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Business diversity featured at Winter Meetings

MLB networking event, panel held during annual summit
December 12, 2018

LAS VEGAS -- A few decades ago, Diana Everett of Chesterfield, Mo., saw a future in giveaways for sports teams. And it turns out, MLB was looking for business owners like her.One aspect of MLB's 25-year-old diversity and inclusion program has been putting businesses fronted my women, minorities, the LGBT

LAS VEGAS -- A few decades ago, Diana Everett of Chesterfield, Mo., saw a future in giveaways for sports teams. And it turns out, MLB was looking for business owners like her.
One aspect of MLB's 25-year-old diversity and inclusion program has been putting businesses fronted my women, minorities, the LGBT community and veterans in front of clubs and league-office divisions so they can develop techniques and compete for business. As president of Success Promotions, Everett has been a leader in producing merchandise for MLB gameday giveaways, such as a replica ring commemorating the Cardinals' 2011 World Series title, and was chosen by the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame as a preferred custom-designed-figurine provider.
"It's been exploding, but it's been a lot of hard work -- a lot of keep going, keep trying," Everett said. "You just don't blow up and become big overnight. It just takes time to start building relationships. It's very important."
As Everett did an interview in a ballroom at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino on Tuesday at the Winter Meetings, the work was going on all around. It was during an event called "supplier diversity speed rounds." Suppliers from inclusion communities were invited to a room with procurement representatives from all 30 teams, the MLB Office of the Commissioner, MLB Advanced Media and MLB Network, positioned at 33 different circular tables. Upon a signal, the business owners picked the teams they wanted to approach, and each would do a 60-second presentation (known as an elevator pitch) pushing their product.
Not only is the goal for each business to sell its product, but for the other business owners at the table to hear pitches, gain ideas and possibly collaborate.
Such activities have become the norm at the Winter Meetings. In addition to providing opportunities for sales and relationships, MLB is providing advice and training to strengthening the businesses. Renee Tirado, MLB's chief diversity officer, said the commitment has produced almost $2 billion in investment in diverse-owned businesses over the last 25 years.
Later Tuesday, the White Sox were honored as the Team of their Year for their work with diverse suppliers. Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and executive vice president Kenny Williams spoke while accepting the award.
"We have to invest in diverse-owned businesses as much as we expect them to invest in our sport," Tirado said. "And we do that by enriching small businesses, minority-owned businesses in our local markets that can support the cause and allow them, through that investment, to become our ambassadors for our sport, for our clubs, for our teams, for our players to say it's worth connecting with baseball."
While the diversity program is longstanding and permanent, Tirado noted that while other pro leagues may have such programs based on special events, MLB has pushed ahead by cultivating the initiative year-round. That thought process has led to an increased number of targeted workshops and opportunities during the Winter Meetings to prepare various entrepreneurs to develop relationships with teams and the league.
While the businesses take away valuable knowledge and increase economic value, the league and teams do as well.
"At the end of the day, this is also about diversity of thought, right?" said Corey Smith, MLB senior director of supplier diversity and strategic sourcing. "They are bringing to the table innovation concepts that we ourselves probably wouldn't have thought of on our own. But these are entrepreneurs that are doing incredible things in corporate America, adding value to the U.S. economy. We should absolutely be tapping into that and leveraging that, for our own businesses."
These stand as openings for businesses willing to work at it. Build a trip to the Winter Meetings into the budget, accept the education, keep returning annually and opportunities can come and increase.
Everett's husband, Chad, is vice president of sales and operations, and her sons, Brandon and CJ, are sales executives at Success Promotions. She is a native of Colombia who was willing to develop along the way by taking advantage of the networking opportunities and participating in the trade show associated with the Winter Meetings.
"We first started with promotions in the Minor Leagues," Diana Everett said. "Then we got going, and after pounding and knocking and knocking on the door, we finally got in with the Cardinals, who gave us one job -- a keychain for a giveaway. Then, over time, we kept showing what we can do, the variety of different products we can do. Now we work with about 25 teams in the league in one form or another.
"This gives us a chance to talk to some of the teams we may not otherwise be able to do business with. A lot of times you have to keep putting yourself in front of them. You just come one time, it's not going to do it. Keep on coming, keep being persistent."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.