Advantages in Selling to Corporate America

Mary Cantando

Millions of women and minorities have jumped on the entrepreneur track. Yet most of these businesses struggle to make the leap from fairly successful to great.

A long-time entrepreneur myself, I’ve lain awake untold nights agonizing that my business was tied to just a few key customers. As a small company, how could I open the door to large Fortune accounts? Then, about seven years ago, I discovered a side door. I was astonished to learn that corporations like Johnson & Johnson, IBM and Bank of America have diversity procurement departments that dedicate millions of dollars to finding nationally-certified vendors.

Could certification be a way for entrepreneurs to finally get to the table with big companies? The more I researched the concept, the bigger it became. So I decided to attend the annual conference of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, a nine-year old national certification organization. My goal in attending this event was to find out if certification was just window dressing or a real opportunity.

My moment of truth came when I asked the national procurement director of a Fortune 100 financial services firm, “Of the certified women-owned businesses who apply to be a vendor, what percentage do you wind up working with?” His answer: 80 percent. It was like an explosion in my head. The opportunity was bigger than I could have imagined. And it shocked me that so few women and minority entrepreneurs were aware of it.

I made it my mission to get the word out. I started a consulting business focused exclusively on helping businesses understand and capitalize on certification. In the five years since then, I’ve helped entrepreneurs become certified and land accounts with corporations like GlaxoSmithKline, Volvo Trucks, Avis Rent a Car, and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

But I was frustrated because I was only able to help a handful of business owners at any time. So, I pulled together everything I know about certification, and I interviewed lots of business owners who’ve landed multimillion dollar accounts this way. The result is my latest book, The Woman’s Advantage: 20 Women Entrepreneurs Show You What it Takes to Grow Your Business.

If you’ve ever wondered whether certification is right for your business, or if you just don’t know where to start, this book walks you through the process, and you don’t even have to pay my consulting fee.

Mary Cantando
, speaker and consultant, and author of
The Woman’s Advantage
Copyright 2007. All Rights Reserved.
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