How can big companies work with local business to support community development?
Moderated by Harbia Bhatia, 2018-2019 Chair of the Community Relations Committee, Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce, this panel discussed and described very practical methods by which entrepreneurs can contribute to their communities, and at the same time, establish relationships with buyers in big companies. Nick Kaspar, President/CEO, explained that large companies often contact the Chamber to find vendors that can meet their needs. In turn, small businesses often experience difficulty finding the right contact in large companies, and the Chamber and its volunteers can bridge that gap. Members of the chamber then shared their experiences:
Kaiser Santa Clara Medical Center, represented by Chris Boyd, SVP/Area Manager, is the largest employer in the City of Santa Clara and looks to support the “economic health of the community. For example, Kaiser contributed $200 million for housing for veterans and the homeless. They provide funding to community organizations through an application process that identifies deterrents to health as a major focus; i.e., supporting a food pantry at San Jose State University so students don’t go hungry. Additionally, they actively seek to identify supplier diversity for a wide variety of goods and services and often connect with local small businesses through community events.
Ravinder Lal, the owner of a UPS store, started volunteering by shipping shoe donations for a Boy Scout troop and was overwhelmed by the level of appreciation he received. So he volunteered for more events, eventually meeting a parent who was working at Apple and needed more than 1,000 signs for a project. He got that large job, and even more business based on his contribution to the community; a truly win-win situation. He has found that supporting charitable events in the community can lead to connections with other volunteers who happen to be buyers in large organizations.
Sanjeev Acharya, the founder of SiliconSage Builders, emphasized sustainable design as a contribution to the community. He also stressed that the construction industry includes not just companies that employ tradespeople, but also many small businesses such as real estate agents, architects, and designers. SiliconSage established a foundation to support non-profit organizations and encourages its employees to volunteer in their communities.