When I talk about voting you may think I’m talking about the election coming up in November. I am so excited to have the first Black, Indian Woman, Kamala Harris, added as Vice President to the Democratic Party ticket. My social media feed was happier and full of more optimism than it has been since 2016.   So yes, PLEASE VOTE!

But while I expect that news and the Maya Rudolph GIFs to dominate our consciousness for a while, I’m actually talking about how you vote – with your dollars. It’s August and it’s National Black Business Month. It’s not always easy to vote our values when we’re spending money. The election is a few months away but we have a chance to vote our values every day with diverse suppliers.

Finding Diverse Suppliers

I spoke to a friend of mine recently who is making a concerted effort to buy more intentionally in his household purchases. He’s reducing plastic and waste and increasing sustainability. He mentioned that he had searched everywhere for some reasonably priced items and ended up paying $16 for deodorant!

He asked me for some resources where he could continue to find products and services from Black and women-owned businesses . I directed him to OwnHers and The Nilelist which make it easy to find awesome products from Black entrepreneurs.  While I am energized by people’s increased willingness to vote their values with their dollars, I also want to let him, and you, know that it doesn’t have to be a huge sacrifice or expense to think about where you want to spend your money.

Stand up for Yourself

This month for the Diversity Masterminds® Business Unusual series, we spoke to diverse supplier Pamela Isom of ICE Safety Solutions. We talked with her about being a safety expert in the middle of a global pandemic. We also discussed being a Black-owned business when the Black Lives Matter movement has brought the importance of supporting Black-owned businesses into the greater consciousness. While there has been a focus on buying local and buying Black, JPMorgan Chase Institute says that “Black-owned businesses saw a 26% decline in cash balances in March compared to the previous year.” They were underfunded when the COVID19 crisis started.

We spoke to Pam about several things were crucial to her guiding her business through previous crises and this one.

One, stand up for yourself. Pam is the safety expert. When she lost an RFP to a company in a different industry all together, she called her contacts that put out the RFP saying, “I know safety.” The RFP was closed. But because of that purpose and laser focus, she stood out to her potential clients and they reconsidered. If she hadn’t had the courage to stand up in that moment and ask, “Why not me?” she may not have had the opportunity.

Ask Why

Second, she wants supplier diversity representatives that are looking for diverse suppliers to ask why her prices are higher.  When a potential customer almost dismissed her from consideration based on price, she told them, “Ask me why. Ask me why my prices are higher.” It turns out, she didn’t have the volume to get preferred pricing from the manufacturer. This deal would change that. By going in a negotiating as a partner with her customer, she came up with wins for everyone.

I encourage you to listen to the whole interview with Pam. IN the short interview she dropped a wealth of tips and stories for diverse businesses to succeed through downturns, shifts, and even global pandemics. As you listen, when you go to buy your next mask or deodorant, think about whether you could buy it from a Black-owned or other diverse business. Think about Pam and if you’re not buying from diverse suppliers. Ask yourself why you can’t reconsider your default settings and put your dollars where your values are.