The Power of Engagement for Diverse Businesses

Photo via Central Ohio Hospital Council Facebook page.

As director of small and diverse businesses at the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, I have the privilege of working with women- and minority-owned companies. They range from large corporations to organizations like the Central Ohio Hospital Council (COHC), which strives to connect companies with its members, the four hospital systems in Central Ohio.

I’ve been involved with the COHC for the last few years, since they engaged the Chamber on Diversity Bridge, an initiative designed to assist women- and minority-owned businesses with access to information, resources and connections. The COHC, on behalf of the four hospital systems — OhioHealth, OSU Wexner Medical Center, Children’s Hospital and Mount Carmel Hospital System — asked the Chamber for specific assistance in procurement processes.

Always an advocate for these businesses, I jumped at the opportunity to work closer with these systems in order to 1) understand their processes; 2) discover the composition of their current vendors and their ideal vendor; and 3) assist in the creation, planning and implementation of successful meet-and-greet strategies and engagements that would provide optimal outcomes for the hospital systems as well as for the diverse vendors that would be sought to engage in these opportunities.

Somers Martin

We agreed to host small, focused, industry-specific engagements that would provide an opportunity for the systems to inform the attendees about their procurement processes and to increase the hospital systems’ visibility within the minority business community.

Three meet-and-greet opportunities have been held in 2016. Industries included IT, environmental services (landscaping, windows, painting, drywall, etc.) and construction (furniture, engineering, painting, signage, wallcovering, window treatment, etc.). It was crucial that relevant businesses were in attendance, and that we were facilitating contact between general contractors and procurement teams from the hospital systems.

Each gathering included segments on what the hospital systems were purchasing, current projects, as well as their desire to engage with women- and minority-owned companies. In addition, each event included a panel who shared lessons and best practices from collaborating with hospital systems.

IMG_0146 (1)

So, how can you get involved in some of these opportunities and events?

  • Register on Diversity Bridge at You will be included in the Minority Business Directory that is used to source industries with whom the hospitals would like to engage.
  • Develop and distribute your capability statement, which is the “new” calling card. This document should outline your capabilities to do the work in your industry, clients with whom you have worked, and certifications or licenses you hold.
  • The best way to get engaged in these opportunities? Show up when invited to an event. A general contractor recently discussed how she has been asked this question by those who had not attended a single information session she hosted.
  • Register as a vendor on those company sites that might purchase your services and get to know the procurement team. Call them, make appointments for coffee to share your business model. Contracts may not be signed immediately, but you want to be top of mind when they are seeking potential partners.

— The Columbus Chamber of Commerce provides access to the connections, resources and solutions you need to help start and grow your business. Learn more about the Chamber at —