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Gill Thorpe


Surrey, UK

The Sourcing Team is a promotional products company with processes, systems, expertise, and financial stability usually found in larger companies. Bespoke work is the company's specialty and they win business with major clients because of their solid infrastructure and reputation. Robust accreditations and an ability to demonstrate ethical, sustainable, environmental and diversity working practices ensure they are respected as professional as well as creative throughout the industry. This enables them to win major accounts even though they are not one of the largest in their sector. The next step is developing those accounts globally.

Be Present

The Sourcing Team pursued certification with WEConnect International with the idea that certification would provide a quick route to getting to the right contact for new business with global corporate clients. The benefits were, in fact, much richer than Gill anticipated.

At WEConnect International's signature "Meet the Member" events, Gill was able to meet representatives from the following companies:

  • Marriott Hotel
  • IBM
  • JP Morgan
  • Merck
  • RBS

These events provided the following benefits to her and her company:

  • Awareness - An understanding of the organisations own processes and global procurement needs
  • Visibility - A chance to meet key people and make an introduction to her own company
  • Information Sharing- Opportunity to complete a supplier questionnaire/ registration to complete and return (in some cases)
  • Relationship Building - Introduction to relevant key contacts to follow up in her own supply area
  • Competitive edge - Most importantly, insight into the world of the corporate buyer and understanding how The Sourcing Team can provide value to assist their corporate contacts in their roles

Challenges and Opportunities

Coming to the WEConnect programs and events is a very valuable way to leverage certification. WEConnect members who participate in the programs are all very positive, helpful and enthusiastic.

One challenge is that while it is clear that diversity is high on the global priorities, most corporates are in contracts with a preferred roster of supplier(s) and therefore finding it difficult to add additional diversity suppliers. After becoming aware of the challenges, WBEs can begin to share information on their companies, increase visibility among corporate members and build relationships both with diversity and inclusion professionals and with people in the company's particular product area.

Tips and Strategies

Attend all events to increase awareness of and exposure to other WBEs and corporate members. Workshops provide priceless information on topics relevant to building and running a growth oriented business. One workshop in particular run by Sarah Coleman, gave Gill insights into next steps for her business.

Along with attending the events, WBEs should register with WEConnect corporate members, ensure they have the correct contact information to enable follow up in order to learn the timeline and plan for contract renewal.

This follow up will build first line contacts and help those buyers meet their objectives. According to Gill, "This is not a guarantee to business but an amazing help through the door – thereafter it's down to your skills, abilities and offering!"

WEConnect International Conference in Europe September 2011

After attending the WEConnect Europe Conference, The Sourcing Team immediately followed up to make contact with key buyers following the event. As a promotional products company, they created a custom mailing pack for two reasons 1)so that recipients would relate the mailing back to WEConnect and keep The Sourcing Team at top of mind as opportunities arose and 2) to highlight the company's core capability in promotional products. Supported by market research, the company personalised items with the buyers name adding a small tagline – "We connected through WEConnect".

Recipients gave great feedback and helped open doors to the appropriate buyers.

Contacts, Contracts, and Impacts

Since becoming certified, The Sourcing Team is now on the supplier list for AT&T and received their first order from Accenture. Thanks to Pfizer, the company was introduced to their print management company – who have subsequently added The Sourcing Team to their approved supplier list. The Pfizer representative was a great advocate in contacting the current supplier and making a connection with Gill and her team for Tier 2 work. This is a priceless connection because the Tier 1 supplier works with 7-8 other major companies and the results could be exponential. In addition, following discussions with IBM it transpired they use the same print company as Pfizer which may offer additional opportunities via this supplier.

Key Learnings

  1. Empathy for the Buyer: Through the WEConnect International meet the buyer schedule it has shown how incredibly busy the WEConnect corporate members are, often with small buying teams with huge workloads. Their dedication is critical in this process but, it is just as important for the certified WBEs to think about how they can help the corporates solve problems in order to work together.
  2. Different customers require a different approach: The connections made will result in greater revenue in the future but primarily, WEConnect International has allowed the company to focus on growing large and global customers, and search not just for immediate contracts but to become part of a preferred supplier list over.
  3. Moving toward global: We have additional connections in Canada, India, Jamaica and the United States through our affiliation with WEConnect International.

What's your WEConnection?

One WBE has become a good client and this years' experience through WEConnect has been very valuable, causing The Sourcing Team to reconsider their own Diversity and Inclusion Program. In addition, amending their own supplier agreements to encourage their supply partners to be more inclusive.

The Sourcing Team participates in the P2MP mentorship scheme – which is supported by Pepsico and Cisco and pairs WEConnect certified businesses with Canadian certified WBEs. The pairs take part in webinars sponsored by major corporations and then they come together to discuss their learning's. Gill and her co director also attended the WBENC & WEConnect Conference in Florida and made global connections for business opportunities, and collaboration with other women owned businesses around the world. The major reason for attending the WBENC Conference was not to network with corporations but with other US/Canadian based WBEs; they met 3 companies who are potential partners from Canadian based companies. This is important as The Sourcing Team feel they would be more competitive with a global reach. Collaboration with these companies is key to have that reach. Says Gill about collaborating, "The American market is very different and we can give them the best expertise from the European."


"I believe you get back what you put in and we have truly embraced WEConnect ; being creative, supportive, proactive and definitely, persistent! We would like to thank all at WEConnect International, those who have given us the opportunity to do business and thank in particular to the dedication of the corporates who have made the efforts to connect us. In particular Marianne Schoenig from Accenture, Paul King from IBM, Neil Gowling from AT&T, Philip De Vliegher & Bart van den Hoven from Marriott, Kerry O'Leary from Pfizer, Niki Walker & Alison Heath from Cisco, Debra Karas from McCain Foods USA, Marcela Navarro from RBS, Debra Quade from Kellogg's and of course, Shirley Cooper and Louisa Moger for taking good care of all the European WBE's! We are delighted to be receiving some very exciting enquiries which we hope will generate some excellent business."

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