Preferred Vendors: Corporate Buyers Want Strategic Partners, Not Only Suppliers

Article excerpt

Ralph Weaver turned his passion for collecting decorative accessories into a lucrative business venture. Headquartered in Pittstown, New Jersey, East West Connection (EWC) is a provider of promotional and custom merchandise, business gifts, and event planning.

Established in 1990, the firm has become the preferred vendor at several corporations, with its revenues reaching $15.4 million in 2004. Weaver, 50, attributes his success to the business relationships he has formed with corporate clients. Inspiration to pursue corporate accounts came after a customer made a request for 500 crystal bowls. "At that point, I realized that businesses not only had the money, but also the need to purchase hundreds of specialty items," says Weaver.

After an unsuccessful bid to a Response for Proposal, Weaver learned that corporate contracts required a higher level of proficiency. As a small business, it is important to have the infrastructure in place to serve corporate clients both domestically and internationally. In addition, having the ability to deliver large quantities of goods quickly gives small businesses the competency to compete against larger companies. "Even though EWC did not win the contract, the review panel did provide me with insightful feedback as to why my company was not selected, says Weaver." He used this advice to refine his business. Weaver hired more people, bringing his staff up to 23 employees with specialized skills in accounting, sales, and customer service.

Bunni Wheeler-Young, a senior specialist in the supplier diversity unit at Freddie Mac, has developed a strong business relationship with EWC. …