The Secret Sauce Of WestRock’s Keya Grant
She may be small in stature, but she makes up for it with her huge personality. Although she is well known for her designer fashions and signature oversized eyewear, Keya Grant also gets noticed for her professional accomplishments. She is the recipient of a long list of honors and awards, and was recently recognized by the Atlanta Tribune for her diversity advocacy and inducted into the Tribune’s 2018 Women of Excellence Class.
We caught up with Grant in her swanky north side Atlanta office at WestRock, a locally headquartered paper and packaging design company, where she has served as supplier diversity lead for three years. Our no-holds-barred discussion about the supplier diversity profession, her plans for WestRock and her secret sauce, gives insight into why she is a celebrated leader.
IW You’ve been in the supplier diversity field for quite a while, what are some of the trends that you’re seeing in the industry?
KG One noteworthy trend is the development of funding sources. Because of this administration’s proposed reductions in support for the Minority Business Development Agency and U.S. Small Business Administration, some companies are starting to offer funding resources to support minority business enterprise (MBE) development. Now more than ever, corporations must be diligent to develop and prepare diverse suppliers. This approach can potentially have a significant impact on the industry.
Another trend is more inclusivity. Although it’s controversial, as some feel the diversity pie slice is already too thin for MBEs, and I understand those frustrations. But from a corporate perspective, the inclusion of LGBT, veterans and disabled suppliers enables us the opportunity to engage a broader pool and make more value-added connections, which ultimately increases spend.
IW Since your arrival, WestRock has become a well-known name in the supplier diversity arena. What is your formula for success?
KG We’re successful because I have full support of our chief procurement officer and C-suite leadership. Our supplier diversity strategy is aligned with the company’s three-year strategic plan, and our collaboration with procurement is key. All these things must come together to make it work, and they come together well at WestRock.
IW What are your plans to move Westrock’s program to the next level?
KG As supplier diversity lead in a one-person shop, I must be resourceful. I’ve been able to build a solid strategy around the company’s priorities. The company is constantly growing, even expanding internationally, and I’m starting to explore what a WestRock global supplier diversity footprint may look like.
We’re winning so we’ll keep doing what we’re doing, and as a program expansion plan, we’ll focus on engaging more ethnic minority, LGBT, [disabled business enterprise] and veteran-owned suppliers to grow spend, and possibly add an additional resource to support the program.
IW Enough about business, our readers want to know who you are and by all accounts, you are every woman—mother, community activist and diversity champion. How do you manage it all?
KG I am usually on autopilot. Luckily, I am now an empty nester. There was a time when my primary focus was supporting my daughter’s dreams. She’s a painter and dancer, and I am in awe of her creativity and her passion. She is away studying abroad, so my time is my own.
IW What inspires you?
KG My daughter is my inspiration. She is such a fearless, strong-willed and driven young woman. She’s a free spirit and it’s infectious and it rubs off on me. I’m finding time to do the things that I enjoy, and I seek out opportunities to be of service. I am passionate about making a difference.
Minority and women business enterprises inspire me. I am in awe of people who step out and take risks to start their own businesses. I understand how difficult that is, which is why I take my work so seriously. I know its importance and its impact.
IW What is your secret sauce?
KG I don’t know if it’s a secret sauce, but I believe selfawareness is my strength. I pride myself on being authentic, true to self and I’m an open book…full disclosure. I’m learning to set boundaries, to say “no” when I need to. I know what I bring to the table. I don’t allow anyone to undervalue me, I know what I want and I’m not afraid to ask for it. I also have a strong network of “sistah-friends” to keep me grounded and on track.
IW Finally, we all know that everything can’t be all roses. What are your pet peeves? What upsets you?
KG People who think that supplier diversity is a handout and that diverse firms are sub-standard and less deserving. This mischaracterization can be damaging. It is incumbent upon supplier diversity practitioners to speak against these misconceptions…and speak loudly. We are advocates for change and this mindset has to change. Diverse suppliers can offer quality, competitive pricing and value. They need our advocacy, our support. That’s our job!