How to Unleash the Power of NJAWBO to Build Relationships and Grow Your Business
At one time, the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners created an initiative, the Corporate Supplier Diversity Mentoring Program,* to pair women business owners with some of the largest corporate businesses in the state. I was honored to have been selected to participate in the 15-month program that started in April 2009. As I reflect on my experience, which included a group of fabulous women, I realize how fortunate I was because of the relationships that were cultivated as the result of this initiative. In fact, the Corporate Supplier Diversity Mentoring Program helped me take my business to a level I could not do on my own.
In June 2005, I became the president of Ridgewood Moving Services after the sudden death of my husband. Literally, overnight, I transitioned from a full-time mom/volunteer with a fashion background to the CEO of a moving company. As you can imagine, I faced many challenges. But the biggest was how to run a business in an industry that I only heard my husband talk about at home.
With very few business resources to rely on, I joined various organizations. I began networking, cultivating relationships, and relying on advisory boards for guidance. I became involved in the NJ Movers Association, local chambers, a women presidents’ organization, NJAWBO, CIANJ, and others. To develop and grow my business, my motto at that time was “It’s not who you know; it’s who knows you.” In addition, I had the company certified as a woman-owned business (WBENC Certification) and aligned myself with a van line to expand our lines of moving services.
When NJAWBO offered the Corporate Supplier Diversity Mentoring Program, it was early on in my CEO career. Although I was a certified woman-owned business, I was not quite sure what to do with that credential. But brighter days were ahead. This program put me in front of “mentors”—large companies that I never would have had the opportunity to meet otherwise.
The “Perfect” Elevator Pitch
The program included full-day meetings at various corporate headquarters. Each mentee established goals, but what stands out was the focus on our 30-second elevator pitch, which we practiced at every meeting. With feedback from the group, we answered the following:
Who are you?
What do you do and why do you do it?
What problem do you solve?
What markets do you serve?
What is your value proposition?
Can you describe your business in seven words?
What can you say to leave an impression?
Some mentors suggested that we describe our business first and end with our name and our company name, so I would say, “I am in the business of moving people’s lives. Cindy Myer, Ridgewood Moving Services, a certified woman-owned business.” Over the years, I’ve learned the importance of having a variety of prepared elevator pitches (for different audiences) in my arsenal. After all, your elevator pitch is usually your only opportunity to make a lasting first impression.
Each corporate partner (mentor) presented on different topics: marketing, diversity spend/selection, request for proposal (RFP) instructions, how to navigate through the system, etc. Each mentor introduced us to their company’s decision makers whose role was to seek out minority and diversity suppliers. We were trained to differentiate ourselves, to provide solutions to problems,to offer cost-saving suggestions, to add value, and to be socially responsible. We shared wisdom, education, resources, and challenges. I can assure you that the knowledge and skills gained from participating in this program could be adapted to any sales and follow-up process. As the months passed, it was obvious that all of the participants were winners: NJAWBO, mentors, and mentees—as was the commitment to diversity efforts.
The Three Principles and The First Woman
As a business owner with a deep understanding of the value of diversity and social responsibility in the workplace, I established three principles that I hold myself (and my team) to each year: enrichment, engagement, education. Enrich yourself with like-minded people. Engage yourself and your business to better the community. Continue to grow your mind and spirit through educational opportunities. Many years later: I was honored to become the first woman president of the New Jersey Warehousemen and Movers Association.
Naturally, I am thankful for the opportunity NJAWBO provided years ago, so I urge you to participate in the programs and events NJAWBO offers. Not only did my experience help me grow as a business and community leader—it helped me grow into the grateful, confident person I am today.
* Note: Although the Corporate Supplier Diversity Program is not currently offered, when you attend and participate in NJAWBO events, you take an essential step in building relationships and growing your business.