Office Depot has long touted its successful supplier diversity program and record of providing opportunities for qualified, competitive small businesses and women- and minority-owned businesses. The business services and supplies giant’s goal is to form partnerships with diverse suppliers so that they become valuable providers of goods and services to customers and to Office Depot.
In May, Office Depot released the 10th edition of its Diverse Supplier Catalog, which highlights more than 1,800 items, ranging from paper and toner, to presentation boards, school supplies, furniture, technology and more, with more than 600 products also containing eco-attributes or eco-labels.
The catalog features all of the products sold by the company’s diverse vendors and is available to its Business Solutions Division (BSD) customers. This year’s catalog introduces several new vendors to customers, including DevMar Products, a woman- and minority-owned cleaning and janitorial supplier; Ergo Desktop, a woman-owned, small business that offers ergonomic desktop products; Bonita’s International, a woman-owned business that offers fashionable employee ID jewelry; Barker Creek, a woman-owned small business that offers fashion-forward K-12 classroom décor sets and educational materials; and Corporate Distribution Services, Inc., a minority-owned business that provides candies for every occasion.
According to Carmen Deale, program manager, Diversity Tier II Merchandising at Office Depot, Inc., the company looks for “items that are innovative and [that are] for our contract customers. We use the catalog as a resource for our sales team and strategic customers who are looking for certified diverse suppliers to grow their diversity initiatives.”
Office Depot has been releasing the catalog since 2009 and was the first in the office supplies industry to create a catalog of this nature.
In addition to highlighting diverse suppliers in the catalog, Office Depot has partnered with the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) to advance the interests of women business owners. In June, Carrie Jacobson, vice president of Technology Services and Sales for Office Depot, and Michelle Ragusa-McBain, senior director of Technology Sales and Services, presented the workshop, “How Fast Changing Technologies Influence the Way We Do Business,” at the organization’s annual conference and business fair in Detroit. The session was designed to teach attendees about technologies that will help women-owned businesses operate more efficiently and increase their competitiveness.
“We talked a lot about security, security breaches, and what you need to do to keep yourself safe and your infomation safe. People were tying together that when they went home and logged in, if they didn’t have security parameters at home, they were opening up their business to risk along with their personal work. It was important to make sure everyone understood that there is a key to security and that security is not just protecting your work. If you protect your personal and your work, you’re much safer from that perspective when you’re looking at the hackers,” Jacobson says.
Additionally, Office Depot sponsored a participant in WBENC’s Student Entrepreneur Program (SEP), in which “female entrepreneurs studying in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) or Business receive mentoring” from some of the organization’s corporate partners. This year, Ragusa-McBain served as mentor for Nneka Brown-Massey, a former U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Paratrooper and founder/CEO of Innovative Supplies Worldwide, Inc., helping her prepare for a pitch competition.
Although Brown-Massey did not place in the top five, at the end of the pitch competition she was offered a scholarship to attend one of Tuck Minority Business Programs at Dartmouth College.
Brown-Massey’s success during the SEP is a moment that represents, for Deale and the Office Depot team, their supplier diversity commitment.
“She has a phenomenal story of one: diversity, two: a veteran, three: a female who’s leading in the military and who decided to go back to school. She’s a mother, an entrepreneur, and someone who fit our corporate culture in terms of what we’re doing as we pivot into services and she pivots to running her own business. We are here to support her and others as they start their journey into [being] a business owner from start to points of growth,” Jacobson says. “She did a great job and we’re proud to be a part of her journey. Supporting Brown-Massey for SEP made me feel good about what we are doing as a corporation to give back and support the growing community of entrepreneurs.”
DIVERSE SUPPLIER CATALOG