Making connections: South Jersey chamber’s supplier diversity event creates real connections

Speed dating-style event introduces approximately two dozen diverse suppliers with procurement leaders of two dozen anchor institutions in region

The concept is simple: If you want to promote, encourage and solidify relationships between diverse-owned companies and major anchor institutions in a region, then bring them all together in one place and let them find matches that work for both sides.

Call it speed dating for suppliers.

Such was the thinking last week behind the second annual Supplier Diversity Matchmaking event at Rowan College at Burlington County.

The free event, created and sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey, paired 26 diverse suppliers with procurement representatives on a rotating basis during the 90-minute program. The diverse suppliers were comprised of 16 minority-owned, eight women-owned and two veteran-owned businesses.

Heather Sanderson, director of member experience for the CCSNJ, said the event was another way CCSNJ fulfills its commitment to fostering an inclusive organization that helps provide equitable economic opportunity to its diverse cross-section of member companies.

Sanderson, who led coordination of the event and was the architect of the expansive schedule that included more than 150 individual meetings between diverse suppliers and procurement representatives, felt it was a huge success.

“Our goal is to present our members with the opportunity to make valuable connections that lead to business relationships and strategic partnerships,” she said.

Diverse businesses had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with procurement representatives and also seek direction on navigating each company’s unique procurement process and requirements.

Claire Riggs, managing and strategic communication partner with Riggs Creative Group, a women- and minority-owned business, was paired with five different businesses at Friday’s event after participating at the 2023 event.

“We were able to expand our brand presence across disciplines in companies where we’ve previously worked and navigated the diverse supplier registration process for new contacts made,” she said. “We thank the chamber for its proactive support of supplier diversity initiatives, and we stay hopeful to secure new opportunities through the time invested.”

The large anchor institutions were looking to procure goods and services that ranged from office furniture and supplies to marketing and professional services.

The Camden-based Michaels Organization, which has participated in the last two events held by CCSNJ, said they have impact, according to Antoinette Dube, vice president of administration and compliance.

“Michaels is committed to sharing the economic benefits of redevelopment efforts with those who have historically been excluded from contracting opportunities,” she said. “To reach and exceed our established MBE/WBE/DBE program goals, Michaels supports and attends CCSNJ Diverse Supplier Matchmaking event to share these opportunities with new suppliers.”

Melissa Manera, manager of purchasing for Camden County College, agreed.

“We were able to meet with and identify diverse suppliers for the various commodities Camden County College procures,” she said. “This event has helped our procurement team solicit new vendors and build new business relationships with a more diverse population.”

Procurement representatives from 22 businesses participated in the event, including:

  • AmeriHealth;
  • Atlantic Cape Community College;
  • AtlantiCare;
  • Camden County College;
  • CBRE;
  • Cooper University Health Care;
  • Inspira Health;
  • Lassonde Pappas and Co. Inc.;
  • NFI;
  • Oaks Integrated Care;
  • PSEG Nuclear LLC;
  • Rowan College at Burlington County;
  • Rutgers University – Camden;
  • South Jersey Glass and Door Co.;
  • South Jersey Industries;
  • Stockton University;
  • Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young LLP;
  • TD Bank N.A.;
  • The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia;
  • The Michaels Organization;
  • Torcon Inc.;
  • Virtua Health Inc.

The CCSNJ plans to host an additional Supplier Diversity Matchmaking event virtually later this year. For more information, click here.