Elevate Together® Initiative Expands to Minneapolis with Support of Taylor Corporation

NORTH MANKATO, Minn., (May 17, 2022) – Taylor Corporation has joined a coalition of like-minded companies, including The ODP Corporation, JPMorgan Chase and NCR Foundation, to support small businesses through Elevate Together®, a nonprofit initiative designed to accelerate the creation, growth, and prosperity of Black and Hispanic small businesses. The program, powered by Round It Up America®, is now in its second year and has invested nearly $3 million towards its mission to date.

Elevate Together was launched in 2021 by founding corporate partner, The ODP Corporation, to address systemic discrimination and historical racial disparities in business growth and profitability in Black and Hispanic communities. As part of this initiative, eligible small business owners gain access to technical assistance, mentoring, professional networks and more. Select businesses may also receive direct aid in the form of cash grants, products and services.

With support from Taylor Corporation, the newest corporate partner to the Elevate Together® initiative, the program now operates in Minneapolis through partnerships with Metropolitan Economic Development Association (Meda) and the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Minnesota. 

“Taylor Corporation is proud to be an Elevate Together partner with The ODP Corporation and Round It Up America®,” said Charlie Whitaker, CEO of Taylor Corporation. “We are equally proud to be active providers of the mentoring and job training activities that Elevate Together is developing and expanding for its selected business owners. We look forward to broadening this participation as the initiative grows nationally in the future.” 

Small businesses are the driver of Minnesota’s economy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 99.5% of the state’s businesses are small businesses, with more than 11% being Black and Hispanic-owned. 

“Cooperation of this caliber is necessary to challenge the systemic discrimination and systems of disparity,” said Meda President and CEO, Alfredo Martel. “We are proud to partner in a program designed to accelerate the growth and prosperity of the small BIPOC-owned businesses. It is our hope that by supporting BIPOC entrepreneurs, we will increase the economic stability of entire communities.”

“The Latino Chamber of Commerce Minnesota is excited to see the Elevate Together initiative make an impact with our membership.  It’s glad to have a locally based, Minnesota company such as Taylor Corp join us in the efforts to promote and help Latino businesses grow in Minnesota,” said John Pacheco, President of the Latino Chamber of Minnesota.

“With support from Taylor Corporation and the teams at the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Minnesota and Meda, we’re excited to help connect Black- and Hispanic-owned small businesses in Minneapolis with new opportunities for education, access and aid through the  Elevate Together® initiative,” said Alex Price, Director of Community Investment for Office Depot, a wholly owned subsidiary of The ODP Corporation.

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About Elevate Together®:

Elevate Together® powered by Round It Up America® is a nonprofit initiative designed to address systemic discrimination and historical racial disparities in business growth and profitability in Black and Hispanic communities. Through a partnership with the National Urban League, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Meda, the initiative delivers education, access and aid to Black and Hispanic small businesses. Founded by The ODP Corporation, Elevate Together is supported by a coalition of like-minded companies with a mission to strengthen local communities, foster job creation, and close the racial wealth gap. Learn more at www.elevatetogether.org.

About Taylor Corporation: 

Taylor Corporation is one of the top five graphic communications companies in North America. Headquartered in North Mankato, Minnesota, the company employs more than 8,000 people across operations in 32 states and eight countries and has more than 110 total granted patents and pending applications in various areas of materials science and solution engineering. For more information, visit www.taylor.com.

 

About the Metropolitan Economic Development Association (Meda):

Meda was founded by a group of Minnesota business leaders who saw BIPOC business ownership as a positive, long-term response to rising economic inequity within minority communities in our state. Meda provides business development services, access to capital and corporate and governmental market support for BIPOC entrepreneurs. Over the years, Meda has helped launch more than 500 BIPOC businesses and assisted more than 25,000 Minnesota BIPOC entrepreneurs. Meda operates a growing Community Development Fund Institution (CDFI) that provides needed capital for minority businesses to become sustainable. Meda is also the host organization for the Minneapolis Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Business Center, which has been recognized by the MBDA as the top performing center four consecutive years from 2016- 2019. For more information, visit meda.net.

 

About Latino Chamber of Commerce of Minnesota: 

Latino Chamber of Commerce Minnesota is a 501c6 member based, advocacy organization whose purpose is to bring together business, government, corporations, and community for the economic growth of Latino businesses in Minnesota.

 

About The ODP Corporation:

The ODP Corporation (NASDAQ:ODP) is a leading provider of business services and supplies, products and digital workplace technology solutions to small, medium and enterprise businesses, through an integrated business-to-business (B2B) distribution platform, which includes world-class supply chain and distribution operations, dedicated sales professionals and technicians, online presence, and approximately 1,000 stores. Through its banner brands Office Depot®, OfficeMax®, ODP Business Solutions™, Varis™ and Grand&Toy®, as well as others, the company offers its customers the tools and resources they need to focus on their passion of starting, growing and running their business. For more information, visit news.theodpcorp.com and investor.theodpcorp.com.

ODP, ODP Business Solutions, and Office Depot are trademarks of The Office Club, Inc. OfficeMax is a trademark of OMX, Inc. Varis is a trademark of Varis, LLC. Grand&Toy is a trademark of Grand & Toy, LLC in Canada. ©2022 Office Depot, LLC. All rights reserved. Any other product or company names mentioned herein are the trademarks of their respective owners.


Disney Institute Program For Elevate Together

Disney Institute brought its renowned professional development course, Disney’s Foundations of Business Excellence, to the Elevate Together community in March 2022. The workshop helped attendees begin to understand the power of leadership values, discover how customer loyalty can be established, and gained insight into how organizational culture is strengthened.

Participants gained an awareness of the systems and processes that can make exceptional customer service achievable and learned how to integrate personal creativity and organizational processes to support continuous improvement within their organization. This Disney Institute training uses business insights and time-tested examples from Disney parks and resorts to inspire individuals and organizations to enhance their own customer experience using Disney principles as their guide.

Kevin Moffitt
Executive Vice President and Chief Retail Officer, Office Depot

As part of Office Depot’s partnership with the Disney Institute, Elevate Together grant recipients and community partners were invited to participate in a free two-hour Foundations of Business Excellence course. Office Depot’s Executive Vice President and Chief Retail Officer, Kevin Moffitt, opened the program by welcoming attendees that included a mix of small businesses owners, staff at local Hispanic Chambers and Urban League affiliates, and Elevate Together mentors.

“What an awesome experience! Attending the Disney workshop was stimulating to my thoughts as to how I can integrate the “Disney magic” into my service delivery,” Felicie Bright, owner of Bright Moments. “It’s truly a blessing to be a part of the Elevate Together program and I look forward to growing and building my business.”

 


A Holistic Initiative that Goes Beyond Financial Assistance

Mentoring is a key component of Elevate Together and a way for businesses to succeed. In this interview, Maria Gutierrez, a Venture Mentoring Team member who mentors Elevate Together small business grant recipients, tells us more about how Elevate Together™ provides Black and Hispanic small business owners the necessary tools to achieve their goals.

https://youtu.be/d3WenJcUoWA

Tammy (Interviewer): Hi. Welcome to Elevate Together. Today we have Maria Gutierrez, a mentor from the Venture Mentoring Team who will speak a little bit more about the Elevate Together mentoring program. Welcome, Maria. How are you today?

Maria: I am very good, thank you, Tammy. How are you?

Tammy: I’m very, very good. And you are one of the Venture Mentor Team members. Can you tell me a briefly about yourself and the role that you play [at] Elevate Together?

Maria: Yes, as you said, I am Maria Gutierrez. I currently work for Office Depot and so we spearheaded the whole Elevate Together movement and as part of that, we connected with the Venture Mentoring Team to help us provide mentoring to business owners that come through the program. It really piqued my interest as I co -lead our Latino ARG group at Office Depot. We not only try to drive business and develop our professionals, but we also go out there and see ways that we can help the Latino community, so this was a perfect opportunity for me to get involved. I found out a little bit more details about what it took and at first, I kind of questioned, you know, “Do I have the skill set? But I just said yeah, I am going to take the risk”, gave it a try and went through the training and it has been a wonderful experience to go through this. My focus is on coaching and mentoring Latino-owned or women-owned businesses—small businesses— and you get so much more than what you give. I mean, obviously, you don’t do this alone, it’s a team of mentors and we’re able to provide coaching to these businesses in many areas [such as] sales, forecasting, accounting, marketing, and by sitting in these teams you also get to learn a whole lot about businesses in areas that you are not involved in. So that’s my role, I am currently a mentor. I am currently mentoring about five or six businesses, not only in Florida, but outside of Florida as well.

Tammy: That’s amazing! And, why is mentoring an important component of Elevate Together? Can you expand a little bit more on that?

Maria: It is an important component because it goes beyond the financial help and I truly believe in mentoring as a way for businesses to succeed. So we give them the cash grant, but we also put them through the training to give them the tools that they need to succeed, and you’d be surprised how many people don’t take mentoring —and not intentionally, but they don’t see it as an important part of a business and it is. It’s as important as the execution to really stop and think through, “What is my business going to look like next year?” “The following year?”, “What am I forecasting?”, “What are my risks?” You know, prices are increasing - “Do I need to look for different vendors?” Marketing— “Am I doing okay with so many digital platforms?”, “Do I need to look beyond what I am doing now?”, so many things that business owners may not consider because they are in the day-to-day trying to make money—and not to their fault, but that’s when we come in. We come in to help them and support them in this with the training so that they can see, or have a holistic view of, all the areas that encompass having a business. So that they can also take care of these areas and think through these questions.

Tammy: And I think it is very important because, like you mention, you give out the grants, but often times, especially small business owners that (sic) are starting their business, their start-ups, they don’t necessarily know… they have an idea of what it is that they are going to do with the money, with the grants, but they may not have, like you mentioned, all of the skills set and all of the information that they need to make best use of that money. I think that is a key component of being successful in a business and I think that is one of the benefits of Elevate Together— being able to provide those skill sets, those trainings, that one-on-one mentoring to those business owners. And on that same line, how do Black and Hispanic-owned small businesses benefit from mentoring offered by the Venture Mentoring Team, besides what you just mentioned on the marketing, the “What to do with grants and funds?”

Maria: So, I see it as—first, we are a free of service. Two, I want to think of it as a curated group of professionals that have no other interest than to benefit the business owner, [we are] totally working as a volunteer. We are not allowed to invest in these companies, so we actually sign an agreement that this is what we are engaged to do. So, we are here for the benefit of the business owner. You also have—when I say curated it’s because you have professionals in the different areas—many of them have businesses, have sold businesses, or are currently working in their own business, have worked at a corporate world and then have moved on to having their own businesses, so there is such a wealth of experience out there. They’ve gone through the ‘trials and tribulations’ of owning a business and so, you have access to these resource of professionals—it’s great for the business owners. They get to have a mentoring team, not just a mentor, so right there, that’s another benefit, you know, they get diverse opinions from different angles. And something else, the connections that they are building and the ability to network with these professionals. In my case, I am mentoring a lady right now that’s (sic) potentially looking to get into retail, so I work at Office Depot who (sic) is a big retailer, so I am able to connect her with some of our internal professionals in merchandising that (sic) can guide her through the steps that a vendor will need to do to present a product to a retailer; to know what it is they look for; to learn a little bit more about forecasting. So, even if we don’t have the tools or the expertise within the team, we have a broader network that we make available to these business owners and it’s all free of cost, which is important for someone that’s (sic) starting a business.

Tammy: That’s amazing, and you speak about all of these benefits. But, why did you become a mentor? What benefit does it bring to you, as a mentor working with these small businesses?

Maria: So, I get a lot out of it! I believe in reinventing yourself and learning every step of the way and I have learned so much since I’ve joined VMT. I’ve learned about other areas of a business that I didn’t really know. Depending on the industry, that you mentor, you can learn about that industry as well. So, it’s just continuous learning for me. Even within accounting and finance, I work with individuals that have been in the industry for much longer, so I get to expand my skills—and I love it. I also get to utilize some of the skills that I don’t necessarily use and some of the knowledge that I don’t necessary use every day at work, so that’s also another benefit that I get out of it. And then there’s the ability to help. For me, women owned-businesses, Latina-owned businesses are important. I think [that] there’s a lot of potential, but a lot of these businesses do not know that there are resources out there available to them and so, it’s almost like, you know, I want them to know that this is available to them and that we can help them fulfill those goals, and so that’s the reward that I get out of it, besides the help.

Tammy: I think that the reward—being able to see them grow, to see them achieve their goals and be part of that journey, like you mentioned earlier, it’s rewarding for a person who is mentoring. And again, giving that education—say “Wow!”. Not to boast or anything like that but it’s really rewarding when you get to help others and to see them succeed. So, thank you so much, Maria. Is there anything else you would like to add about the mentoring program with Elevate Together?

Maria: Yes, Tammy! Going back to the last point that we were discussing, it’s so important to, again, not only give them the money, but give them the tools and the training that they need so it becomes a sustainable environment where you don’t have to keep supporting them financially, but the goal is that they will become successful and then they will pay back and help out other businesses. That’s how you elevate your community. On the last note, I encourage everyone to give it a try. If you have the time, try to get involved and become a mentor and if you are in a position where you can make the decision to join this program, I encourage you to give it a thought and contact us and let us know how we can partner together.

Tammy: Well, thank you, Maria so much for being here and interviewing and letting us know a little bit more about your role and Elevate Together. They [Elevate Together] also has a university section where they provide various trainings and workshops in both English and Spanish.


How Elevate Together™ Helped a Small Business to Reopen After Devastating Disaster

Ruchama Jean Baptiste, a nurse practitioner, launched Lavie Scrubs in February 2020 to help medical professionals look and feel great with affordable and comfortable medical uniforms and accessories. In 2021, Ruchama was selected by the Urban League of Palm Beach County to receive a $10,000 small business cash grant from Elevate Together™ powered by Round It Up America®. This cash grant allowed her to purchase more inventory and hire a part-time assistant to help contact potential clients.

https://youtu.be/rvlah4sFlxE

During the grant presentation, Office Depot Associates learned that Ruchama’s inventory and office space for Lavie Scrubs were destroyed in a warehouse fire, which forced her to operate temporarily from a mobile unit.

“We launched our business in 2020, right before the pandemic happened. After that, we were in a warehouse and we had a fire in our building, which caused us to lose a lot of our inventory and we had to start over,” Ruchama said.

Once Ruchama was able to secure a new storefront several months later in Delray Beach, Office Depot wanted to help make her new office a comfortable and productive work environment with an in-kind donation of brand-new stylish furniture, office essentials and cleaning supplies.

“During that time, we were fortunate enough to have Elevate Together help us. They donated furniture, supplies, and we also won a grant that helped us kickstart our business, and here we are today,” Ruchama said.


Elevate Together™ Initiative Raises Nearly $2.3 Million in First Year to Foster Growth and Profitability for Black- and Hispanic-Owned Small Businesses

Elevate Together™ Initiative Raises Nearly $2.3 Million in First Year to Foster Growth and Profitability for Black- and Hispanic-Owned Small Businesses

Boca Raton, Fla., February 15, 2022 – Elevate Together™ powered by Round It Up America®, a nonprofit initiative founded by The ODP Corporation (NASDAQ:ODP), today announced that nearly $2.3 million was raised during the program’s inaugural year in support of its mission to help accelerate the creation, growth and prosperity of Black- and Hispanic-owned small businesses.

Through partnerships with the National Urban League and the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Elevate Together™ was designed to deliver education, access and aid to small businesses with five employees or less. With an initial investment of $250,000, The ODP Corporation helped launch the program in Atlanta, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, and West Palm Beach. Throughout the year, local Urban League affiliates and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce chapters in these markets received technical assistance grants to provide eligible small business owners with access to free workshops and bootcamps, professional networks, mentorship services and more.

In 2021, 89 Black- and Hispanic-owned small businesses were awarded cash grants, valued at $5,000 or $10,000, to help them continue to innovate, grow and prosper. Selected businesses were chosen based on established criteria created by local selection committees and were evaluated based upon their proposed business plans. Certified mentors from The Venture Mentoring Team were also paired with many of these small businesses to provide advisory support and help guide them on their entrepreneurial journeys.

“Becoming one of the small business grant recipients from the Elevate Together™ initiative enabled us to hire additional staff, secure a new delivery van, and make short-term investments to hopefully expand our product line and open a second location,” said Nadeige Sterlin, co-owner of La Paix Bakery in Miramar, Florida. “I want to continue to pay it forward by sharing our story to help inspire other Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs to keep reaching for their dreams. If we all work together, we can collectively strengthen our community long term, while saving and creating more local jobs in the short term.”

“The Elevate Together™ cash grant helped elevate COVEDOZA in numerous ways,” said Elisa Molina, president, creative director and chief executive officer of COVEDOZA, based in Atlanta, Georgia. “It enabled us to invest in high-quality graphic design services to create our first-ever digital and shoppable 2021 holiday gift guide. We were able to revamp our entire homepage and invest in new business equipment that will help us expand our product offerings in 2022. Lastly, the mentorship has also been key in addressing key areas of growth for the business.”

“Elevate Together™ was created to help address systemic discrimination and historical racial disparities in business growth and profitability in Black and Hispanic communities,” said Gerry Smith, chief executive officer for The ODP Corporation. “We’re inspired by the success stories from small business owners whose lives we’ve touched through this program so far, and we hope to continue building a coalition of like-minded companies to help advance business creation and growth opportunities for Black and Hispanic businesses for years to come.”

With support from community partners and corporate partners like NCR Foundation, plus Office Depot and OfficeMax customers and associates, the program will expand its reach in 2022 to provide impactful, measurable and scalable support services and educational opportunities to help small businesses grow in Dallas, Detroit, Fort Worth, Houston, Minneapolis, Phoenix and beyond.

To learn more about Elevate Together™ powered by Round It Up America®, including how to participate as a small business or donate to the initiative to help drive change, please visit www.elevatetogether.org.

 

About Elevate Together™

Elevate Together™ powered by Round It Up America® is a nonprofit initiative designed to address systemic discrimination and historical racial disparities in business growth and profitability in Black and Hispanic communities. Through a partnership with the National Urban League and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the initiative delivers education, access and aid to Black and Hispanic small businesses. Founded by The ODP Corporation, Elevate Together™ is supported by a coalition of like-minded companies with a mission to strengthen our local communities, foster job creation, and close the racial wealth gap. Learn more at www.elevatetogether.org.