LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Representatives from 60 companies spent Tuesday morning pitching their products and services to representatives from all 30 Major League clubs as part of the sixth annual Supplier Diversity Summit. It marked the second straight year that the event was held in conjunction with the Winter
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Representatives from 60 companies spent Tuesday morning pitching their products and services to representatives from all 30 Major League clubs as part of the sixth annual Supplier Diversity Summit. It marked the second straight year that the event was held in conjunction with the Winter Meetings.
The networking opportunity -- which was led by Corey Smith, MLB's senior director of supplier diversity and strategic sourcing -- started in an effort to open doors for new businesses to develop relationships with MLB, its clubs and Minor League Baseball.
Since the first such summit in 2012, the event has generated more than $25 million in spending with minority-run businesses.
"Diversity is one of our imperatives," Smith said. "[MLB Commissioner] Rob [Manfred] has said it in a bunch of our town halls that we need to be as inclusive as possible. In our department, diversity and inclusion, those words go hand in hand. For us, it is about being more inclusive in our supply chain."
These diverse businesses participated in a networking event Monday evening and then gathered on Tuesday to attend a panel discussion that featured supplier representatives from the Walt Disney Company, Universal Resort and Theme Park and CBS Broadcasting.
Afterward, MLB hosted a three-hour session during which companies went table to table to meet individually with clubs. Each business made a 60-second pitch, answered questions about their services/products and received feedback from the clubs. After 10 minutes, they moved to the next table.
"It's unique in that we can not only share our information and have them hear our pitch, but also be around other diverse suppliers," Shevorne Martin, an account manager from Blueprint NYC, a full-service event and communications company. "It's empowering not only to share what you do, but listen to what other folks have going on. Also, it's an amazing opportunity to have a one-on-one [conversation] with a club representative."
A variety of businesses were represented, from those that produce promotional items to technology, construction and exhibit companies. Several also used the Winter Meetings as a setting to further interest in their business through the Minor League trade show.
"It's amazing," said Chris Morrow, vice president of business development for SodexoMAGIC. "You really see that this is a strategic directive or imperative of MLB. As a diverse supplier, it's important to know that it's near and dear to the Commissioner and the league. I think it shows each team's willingness to work with these diverse suppliers in spite of some of the longstanding historical relationships that might be in place."
The impact of these face-to-face meetings is tangible. In the first two months after last year's summit, clubs had booked $300,000 in orders from the participating suppliers. Since 1998, when MLB formed its diversity program, MLB has spent over $1 billion with diverse businesses.
Smith said he hopes to see the event continue to grow so that MLB can better serve its clubs and also create more marketplace competition. Many of the companies that participated this year hope to be invited back again.
"The fact that MLB is making diversifying their sourcing pipeline a strategic priority and has integrated it into probably their most important week of meetings of the year is huge," said Morrow, who has attended the last three summits. "I think it's something other leagues can definitely take note of and implement themselves. I think MLB has done a great job of creating that blueprint, and now it's how can that blueprint be leveraged to have greater social and economic impact in leagues and communities across the country."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.