Merck Virtual Engagement and Educational Experience and Virtual Business Opportunity Fair
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Merck business fair announcement

Merck’s Virtual Engagement Center will offer two tracks for Diverse Suppliers:

The Merck Global Economic Inclusion & Supplier Diversity Educational Experience (kick-off May 21, 2020) is a webinar series geared toward the developing the knowledge of diverse suppliers in the marketplace.

These monthly sessions will give diverse suppliers a leg-up and get them ready to pitch their capabilities and services, while learning how to set themselves apart and ultimately win the business.

Register Here

The Virtual Business Opportunity Fair, June 17, 2020, one of two LIVE events in 2020, that will provide the opportunity for diverse suppliers to engage with Merck’s supply chain professionals, Prime Suppliers and Advocacy Organizations during a virtual tradeshow.
Register Here

Supplier development and diversity are critical to our mission of Inventing for Life. We are excited to deploy these two exciting programs as part of the Virtual Engagement Center and hope you will join us.

Where Are the Hispanic Executives?
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latina business woman seated at conference table

By JD Swerzenski, Donald T. Tomaskovic, and Eric Hoyt

Many organizations have prioritized workplace equality and access to high-paying, executive level jobs for minority groups in recent years.

Several 2020 presidential candidates are putting forward plans to increase minority executive positions by diversifying corporate boards, punishing companies with poor diversity track records and increasing funding for minority-led business institutions.

However, according to our own 2019 analysis, white men still hold the majority of executive positions such as CEOs, management directors and financial officers.

As economic and communication scholars, we looked at Equal Employment Opportunity Commission employment data for executives at large and mid-sized companies. Our analysis shows that white men sit in 65.5 percent of these high-paying boardroom positions while representing only 38 percent of the U.S. workforce.

The dominance of white male executives, however, is by no means evenly distributed across the country. Our report tracks representation among Hispanic executives, city by city.

C-Suite Inequality
The gap between labor force and executive representation is wider among Hispanics than any other group.

Executive jobs offer salary—$155,586 on average—benefits and job security that simply are not available in lower level positions. They also offer the power to drive initiatives, including those focused on diversity.

So where do the Hispanic executives work? Pittsburgh is the only large city in the U.S. to nearly reach equity. Hispanics comprise 1.3 percent of the city’s executive workforce and 1.4 percent of its overall labor market.

That low overall representation is a trend among cities with the best equity.

Four out of five American cities with the most equitable representation—Pittsburgh, Detroit, St. Louis and Cincinnati—have Hispanic populations of less than 4 percent.

These findings fall in line with our earlier research showing that minority representation in executive positions is highest in areas with the lowest minority population.

The final city in the top five, Miami, stands out for its high representation of Hispanic executives at 24.6 percent and high percentage of Hispanics in the overall workforce at 44.1 percent.

Miami is also an anomaly among other large cities with Hispanic work forces such as Houston—43 percent overall labor force and 10.3 percent executive representation—and Los Angeles—34.2 percent labor force and 8 percent executive.

Driving Miami’s high representation is likely the city’s strong economic connections to Central and South America, which favors Hispanic cultural background and Spanish language capability among top executives.
This is especially true with regards to the many media-based companies located in Miami, such as Telemundo, which targets consumers throughout the Spanish-speaking world.

Trends at the Bottom
So how do things look at the other end of the scale?
New York City has the largest Hispanic population in the U.S with 2.3 million individuals. They comprise of 22.6 percent of the city’s total workforce, including 28.7 percent of its service workers and 40 percent of its laborer positions.

But only 4.5 percent of New York’s executives are Hispanic.

New York matters because of the large number of Hispanics who live there and the relative power of its executive positions. In 2019, 73 of the Fortune 500 companies were headquartered in the city, among them Citibank, Verizon, MetLife and many other major firms.

It’s unlikely that there is one key factor behind the lack of Hispanic representation in these jobs. One possibility is an entrenched corporate culture in New York dominated by white male executives. Further, unlike in Miami, Hispanic cultural and linguistic backgrounds are perhaps less valued in these boardrooms.

This, however, shouldn’t eliminate the possibility for change. New York’s trade workers—a group once dominated by white men—now includes 21.3 percent Hispanic workers, one of the highest rates in the country. Efforts to develop Hispanic executive candidates similar to Miami’s youth entrepreneurship program or Pittsburgh’s business incubator program centered in the city’s Hispanic Beechwood neighborhood might lead to greater diversification of New York’s corporate offices.

Rounding out the bottom five are San Jose, Salt Lake City, Hartford and Oklahoma City, all cities with at least 10 percent Hispanic representation in the labor force.

Diversity Matters
Research indicates that boardroom diversity can positively impact both profitability and job satisfaction within companies, particularly by bridging the divide between company executives and lower level employees.
With recent reports showing stagnation in the overall number of Hispanic executives nationwide, it’s particularly important for cities and companies to consider what more can be done to bring more Hispanics into the boardroom.

Cities might bolster Hispanic business participation and entrepreneurship by helping build business incubator programs, supporting Hispanic business development groups and promoting educational opportunities at area universities.

To make change, Hispanic workers need to be employed in positions that feed into to the highest company levels. Currently, 8 percent of all managerial and 6 percent of all professional positions in the U.S. are Hispanic, far below their labor market share of 17 percent.

Overriding these discrepancies means acknowledging cultural blind spots that often exclude Hispanic workers, such as non-Latino employers recognizing unconscious biases in their communication styles and providing opportunities to professionally use Hispanic cultural competencies.

Source: theconversation.com

With An Eye For Design, New Biz Owner Brings #1 Mobile Flooring Franchise To Customers’ Homes
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Emilia Navedo standing in front of her work vehicle

Looking to grow as a professional, Emilia Navedo didn’t waste time taking baby steps to her goal.

Instead, she took one giant leap and is relishing the opportunity. With a wonderful background in design and experience in managing a business already in Mexico City, the 39-year-old Navedo recently opened Floor Coverings International Roseville, California. She visits customers’ homes in a Mobile Flooring Showroom stocked with thousands of flooring samples from top manufacturers. Floor Coverings International Roseville services Roseville, Granite Bay, Rocklin, Loomis, Auburn, Lincoln, Penryn and Newcastle, in California.

Her advice to others wishing to own their own business in a field they love, “Don’t be afraid,” said the Roseville resident. “Trust in yourself. If you dream it, you can do it.”

Navedo’s father was an architect and she credits him for her skills and love of design. She also has a passion for photography. But all of her experiences came full circle when she had the opportunity to study fashion and style in Italy. “Photography allowed me to obtain a certain perspective on details and taste that bled into my work with interior design,” said Navedo. “After I studied in Italy, that ultimately led me to build a children’s furniture franchise and start my career as an interior designer. I’m not really leaving my previous career, but rather expanding because I want to grow as a professional.”

In Floor Coverings International, Navedo – who is being joined by her father in her new venture – found a company that has tripled in size since 2005 by putting a laser focus on consumer buying habits and expressed desires, its impressive operating model, growth ability, marketing, advertising and merchandising. Floor Coverings International further separates itself from the competition through its customer experience, made up of several simple and integrated steps that exceed customers’ expectations. “I chose Floor Coverings International because during my research I learned what a great company it is in so many aspects,” Navedo said. “They are like a big family. They give amazing support, know how to build leaders and provide the best quality products to our customers.

ABOUT FLOOR COVERINGS INTERNATIONAL

Floor Coverings International is the #1 Mobile Flooring Franchise in North America. Utilizing a unique in-home experience, the mobile showroom comes directly to the customer’s door with more than 3,000 flooring choices. Floor Coverings International has 150-plus locations throughout the U.S. and Canada with plenty of opportunity for continued expansion in 2020. For franchise information, please visit www.flooring-franchise.com and to find your closest location, www.floorcoveringsinternational.com.

5 Tips for Business Survival During the Pandemic
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As CEOs and executives struggle to deal with the fallout from COVID-19, internationally renowned business growth expert, UniSA’s Professor Jana Matthews, is encouraging companies to step back and carefully assess their businesses before making any radical decisions about their future.

“Whether a company will survive in times of uncertainty—and is positioned for growth on the other side—will largely depend on how CEOs and executives lead now,” Prof Matthews says.

“We’re all dealing with unprecedented uncertainty. And while it’s impossible to predict which companies will make it through all this, there are things they can do to increase their odds.

  1. Balance dollars with sense

Look at your accounts and project your cash flow over the next few months—do you need to collect receivables or delay expenditures? Are you in a position to lend your business personal funds? Can you ask some of your employees to take vacation days now or drop down to 80 percent, if necessary? Remember, government grants are available, so check those, too. If there’s still a shortfall, go to the bank to discuss a loan.

  1. Double down on your winners

Not every company will do it tough this year—if you produce products, such as hand sanitizers, soaps, toilet paper or ventilators, you may have your best year ever. Study which of your products or services have been selling, and focus your efforts on those. If you identify the customers who have been buying these, you can also target your marketing.

  1. Think laterally

Find out what people are buying and look for openings—can you make the straps that secure facemasks or key components in ventilators? If so, let the manufacturers know your capabilities, or alternatively, make the product yourself. If manufacturers need the product in a different way, look for alternatives. Now is the time to be flexible and adaptable.

  1. Look critically at your company

‘Strong Eye’ your company, people and products as if you were an outside investor. Are there any gaps, oversights or weak spots? Ask your employees to help scan, as these are the people in the ground, in the thick of it. What can you do better, more efficiently? Where are the double-ups? Be open and ready to listen, then take action. Also, think about what changes you—as the leader—may need to make.

  1. Have the courage, brains and heart to lead

It’s not easy to lead through chaos at this velocity of change. It takes brains to analyze and develop strategies to keep the company alive. It takes courage to stop doing what used to work and move into unchartered territory. And without question, it takes heart. Empathize with your employees who are worried about their jobs and futures, and remember to provide them with frequent updates—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Weed out any misfits, or non-performers, and do everything you can to keep your great people on board; you will need them to help you grow once we’re on the other side.

Source: Newswise

These Companies are Stepping Up in the Fight for Racial Equality
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A hand writing the word Inequality on glass board,

When it comes to encouraging diversity, especially during the Black Lives Matter movement, here are some of the companies that are supporting racial equality.

Bank of America

On June 2, Bank of America announced they will be pledging one billion dollars toward community programs and minority-owned businesses over the course of four years. The money was pledged in response to both the death of George Floyd and the impacts of COVID-19. Bank of America hopes this money will further help minority-owned businesses thrive, improve health services in Black communities, and open up positions for more bank employees.

Uber

To encourage its users to support black-owned businesses in response to George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter Movement, Uber has announced that it will be waiving all delivery fees coming from black-owned restaurants in the United States and Canada. This process will begin on June 5 and continue throughout the rest of the year. Uber has also stated they are planning to create an initiative specifically designed to aid black-owned restaurants, as well as other businesses.

Additionally, Uber has pledged to create more diversity within their employees.

UnitedHealth Group

UnitedHealth Group is donating a pledged ten million dollars to help the neighborhoods of Minneapolis rebuild any damage taken in response to the protests. This will include five million of those dollars being donated to the YMCA Equity Innovation Center of Excellence.

UnitedHealth Group has also pledged to pay for all of George Floyd’s children to go to college when the time comes.

Disney

Disney will be donating five million dollars to companies that stand for social justice, including the NAACP, which Disney has pledged two million dollars to. Disney employees are also encouraged to donate to social justice causes, as Disney has promised to match any donation made by a Disney employee.

P & G

The umbrella company for brands, such as Tide and Olay, P & G has created the “Take on Race” fund that will be distributing five million dollars to organizations that will advance education on race, better communities, and improve all healthcare systems. The fund will be working directly with large and small organizations, such as the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the United Negro College Fund, and Courageous Conversation.

PLANNING FOR PRIDE INSIDE: LGBT Businesses Can Power Your Virtual Pride
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nglcc logo

When the COVID-19 crisis began, the NGLCC said that it has never been more imperative to commit ourselves to shop local, shop LGBT, give back what we can to our community organizations, and support all those around us. We truly are in this together. Pride is the ultimate celebration of togetherness, even if we can’t dance in the streets this summer. From the safety of our homes, we will be able to celebrate all that makes our community so beautiful, so resilient, and so rich with diversity.

Pride 2020 will also be a time to develop innovative ways to celebrate and show our support for our community and our allies. As NGLCC shared with The Advocate when shutdowns began, we are all in the business of “Keeping the LGBTQ Community Financially Strong During COVID-19”. As you, your community organizations, and your companies plan for digital Pride celebrations, take extra care to rely on the resourcefulness of America’s 1.4 million LGBT business owners and the services they can provide to make this Pride season unforgettable:

Pride Gear: Rainbow sunglasses and T-shirts with your company brand on them, table and home/office decorations for your online parties, and everything else you can dream of are available from LGBT-owned custom print shops like Brand|Pride and many more who specialize in making Pride unforgettable.

Streaming Video Service: From online dance parties and celebrity video fundraisers, to Pride conferences, webinars, and corporate group gatherings, there are LGBT-owned event and digital solution companies, like American Meetings, Inc., ready to take your digital Pride celebration to the next level. Don’t forget to also source your graphics and custom videos from certified LGBT designers eager to support your Pride event.

Snacks and Drinks: Whether you want a snack or cocktail to enjoy while watching the online celebrations, or are looking for Pride gifts and giveaways for your clients, friends, or favorite nonprofit, LGBT-owned food vendors, distilleries like Republic Restoratives, and micro-breweries are all available for personal or commercial celebrations ahead.

Best of all: Everything you need can be sourced directly from our own community through the vast network of Certified LGBT Business Enterprise® suppliers and affiliate chambers across America. And helping LGBT Americans through this time is key to helping all Americans succeed. We can never forget that our community includes women, communities of color, people with disabilities, immigrants, veterans, and so many others with whom we must stand in solidarity for a stronger, more inclusive economy on the other side of this outbreak.

This is also the time to remind your favorite brands, TV networks, and magazines that LGBT-inclusive marketing has never been more important. Just because we aren’t waving at your float doesn’t mean we aren’t watching how you engage with our community.  As the economy regains its footing in the months ahead, leading with a commitment to diversity — as a business owner or consumer — can help supercharge our economy and our community back to where we should be with our $917 billion dollar purchasing power. Now is the time to be doubling down on inclusive advertising so that our communities feel seen, supported, and empowered throughout — and long after — COVID-19.

Now, in this unprecedented moment, we can take pride in our purchases by supporting our community through the goods and services that power our 2020 Pride celebrations. Every dollar you and your companies spend with our community helps all of us come out of this moment stronger– and that is something that should give us all pride.

Justin Nelson and Chance Mitchell are co-founders of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC).  NGLCC is the business voice of the LGBT community, the largest global advocacy organization specifically dedicated to expanding economic opportunities and advancements for LGBT people, and the exclusive certifying body for LGBT-owned businesses.

7 Reasons to Participate in a Virtual Job Fair
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Back view of female employee talk with male businessman on webcam laptop conference, woman worker with man employer brainstorm on video call from home, online

Traditional job fairs can be a drag, requiring your recruiters to travel, set up an expensive display, and stay on top of their game when they’re tired and maybe even a bit overwhelmed by a crush of candidates. But if you need a good-sized pool of potential employees, you probably feel you have no choice but to participate.

Actually, however, that’s not completely true. Your business can reap many of the benefits of such an event without some of the drawbacks, thanks to the growth of virtual job fairs.

Here are seven reasons why your company should take part in a virtual job fair:

1. You can interact with potential employees from all over the world and a variety of disciplines.
In today’s job market, you can’t afford to limit your hiring pool to a small geographical area or a particular kind of person. A virtual fair can put you in touch with a huge variety of people quickly and efficiently.

2. Virtual fairs save you money.
When your “booth” is in cyberspace, you don’t have to pay for a big display or for your recruiters’ travel. Your team can manage everything from the comfort of their offices—or from their own homes, if you offer remote work options.

3. You can take advantage of pre-fair promotion.
These events are enthusiastically and broadly advertised by their sponsors, and your participation will allow you to piggyback on that promotion to build your brand—all without paying for advertising. You can’t beat that kind of opportunity to create awareness about your company and what you do.

4. You can manage and target your message.
When you’re participating in an online event, you can be sure that your talking points will be communicated consistently and will reach your intended audience. “All applicants will receive the same information, face the same questions, and confer with the same company representatives,” says an article from Getting Hired.

5. Virtual fairs allow you to use your time more effectively.
“You can have multiple conversations going at the same time with job seekers, so it is less time-consuming than traditional career fairs,” says an article from Right Management.

6. Online fairs let you communicate the way your workers do.
“Whether you’re a millennial, a Gen Xer, or baby boomer, we all communicate online through messaging apps, such as Facebook messenger or through text messaging,” says an article from Brazen. “Online events and online career fairs offer the same form of communication. Take advantage of this shift.”

7. You can guarantee you’re capturing the information you need.
This is another point noted in the Getting Hired article. “A virtual career fair automatically captures the data of applicants, helping to ensure easier contact and follow up after the event, as well as retaining all candidates’ contact information for future roles and pipelines,” the article says.

Your company should explore opportunities to participate in these types of virtual activities. The savings in time and money, along with the ability to extend your recruiting reach nationwide or even worldwide, make them an obvious choice when you’re seeking the most talented workers to help your business grow.

Source: flexjobs.com

COVID-19 Highlights the Need for Increased Supplier Diversity
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A video conference with a diverse group of co-workers

By Elizabeth Vasquez

As global citizens prepare to fight against the current COVID-19 pandemic, I have been inspired by the individual stories of the women-owned businesses in the WEConnect International community and the resilience of my team and our supporters around the world.

As the CEO of a global nonprofit, I’m used to spending my life in airports and airplanes flying to meetings, speaking at conferences and meeting with our member buyers and the women business owners who supply a wide assortment of goods and services. But my intense travel schedule has ground to a halt as meetings have been canceled or postponed.

Earlier this month, I was fortunate to be at our WEConnect International South Africa Conference, Scaling Up in 2020 for Sustainable Growth, in Johannesburg. I met several exceptional women business owners and large buyers committed to inclusion.

Many are stepping up to help us all face the coronavirus challenge, like Refilwe Sebothoma, whose company, PBM Group, is supplying face masks. Belukazi Nkala, who owns Khanyile Solutions, is providing protective uniforms. And Judy Sunasky’s company, Blendwell Chemicals, is producing hand sanitizer.

In Singapore, Rithika Gupta is also increasing hand sanitizer production at her company, FP Aromatics, as is Sarah Sayed’s company, BX Merchandise, in the UK. WEConnect International educates and certifies women’s business enterprises based in over 45 countries, and women business owners such as these have registered with us in over 120 countries.

There are approximately 224 million women entrepreneurs worldwide who participate in the ownership of nearly 35 percent of firms in the formal economy. As traditional value chains shift, these business owners can step in to meet buyer demand.

Here in Washington, D.C., the WEConnect International Team has decided to hold our annual Gala and Symposium virtually. This is not a cancellation or a postponement but rather an opportunity for champions of diversity to leverage technology in support of inclusive global growth.

We are committed to creating opportunity in the face of adversity and have engaged our award winners, member buyers, women-owned businesses and strategic partners to join us for our first-ever 24-hour Cyber Gala culminating with the announcement of our Top 10 Global Champions.

Governments are taking the pandemic seriously and are working hard to protect their citizens through social distancing, while meeting the needs of those who fall sick. In addition to the human suffering, the virus has hurt domestic and international business. As a result, governments and business are working together to diversify supply chains to help mitigate future shocks to local and global economies.

 

Elizabeth Vazquez: Advocating for Women-Owned Businesses
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Headshot of Elizabeth Vasquez smiling for the camera

Professional Woman’s Magazine had the opportounity to speak with Elizabeth Vasquez, the founder of WeConnect Internatonal, on her business ventures as well as how to better advocate for Women-Owned Businesses.

Tell us about how you co-founded WEConnect International.

WEConnect International was established in response to a gap in the markets. Several corporate giants in the US and worldwide have committed to supplier diversity and inclusion. They want to buy more from women-owned businesses globally, but when we launched WEConnect International 10 years ago, there was no global database of women suppliers, no way to verify if women actually owned and controlled the companies they lead, and no easy way for women suppliers to connect with large buyers.

Globally, women control $20 trillion in annual consumer spending and make 85 percent of consumer purchasing decisions. And yet, only 1 percent of large corporate and government spend worldwide goes to women-owned businesses. WEConnect International is working to move the needle above 1 percent, generating market access opportunities for women business owners to sell their goods and services to large qualified buyers around the world.

What was your path to writing your book, Buying for Impact: How to Buy from Women and Change Our World?

The written word is a powerful tool to communicate, inform and call to action. I wanted to write something practical for people and organizations who care about women’s economic empowerment, and I was fortunate to have business guru Andrew Sherman co-author the book. Frankly, I wanted to document the WEConnect International journey in one place so more people could learn about the model and about how their purchasing power can change the world.

What women-owned business is making a global impact?

Our certified women-owned businesses are making an impact across the world – from a women-owned business in Mexico that provides transport services, to a South African events manager now working with Avon to an Indian woman who owns a trucking company. Women business owners are working in all fields from agriculture to IT, manufacturing to services. They just need that market knowledge and access to compete and win. WEConnect International certification allows them to leverage a Women-Owned Logo that is respected worldwide.

Who inspires you?

I am constantly inspired by the commitment of our member buyers who have pledged to scale up their inclusive sourcing, leverage WEConnect International to find qualified women suppliers and get more money into the hands of women business owners.

As CEO of WEConnect International, I’ve traveled to every continent other than Antarctica. I am so inspired by the creativity, determination and business savvy of these women business owners. I work as hard as I do because I believe deeply in our mission and I know that our work is changing the lives of these women who just want an equal opportunity to compete. These women inspire me every day to be brave and do more because they are delivering innovations and solutions that make the world better for all of us.

What is your experience as a Hispanic woman leader?

I have worked very hard throughout my career and have achieved a level of success that I never dreamed possible. That being said, I am aware that there are challenges for women and Hispanics throughout our society. Our mission at WEConnect International is to supplier diversity and inclusion – for women, for Hispanics, for ethnic minorities, for the LGBTQ community, for people with disabilities and for other under-utilized groups. As CEO, I am working with our member buyers and our women-owned businesses to make sure that our vision becomes a reality and that everyone has equal access to opportunities.

What advice do you have for other women aspiring to be in leadership positions?

Take risks, follow your dreams, and embrace what the universe opens up to you because your journey could go far beyond what you imagined when you started.

I co-founded WEConnect International at my dining table, and now we are working with more than 100 corporations with more than $1 trillion in annual purchasing power.

Why is WEConnect International important to corporations?

Corporations created WEConnect International as a global peer network committed to doing more business with women suppliers because it’s good for their bottom lines. We give corporations easy access to competitive women-owned business of all sizes, in all sectors, across all major markets to help ensure they are doing business with the world’s best suppliers.

Where do you see WEConnect International in the next 5 years?

By 2025, WEConnect International wants 200,000 women suppliers in our network, 400 buyers sourcing inclusively, 50 countries served on the ground and 150 countries served virtually and corporate and government spend with women-owned businesses to move beyond 1 percent. It’s a heavy lift, but we can do it, especially as more and more people find out.

A Remote Manager’s Guide to Successful Teams
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Remote team working from home in a video conference and manager communicates via video call communication with her team using laptop

Being away from your employees can create its own challenges when you work remotely. It can be difficult to gauge how employees are doing and what they are getting accomplished, which can cause a tremendous amount of stress.

Ryan Malone, the founder of Smartbug Media, has run his company 100% remotely since he opened in 2008. To be successful as on off-site manager, Malone offers his top four tips.

1) Adjust Work Hours

Working remotely has different challenges on different work styles, ways of efficiency, and in decreasing commute time. Working a 9-to-5 work day may work best for you but may not be the best way for your employees. Assess the needs of the company with how your employees work best to find the work hours that would be the best for them and the company.

2) Keep Your Documents Updated

Keeping track of your business’ various tasks and who is completing them can get confusing. Implement a system that will track the status of ongoing projects and tasks. This way, employees can easily locate what step of the task is being completed and what they need to implement for the next step.

3) Connect and Bond

Getting to know your co-workers is important for work morale, teamwork, and finding ways to best communicate. Talking about work is important, but it doesn’t have to be the only conversation that you ever have. Create a space where your employees can have a “water cooler” of sorts. Creating chatrooms and hosting virtual non-work-related events for your employees to attend will aid in strengthening these relationships with your co-workers.

4) Exercise

Exercise is not only important for your physical health but also for your mental health. Ryan Malone uses exercise as a means of health and to relieve stress. It can be difficult to directly gauge where your company is at from the comfort of your own home, but you need to be able to stay calm and think clearly to proceed. Exercising is a great way to keep your mind sharp and your anxiety levels down.

How One Latina Entrepreneur Founded An Award-Winning, Female-Led PR Company
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Natalie Boden the founder and President of BODEN is setting on her desk in her home office

She dreamed of becoming a librarian. As a child, Natalie Boden would spend hours organizing books on her shelves. She even developed her own card catalog filing system. The Honduran native today is the founder and President of BODEN, a public relations and social media agency which counts McDonald’s, Target and UnitedHealthcare among its clients.

The bibliophile little girl has grown up to become quite the successful woman. PRWeek inducted her into the 2020 “Hall of Femme” class earlier this year. She’s on the Latin Grammy Cultural Foundation committee and serves on the Board of Directors for CMC, the Culture Marketing Council.

Boden even now maintains a collection of books, including sections for business, female empowerment and children’s literature. Calling her library “my pride and joy,” she admits to still keeping a card catalog file.

In this interview, the Miami-based business leader talks about her path to entrepreneurship, the importance of “leading with culture” to reach the U.S. Hispanic marketplace and what her firm is doing to help brands during the COVID-19 crisis.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

The part of you that wanted to be a librariando you see her dreams in your business work today?

The love of books, of stories, of words that draw you in, are certainly part of what we do today at BODEN. We use words to sell, which I think is the perfect blend of what I loved as a child—storytelling and selling. Other than a librarian, I always knew I’d be an entrepreneur. I had great examples in my parents and my grandmother. That’s what drove me to set up lemonade stands when I was seven and sell cakes at my parents’ store. No matter what I would have done in life—even as a librarian—I would’ve figured out a way to generate revenue from it. It’s in my blood.

How did you start your firm? 

It started organically, on my own, a client or two. My first client was The Miami Parking Authority, $1,000 per month. I was subcontracted by a larger agency. I then got our first set of small retainer clients and hired my first employee. We’ve grown organically since then. When we won our first pieces of Fortune 500 business, Target and then McDonald’s, we were in a 900-square-foot office. Several years later, we won the Hispanic Public Relations Association’s “PR Agency of the Year” and then PR News’ “Best Places to Work” in 2018. This year, we’ve won a PRWeek “Hall of Femme” Award, as well as signing on DishLATINO and L’Oréal’s Dermablend. It hasn’t been without its ups and downs, but I’m certainly proud to be where we are today.

As an independent PR company, what’s the competitive advantage that helped you grow from a team of three during the last financial crisis to 25?

We use our independence to our advantage. Our clients often say we are the perfect blend of the standards of a global agency, with the creativity and speed of a boutique agency.

What do we do well? We understand how to generate trust. You cannot buy your way to trust, you must earn it. Many brands, when thinking multicultural or Hispanic, immediately turn to paid media and advertising. And whereas that is extremely important, our approach is an earned media-first approach. All our initiatives, whether they be sales-driven or purpose-driven, generate earned media and build brand advocacy. We are trusted by the press, by influencers, by organizations, by community leaders. That gives us an edge.

Your company’s stated mission is “to help global brands lead with culture.” What does “lead with culture” mean? 

There’s a famous quote by author Shaun Hicks: “Only someone wishing to disappear would ever strive to fit in.” When it comes to Hispanic, many brands want to develop a Spanish language ad, hire a Hispanic celebrity, sponsor a soccer tournament, or develop a recipe with a “Hispanic” ingredient. Suddenly trying to fit in and be safe is the strategy.

Leading with Culture is about being bold, being first out the gate with an insight that is true and authentic and inspiring. And to lead, and to be bold, you have to ask yourself, “What is the legacy you want to leave with this segment? What is the long-term purpose-driven strategy?” Leave one-off Hispanic Heritage celebrations to the followers.

What does diversity and inclusion mean for you on a granular level?

D&I is not about checking the box. It’s a question of what an organization believes in, and the impact it has on its stakeholders: employees, consumers, communities and suppliers.

As marketers and communicators helping support some of the leading brands in the world, we have the ability to continue to invest in the sectors of society that are the most vulnerable, that are in need of our help. It’s not a creative imperative. It’s a moral imperative and a business imperative, because by investing in these groups we will not only continue to prosper as businesses but also as a society and a country.

Does your emphasis on diversity have to do with your past? 

There is no doubt that my upbringing has to do with what I do today. Growing up with an English father and a Honduran mother of Palestinian descent made our household incredibly multicultural. I didn’t really know it at the time, but I realize it now.

My father instilled that love of culture in all of us. I was reading The Economist by the time I was 12. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and we were there the following year. Whether it was in my African American Literature or European Politics class, I knew I was somehow going to do something that helped others understand the importance of culture. What that was, I didn’t know.

What’s the worst day of your career? 

A few weeks ago—when all came to a grinding halt. The lockdown began as a result of COVID-19, and, as business leaders, we were faced with an avalanche of challenges. That first week I had to make tough decisions, plan for all contingencies, make sure our employees were safe, ensure continued excellence service to our clients, while turning outwards and asking ourselves how we could support our Hispanic community—all while ensuring my own family was safe.

The thought of having to lay off personnel, furlough or cut salaries was dreadful. I ended that first week with my head buried in my hands, thinking of all that could happen. Thankfully, we’ve been able to ensure that no furloughs, layoffs or cuts have had to be done, except to my salary.

I can’t think of any other time in history as bleak as this one—and I lived through the dot-com crash, 9/11, and the 2008 recession. And much like a tsunami, it came in one big blow.

But as they say, “Anyone can lead when the plan is working. The best lead when the plan falls apart.”

What’s the best day in your career? 

For Boss’s Day last year, I received a gift from the team at BODEN—a pair of Reebok shoes that read “It’s a Man’s World” but with the words crossed out. It was great to realize how well our team knows me. I love sneakers and I’m a staunch feminist. There were also several balloons with a personal message from each person on it. As leaders we strive to be the best we can be for the business, our clients, our employees, our communities, our families—and we know we don’t always get it right. In that moment I thought, “I must be doing something right.”

Talk about the launch of BODEN’s Covid-19 Hispanic Public Relations Resource. 

It’s important to support our Hispanic community, and today they need the help of both the private and public sector more than ever before. So, we did what we do best and built a PR resource. We brought our team, friends in the media and Hispanic celebrities together to launch the COVID-19 Hispanic Public Relations Resource. This resource provides insights from the top Hispanic journalists, influencers and experts from around the country. It also includes a downloadable list of stakeholders including media companies, celebrities, organizations and social media influencers.

It will help brands broaden their message of health and wellness to the right stakeholders, helping them make a positive impact across the Hispanic community. The Hispanic community constitutes an economic, social and political force in the U.S. Nevertheless, it faces a great threat from the COVID-19 crisis as a result of various socio-economic factors, including lack of health insurance and lack of trust in the healthcare system. This resource is our way of giving brands insights to the most important voices in our community right now, as well as ways brands could help support this 50+ million Hispanic segment.

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.

HNM BLM

 
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