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  • Supporting supplier diversity is just good business

Supporting supplier diversity is just good business

Friday, October 30, 2020

Yemi Akindoju, president and CEO of Vanity Fashions and member of the Board of Directors for the Black Business Initiative, strongly believes in the value of diversity.

“I believe in positive strength. That’s why I bought a company — to acquire economic power and create opportunities for diversity in different forms – black, white, persons of every colour — everybody. That’s my philosophy, that everyone should be equal,” explains Akindoju.

Photo of Yemi Akindoju

Before entering the jewelry business, Akindoju spent his career as a Senior Executive at Sterling Bank in Nigeria before immigrating to Canada, where he worked with Scotiabank and retired as a Senior Client Relationship Manager in Commercial Banking. In 2018, he acquired Vanity Fashions, a privately owned and operated company with the core value of diversity and inclusion, known for supplying quality nickel-free jewelry to retailers across Canada.

Despite its success in the national market, Akindoju saw the advantage of building up the company’s capacity to service beyond Canadian borders, but wasn’t sure where to start.

“I never knew selling outside of Nova Scotia was considered exporting, or that there were programs out there that could assist us,” explains Akindoju. “Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI) was able to connect us to new trade shows, cover travel costs, and provide training to help us succeed. We became more comfortable traveling out to establish our products.”

Karen Williams, Export Development Executive at NSBI, identified that Vanity Fashions qualified for supplier diversity initiatives, an initiative that aims to create opportunities for traditionally underrepresented suppliers to connect with large corporate and public procurement supply chains.

“NSBI was able to help us succeed. We became more comfortable traveling out to establish our products.”

— Yemi Akindoju

“Karen was wonderful. She suggested I join the supplier diversity show in Toronto, which we did for the first last time last year, and this year was fantastic as well. You can imagine the obstacles minority-owned businesses face, not capturing that attention. The show helped us be seen.”

Through supplier diversity, certified companies like Vanity Fashions gain insight into what large corporations buy and their criteria for sourcing their suppliers. Most importantly, it enables companies to pitch their business to the procurement teams of some of the largest organizations in North America and Europe.

Akindoju emphasizes it’s important to understand supplier diversity is not preferential treatment. “Supplier diversity initiatives helps your company get heard. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with large corporations that I would never have had access to. But similar to how I run my business, I wouldn’t bring in anybody because they are Black or a minority. I would bring them in because they’re the best fit.”

Likewise, large corporations select the best product, and best fit, for their business. And they benefit from collaborating with diverse suppliers, representing their employee and customer bases better, building more robust supply chains with a wide range of qualified suppliers, and reducing the overall risk associated with streamlined supplier pipelines.

Long story short: supplier diversity is just good business.

Could supplier diversity programs work for your business? Contact Karen Williams, NSBI Export Development Executive, to learn more.