As a CEO, I’m wrapping up the year by looking over expenses and categories, finding places to cut costs, and strategizing about the year ahead. If you’re the CEO of your business or your household, you too are likely wrapping up end of year finances or at the very least wrapping up the holiday shopping. (If you haven’t finished your shopping yet, you still have time to get women-owned gifts and support a woman entrepreneur. )

Because of my interest in supplier diversity and spend, I talk a lot about buying from women. Now is when I tell you how intentional I actually was about my purchasing power. For 2019, I calculated the spend I knew I did with women-owned companies. I researched the time savers and life hacks that I employed to see if the owners of those companies are women, LGBTQ,  people of color, people with disabilities, or veterans. In 2018, I calculated what I spent with diverse businesses over the course of the year. While the numbers were OK, I knew I could do better. This year, I did a lot better.

In 2019, I increased my spend from 11.5% to 24.8% with diverse businesses, and primarily women-owned businesses. You can see the complete numbers in the infographic above the post.

Behind the Numbers

For some context behind the numbers:

  • Travel is my largest expense by far. While I’d love to see an airline owned by a woman or LGBT business, most of my spend is with major airlines and hotels. I count those in the Act Intentionally category (more below).
  • In general, I reduced my travel spend category overall. But, when I did have the opportunity to grab a meal outside the restaurant, I did look for diverse joints like Herban Fix Vegan Kitchen in Atlanta.
  • In my hometown, I seek out local, woman-owned restaurants and do a pretty good job. My regular haunts for business meetings are Kefa Cafe in Silver Spring, The Ministry near in Union Station in DC. I also like a Baked Joint which is local and family owned by a couple and their daughter. If we met up this year and I picked the spot, it was probably one of these. Having meetings at these places not only makes sure I spend some cash there but also gives me the opportunity to introduce other business owners to the fact that they are all, in this case, women-owned. It’s a bonus and a credibility builder all in one.
  • I joined Hera Hub in Tenleytown which is a community and co-working space for women-owned businesses. If I have a more formal meeting, there is meeting space. The community that Hera Hub provides for me and other women in the DMV is priceless.

It’s Hard!

So while my numbers improved, even with a concerted effort to buy from diverse businesses – it’s hard! The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council recognizes that we likely won’t be able to spend 100% of our dollars with diverse businesses. With that in mind, they make an effort to also encourage people to support the businesses that support those businesses. The Act Intentionally numbers refer to the money spent with those companies who have active supplier diversity programs that seek out products and services of diverse business owners. Last year, my Act Intentionally spend was a little higher at 20.8% to this year’s 17.5%. With just a minimal effort to get out of the hotel, my spend increased a lot. I’m going to make a bigger effort in 2020 to look for restaurants owned by women, POC, LGBT, Disability- or veteran restaurateurs.

Food is not the only category that I had success with. I love Canva, the design software and Sugarwish, a company that takes the hassle out of thank you gifts. I wish they were certified women’s business enterprises but feel good about supporting them as women-owned businesses.

Not captured here are the personal gifts I bought for baby showers, birthdays, bridal showers and the holidays. One of my favorite new WBE finds is Lay n Go which is a cosmetic case that lets you lay out everything inside it so you can see what you have, then simply cinch it up to go. They were developed to transport and clean up those pesky Lego pieces that are the bane of a parent’s existence. I can’t say enough good things about them.

What’s Next

In addition to just flexing my purchasing power, I also invested in my business this year. I started a new online course called Diversity Masterminds (just one spot left in the January cohort!) with my business partner. She is a certified women’s business enterprise (WBE) and Disability:IN certified business. Along with my business partner, my bookkeeper and marketing person are all women-owned businesses. In 2020, we will be investing in technology and media to bring Diversity Masterminds to a wider audience. That will be another opportunity to increase our supplier diversity spend.

And since most of my spend was with women-owned businesses, there are a lot of suppliers I’m missing out on in other diverse categories.

TL;DR: I was better this year but hope to make even more progress in the year ahead. If you can buy from local, small, and/or diverse businesses in 2020, I salute you.

Here’s hoping you have a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year!