Jasmine Wang knew her company would be a good vendor for HISD, offering one-stop shopping for a range of supplies, from janitorial carts to pencil sharpeners.
But Wang, a Houston small-business owner, was apprehensive about getting involved in the public procurement process with the largest school district in Texas. That was, until she connected with the HISD’s Office of Business Assistance.
“(HISD) really helps small businesses, especially minority-owned businesses,” said Wang, who began her company, Sienna Supply, in 2010. “There is a nurturing relationship between HISD and small-business suppliers.”
The business assistance team at HISD is designed to help small companies, including minority and women-owned firms, gain the confidence and expertise to navigate the procurement process, hosting workshops on business topics and networking events.
In 2012, the business assistance team helped more than 1,300 firms. It provided assistance for M/WBE bid documentation, helped in resolving payment disputes for M/WBE suppliers and alerted suppliers and organizations to opportunities offered by the district.
“We’re actively engaging other governmental agencies and corporate partners to develop capacity building programs that prepare small firms, helping them take advantage of the opportunities available (at HISD),” HISD Supplier Diversity Team Leader Bernard Willingham said.
In recent months, the Office of Business Assistance has been working especially hard to let vendors and suppliers know about opportunities under the $1.89 billion 2012 bond program, which will build or renovate 40 schools across the district.
Willingham said he knew Wang was dedicated to growing her business after his first conversation with her at a networking event in June 2011. He stressed the importance of attending supplier diversity events and meeting with procurement professionals to gain a better understanding of the process and the needs of the district.
Wang applied that advice, attending multiple workshops, asking questions, taking notes, and using the tips she learned.
“Jasmine really wanted to know how she could assist HISD,” Willingham said. “For her, it wasn’t about getting a contract and getting paid. She wanted to know how she could solve problems we may or may not be having.”
That persistence paid off when Wang won a contract not to exceed $100,000 in 2011 to provide school equipment and janitorial supplies to the district.
“Winning a contract from HISD helped me to grow my business,” Wang said. “I can’t say enough how grateful I am.”
Wang’s advice to other companies looking to do business with HISD is simple – get involved and get M/WBE certified, if eligible. She says certification opens the door for networking opportunities and business growth.
Wang’s success story is the kind of outcome that Willingham strives for every day when he works with other small and minority-owned businesses. His message is clear: The Office of Business Assistance is here to help.
“HISD recognizes that having a diverse supplier pool is a major competitive advantage,” he said. “With this knowledge, our goal is to assist M/WBEs in being as successful as possible.”
Want to learn more about doing business with the district? The Office of Business Assistance hosts workshops the first Wednesday of the every month. To register for the workshop or sign up for our email blasts on vendor opportunities, contact the Office of Business Assistance at 713-556-7273.