COLUMN: Real life matters. It's not all 'swipe right' in love or business

ConnXus to hold first IRL sourcing event

CINCINNATI -- Most people who look for love online learn that, eventually, it takes a meeting in real life to know if the connection can last.

As it turns out, the same can be said for business.

That’s why ConnXus, the Mason-based technology company, is hosting its first-ever Strategic Sourcing Event.

For years ConnXus has used its technology platform to help big corporations connect with smaller companies owned by women and minorities to supply goods and services that the big companies need. The Sept. 21 Strategic Sourcing Event at Revel OTR Urban Winery will give more than 70 women- and minority-owned businesses a chance to meet 30 corporate procurement representatives in person.

ConnXus promises this will be different from other networking events because the suppliers will be vetted in advance so the corporations will know which ones have a good shot at being successful business partners. So not exactly a blind date.

“You’re looking at the Match.com approach or eHarmony,” said Daryl Hammett, the chief operating officer for ConnXus. “Now they’re able to meet for the first time and say, ‘Hey, here are my preferences. What are your preferences?’”

Daryl Hammett

This isn’t “long walks on the beach” or “holding hands at the movies” kind of stuff. ConnXus is using its ConnXSmart virtual matchmaker to find out which suppliers have the experience, revenue and qualifications to meet the various corporate procurement officers’ needs.

Cathy Lindemann and Jenifer Johnson plan to attend the event on behalf of Evolution creative solutions, a local manufacturer of marketing materials.

Lindemann, the president of Evolution, has been working with ConnXus for more than five years and looks forward to the Sept. 21 event, she said.

“They have great speakers lined up. They’ve got some excellent buyers that are going to be there,” Lindemann said. “And for us, it’s a great opportunity because everybody needs business cards and marketing materials. So we can network with the suppliers that are there, too.”

Fewer frustrations, better conversations

ConnXus is partnering with several local and national organizations to host the event.

Those include: MORTAR, American Red Cross, Procter & Gamble Co., Ohio River Valley Women’s Business Council, Startup Cincy and Hillman Accelerator.

Hammett said creating opportunities for suppliers was his inspiration.

“We know that one of the obstacles to sourcing diverse and minority suppliers is access,” he said. “Travel, staying in hotels, going up to booths.”

Having a local event saves local businesses in terms of both money and time, he said.

And the corporate procurement officers there won’t be wasting their time, either, because of the work that ConnXus will do in advance to ensure that suppliers are a good match.

Cathy Lindemann (Photo by Ed McDonald)

“We’re taking all the frustrations out of the vetting process,” he said. “So now as a buyer, I can have a conversation with you.”

Cincinnati has a long tradition of bringing corporations and suppliers together in meaningful ways.

For more than 25 years, Toyota has held a networking event called the Toyota Opportunity Exchange. And for most of those years, the event has taken place at the Duke Energy Convention Center Downtown. More than 1,500 people attended the 2016 Opportunity Exchange.

Not only will the ConnXus event be much smaller, it also will be more strategic because of the vetting, Hammett said.

“I think the Toyota event could be overwhelming because there were so many people there,” Lindemann said. “This is small and quaint so it offers you more of a personal touch with each person.”

This Sept. 21 get together is at capacity so ConnXus isn’t looking to draw any more people there.

Jenifer Johnson (Photo by The Booth for Business)

But Hammett expects to do more of these locally and in other cities across the country where it would make sense to get corporate folks and suppliers together.

He figures these in-person gatherings can help show corporations and suppliers what ConnXus can do for them online and encourage more of them to work with the technology company.

He said he hopes it will give suppliers and corporations better insight into what makes each other tick, too.

“If we do more of these, I think suppliers will feel valued and like they’re getting a seat at the table,” he said. “But also the buyers will learn and get feedback for how they can improve the vetting process for their organizations.”

After all, some women and minority suppliers try for years to get an audience with corporate procurement officers.

And while I have never used an online dating site myself, the young singles tell me that would be a painfully long time to wait for a “swipe right.”

More information about ConnXus and its services is available online.

Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. She has been writing about women- and minority-owned businesses in Greater Cincinnati for nearly 20 years. To read more stories by Lucy, go to www.wcpo.com/may. To reach her, email lucy.may@wcpo.com. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.

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