When Necole Parker Green, principal and CEO of The ELOCEN Group, was interested in expanding her construction project management business beyond government contracts, she connected with The Coca‑Cola Company through its Supplier Diversity Program.
Green and two of her employees took online courses, which guided them through modules on corporate business skills. They learned the importance of understanding and researching a company before approaching it to earn business, the ins and outs of corporate procurement, how to sell their services—and, unexpectedly, that The ELOCEN Group’s advancements could help women business owners succeed.
“As a woman in construction, we have to walk three times as fast in this heavily male-dominated industry. I can do that. I am a multi-tasker by trade, always working multiple projects at the same time, with a passion for solving problems,” said Green. “I expected Coca‑Cola’s program to give me an edge, business-wise, but what I didn’t realize is that I would be able to inspire others and give back to peer business owners. I am just your average college student working my way to the top. I am here to show other women they can be successful business owners too.”
Enabling the economic empowerment of women business owners is a priority at Coca‑Cola. That’s because when women succeed, economies and communities greatly benefit. In 2010, Coca‑Cola launched 5by20, an initiative aiming to enable the economic empowerment of 5 million women entrepreneurs by 2020 across the company’s value chain—all businesses Coca‑Cola touches.
5by20 provides business skills training, loans and financial services, and peer networks and mentoring. In the United States, the Supplier Training & Empowerment Program (STEP) is designed to help Coca‑Cola’s women-owned suppliers, like Green, stay competitive and grow their businesses.
Interactive and informational trainings, offered online and in-person, equip STEP participants with key learnings and tools to help identify and eliminate barriers, and better understand and meet customer requirements. As women entrepreneurs seek to take their businesses to the next level, STEP gives the step up they need.
Today, The ELOCEN Group is proud to call Coca‑Cola a client, supporting the company with program and design management for a laboratory in New York and a host of other projects nationally. STEP lessons have greatly benefited their connection with the beverage company, and they have been essential to growing business with other clients as well.
Monica Maldonado is president and CEO of InterPrint Communications, a vendor of The Coca‑Cola Company for more than 30 years. She considers STEP a reminder of business basics. While she has received vendor training and mentorship from the company for many years, she engaged the STEP in person at Coca‑Cola headquarters in Atlanta last year to reinforce her knowledge and direction.
Maldonado sees STEP as a tool that can teach women business owners how to reach and partner corporate America, increase visibility, develop and enhance sales pitches, access funding, conduct business and more.
“In every step of business, you go through growth spurts and stagnation," she explains. "Programs like STEP remind us of some basic and necessary constants in business. We can all use a refresher in business approaches; it gives us an advantage to securing contracts. At InterPrint Communications, we’ve experienced growth with Coca‑Cola over time and estimate that 10 percent of our business comes from the company. I would recommend STEP to women entrepreneurs, but it is important they understand going through the training isn’t enough. It’s up to them to take those learnings and turn them into actions that improve business.”