discuss family or loved ones within the work place.
We have a more modern mindset for the way we work at OrangeDoor. We have nurtured and developed many young women, giving them countless opportunities, showing them respect, and encouraging them to always push their limits with confidence.
As a small business owner, there were some very quick learning curves to be understood without the support of senior departments and specialists, but corporate mentors help fill that gap. I stick with it because the rewards are so immense: the agility and flexibility of your business, the sense of family and cohesion within the team, the quality of the work environment… All these elements are simply irreplaceable and are at the core of who we are as a business.
How did you first connect with Dell?
In March 2000 I was contacted by a former colleague working in Dell’s EMEA PR team to take part in a competitive pitch for a press event in New York. I was tasked with taking a group of 30 pan-EMEA media members to a conference with CEO and founder Michael Dell, and Joe Tucci. It was a baptism of fire but proved successful!
To this day we’ve had continuous year-on-year growth with Dell across the UK and the rest of EMEA, which has helped me grow my team and expand our capabilities to include fully integrated campaigns and engagement programs.
How did working with Dell help you grow your business?
I always endeavored to surround myself with supportive and likeminded business people and Dell has helped me unlock so many helpful relationships. Today I am supported by WeConnect, which has provided not only excellent professional networking but also exposure to other business owners who face similar challenges.
A year and a half ago, we were selected to join Dell’s mentoring programme, which has given us invaluable insight into the way a corporation works. Through this programme, we have gained major understanding of Dell’s procurement issues and processes while strengthening one-on-one relationships with key figures in the business.
How important do you think it is for companies to have a focus on supplier diversity?
As a female entrepreneur outside the “old boys’ network” you want to show the world you can succeed on your own. But soon you realise that standing on your own feet doesn’t mean having to give up guidance, support and valuable relationships.
Dell's Supplier Diversity programme has provided the support we needed to grow and develop as a business. Dell’s commitment and passion are evident across senior management and there is a genuine desire to recognise opportunity and enable change. It is a privilege to be involved – in fact we now donate some of our time and services at OrangeDoor to extend the program and help other diverse suppliers.
Is diversity something you think about when looking for suppliers for your own company?
WeConnect unites not only corporates, but also suppliers. As a business at the forefront of our industry, we have a desire to engage with other companies in the group and build relationships that may prove fruitful for both parties. Not only does this add value to the network but allows for smaller companies, who might not otherwise get the chance, to enter the supply chain at a secondary level.
If you had one piece of advice for women business owners who are just starting out, what would it be?
Put trust in your team and embrace every challenge as a learning curve. Keep learning, growing and surround yourself with like-minded passionate people with integrity. The top of the mountain is a lonely place and the view is much better if you have someone to share it with!
To learn about other ways Dell’s Legacy of Good goals are paying off for suppliers, customers, communities and the planet, visit www.dell.com/legacyofgoodupdate. Dell is committed to continually enhancing social and environmental responsibility in our supply chain. Learn more at dell.com/supplychain
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Great article and testimonial. I believe women have the confidence, means and skills to make a positive contribution to the economy. All they need is guidance and mentorship.
At Dell, we are always encouraging women's participation in the business world; thanks to our networking platforms, we create exposure and access. I hope women already on top of the ladder will spread the knowledge to others.