How companies can help set minority-owned suppliers up for success

HP’s Supplier Diversity Summit aims to elevate diverse entrepreneurs, their businesses, and local communities.

By Lauren Grayson — April 27, 2023

Ten years ago, when Ray Burney, Jr. started his business, RLA Engineering LLC, it was difficult to break into a competitive marketplace and create space for his new, minority-owned engineering firm. Although Burney had a healthy network of contacts at HP and also with other well-known companies in the technology industry, he was still challenged with obtaining access to decision makers. 

“That was our biggest challenge. Our second biggest was gaining access to capital that allowed for initial investments in the facilities, financial systems, design tools, and professional services needed to set-up the business for long term success,” says Burney.

Unfortunately, this is the reality for many diverse entrepreneurs who face unique challenges and barriers of entry when starting up their businesses. These challenges are only exacerbated when small, diverse businesses attempt to compete for business with large, industry-leading companies. 

HP’s inaugural Supplier Diversity Summit was held earlier this month to help address these issues. (And a new Supplier Diversity website launched.) The curated, one-day, virtual forum grew out of HP’s global supplier diversity program, which helps drive economic empowerment in diverse communities, ensuring that small, minority-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned, and other under-utilized businesses are given an equal opportunity to participate in HP’s supply base. The summit was an opportunity for these suppliers to learn how to effectively grow during a time of macroeconomic instability and scale their business with HP. 

Over 300 participants representing more than 270 diverse suppliers participated in development-focused sessions ranging from how to effectively secure sustainable business with HP, gain equitable access to capital via HP’s early payment program, and how to build a best-in-class supplier diversity program. Participants also heard directly from HP’s executives including Chief Supply Chain Officer Ernest Nicolas and CFO Marie Myers, as well as Stacy Brown-Philpot, an HP board member. 

A diverse group of women working together at a table.


“When we started the Racial Equity and Social Justice Task Force in 2020 and looked at our Black and African American-owned supplier spend, it represented less than 1% of our total diversity spend in the US,” says LaTasha Gary, director of Sustainable Impact Program Management Office and Digital Transformation at HP. “That’s not something that we were proud of.”

HP set aggressive targets to increase its spending with Black and African-American-owned suppliers by ten times by the end of 2022, and exceeded its goal by achieving a 13 times increase in diverse spending. This represents significant progress, but there is still more work to be done. 

Here are three emerging best practices in supplier diversity-related activities that HP is implementing through new policies, programs, and partner development strategies. 

Breaking down the barriers to business

Gary and her team identified several areas of stakeholder opportunity in the Supplier Diversity Program, highlighting that part of the problem for suppliers was that doing business with HP was a slow process.

“If you are a new supplier or a small business starting out, you may not be able to afford to wait during a lengthy payment process for you to receive payment from HP for an invoice that you submitted,” explains Gary.

To better accommodate supplier needs, Zac Nesper, HP’s Treasurer, and his team collaborated with the Global Supplier Diversity Program to expedite the payment process for HP diverse suppliers through an enhanced early payment program in partnership with C2FO. 

Elevate businesses through exposure 

Marketing is essential for minority-owned and other diverse businesses to increase visibility and sales, build brand recognition, reach new audiences, and foster community connections. Tara J. Agen, VP and global head of marketing, effectiveness, operations, and marketing technology at HP, and her team worked to facilitate these exposure efforts. Tapping into her previous experience as a political organizer also helped to fuel her passion for advancing social justice, equity, and inclusivity within marketing.

“The way we need to reach and engage our customers comes from an inclusive and multicultural approach to campaign creation — the iterative creative process that we have in bringing you campaigns that connect with you,” Agen says.  

Efforts to create a more fair, equitable, and diverse media purchasing system include partnering with Black and African American media companies to aggregate content that supplements HP campaigns before they launch. 

“We have to look like a company that represents all of us and the multicultural approach of how marketing engages customers is critical because we need these people, their agency talent, and their capabilities yesterday,” she says.

Supporting small businesses

In 2021, HP spent $276 million with small businesses, $79 million with minority owned businesses, and $91 million with women-owned businesses in the U.S. Overall, the Supplier Diversity Program had an economic impact of more than $650 million. 

“When you spend with diverse suppliers, that radiates into the community,” says Marie Myers, HP Chief Financial Officer. “We realize that we can have a massive impact through driving this kind of change.”


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