Thrive GPO is a technology-enabled group purchasing organization focused exclusively on serving the nonprofit 501(c)3 sector in the US. I am the former Chief Procurement Officer for the American National Red Cross. During my tenure at the Red Cross, I worked with the only other GPO that serves the nonprofit sector. It was not meeting the needs of the existing membership, nor was it growing. Not only did my team from the Red Cross help to make it better, but I also recognized that I could develop and launch a more effective and better GPO to help nonprofits.
Where did you start and where are you now?
I started Thrive GPO in the late spring/early summer of 2014. I took on a co-founder in July, 2014, and we incorporated in South Carolina in September, 2014. We started from nothing and to-date we have signed on over 20 suppliers, we have our pre-beta technology website operational, we have over 50 members who have joined, and we have a strategic partnership with Good360 to dramatically increase our membership and serve as the exclusive GPO to all Good360 Membership.
What do you see for your future?
Thrive GPO is still in its infancy. We have barely begun to crawl, but like an infant, we are growing and changing daily. We anticipate receiving our first outside investments by the end of this year so we can continue to expand our supplier offerings, build up our technology and expand our membership to the nonprofit sector.
What do you see as challenges for you and your business?
The two greatest challenges Thrive GPO faces is: 1) Investors ready to invest in a social enterprise—one that is “doing good” while earning healthy profits, and 2) growing our membership base quickly. Nonprofits are notoriously slow in making decisions—so finding ways to increase the velocity to get new members on board will be our biggest challenge.
We have huge opportunities in the technology space to create a unique technology experience that will facilitate the cloud-based B2B buying experience for our membership. We also have a huge opportunity to create a collaborative environment for nonprofits to learn how working together on expense management areas can not only help them individually save money, but also help the entire ecosystem of nonprofits save money. A rising tide can truly lift all boats if we learn to work together.
How can we help your business?
We’ve been doing a lot of research on Impact Investing and investments in Women Entrepreneurs. I think there is an intersection of those two ideas—Women and Impact. I believe that women who are investors and who want to see more social enterprises launched to do more good in the world can have a hugely beneficial impact in the investment space by helping both women-led and social enterprises get more attention from the investment community. Help us leave a legacy that is more than money—it’s something that really matters!
Where did you grow up?
I’m the product of a typical middle class family from the 60’s & 70’s. My mother stayed home and my father worked—sometimes three jobs—just to make ends meet. I was the youngest of four children and spent the better part of my formative years on my own, because my siblings had all grown up and moved out. I learned independence and self-reliance.
And how is where you came from material to your identity as an entrepreneur?
I’m not sure that “where” I came from is material, but certainly my upbringing taught me the value of hard work and dedication to something that matters and makes a difference.
Tell us a story about a success in your business.
We have had a number of successes in the young life of our company. But the greatest success to date has been forming a strategic partnership with Good360. Thrive GPO will serve as the exclusive GPO offering for Good360’s nearly 40,000 nonprofit members. This strategic partnership will allow Thrive GPO to reach thousands more nonprofits via Good360’s established relationships and through their website. It is truly a win-win-win partnership in which all the parties achieve success.
How about a mistake you overcame?
We made some poor choices on our technology decisions in the beginning and are working to correct those so we can give our members a strong, cloud-based B2B experience that surpasses anything they have experienced on the internet. We need to create a frictionless commerce experience that allows our members to buy what they need and keep moving to serve the mission that they support.
It’s my grandchildren.
What do you love about being an entrepreneur?
I love many things: making my own decisions every day; not being accountable to anyone else but myself; the ebb and flow of how work rolls through our company; having a partnership that works; being able to help nonprofits save money and do more for their mission; driving my own destiny and creating my own legacy. But the list could be much longer. I would never return to corporate America unless I was absolutely desperate.
What about your business matters most deeply to you?
The fact that I am using what I’ve learned and am experienced (supply management) to help nonprofits achieve savings and expense management, which in turn, allows them to expand and extend their mission to help others. So “helping those who help others.”
I am a big believer in helping wherever needed and however I can. This certainly allows me to bring all my skills and experience together to help those who most need our help.
What would you say is your “entrepreneurial superpower?”
My ability to engage with people and help them reach their goals.
Who is the entrepreneur you admire most right now?
She took what she knew and what she believed in and combined it together to create a business that serves women, helps women, and teaches women how to launch their own careers and find their own success.
What’s the best and the worst thing about being an entrepreneur, as a woman?
The best thing is not having to do the corporate “dress up” routine. I am quite happy working most days in comfortable clothes. The worst thing is that being a woman (even an entrepreneur) in business is still an uphill battle. Most of the investors I meet are men. Most of the money to be invested is controlled by men. The reality is that business and government is still unbalanced—we need a healthy rebalancing of male and female leadership in both worlds to begin to change our world for the better. But the guys are going to have to be the ones to step up and lead the way—by stepping back.
Men have a lot of history going for them in business. They have self-confidence built in and they are relating to men who are also in positions of power or positions to help them. While they are out there on their own, just like women, they have benefits that women entrepreneurs simply cannot tap into. The networks, the status quo are all established by men.
What the best advice you ever got, and from whom?
“Be yourself and do your best.” My Dad—the greatest guy I ever knew!
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