The supply chain industry tends to be a male-dominated field. According to the 2018 Women in Supply Chain Survey, produced by global research firm Gartner in partnership with the organization Achieving Women's Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management and Education (AWESOME), only 14 percent of 148 companies surveyed reported that women held executive-level supply chain positions.
While their numbers may be small, there are women business owners out there doing commendable—and just plain interesting—things in building and managing supply chains. Below are two of their stories: one who wouldn't allow her trucking business to stop, even when tragedy struck in the form of a fire; and another who is trying to make a difference for the earth in creating an eco-friendly supply chain for her new business.
The Unstoppable Entrepreneur
In 2017, Angelina Twardawa found herself inside of a business owner's worst nightmare. Twardawa owns Angie's Transportation, a St. Louis-based trucking company that has a fleet of about 50 trailers that carry dry and refrigerated goods across the country. When she went into her office one morning in November, she smelled smoke. The warehouse that her office was located in was on fire.
Twardawa got out unharmed, but her company wasn't quite as lucky. “We lost everything in the fire," she says. “I watched my life's work go up in flames." The computers, the server, files, furnishings and even a couple of trailers turned to ash. She'd started this company in 2012 at age 19 with just one truck, and now, she was terrified she'd lose it all. So Twardawa, an entrepreneur through and through, did what she does best: she got to work. “We still had a business to run," she says. Across the country, dozens of trucks were loaded up with produce and other refrigerated items to take to their customers. Her business was a vital part of their supply chain, and she wasn't going to let them down.
That same morning, using her business credit card, she bought new computers and keyboards and set them up at her parents' house. She couldn't access any of her old computer files, or the software that kept track of orders and deliveries, but using an online portal, she could track all of her drivers via GPS. Using a whiteboard, Excel spreadsheets and typing up notes, she made sure that all of orders were delivered to customers without disruption. “Everyone was pretty impressed and very understanding," she says. “They said, 'If you guys can make it through this, then we want to stick with you.'"
In the weeks and months that followed, Twardawa did her best to assure her drivers, her office employees and her customers that everything would continue running smoothly, and it did. In time, she found a new office space to rent, paying for the furnishings with her business credit card and rewards from that credit card. Today, she says, the business runs smarter than ever. Gone are the in-office servers. Now, everything is cloud-based and she's working towards becoming a paper-free business. In addition, she says she spends up in her renter's insurance policy to make sure everything she owns is covered, should disaster strike again.
Now that the disaster is behind her, Twardawa is more aware than ever that as a business owner and a vital clog in the supply chain, hundreds if not thousands of people depend on her for their jobs, their groceries and other freight and commodities that her trucking company delivers. “It makes you work harder," she says.
A Trailblazer in Creating a Sustainable Supply Chain
When Kayla Clements founded Luna Volta, a wellness company centered around plant-based products, she did it with three core values in mind: quality, design and sustainability. Those principles influence every decision she makes, including choices in building her supply chain. “Sustainability is at the core of our mission and my priority within our supply chain is to make sure everything is sourced and grown domestically with an eco-friendly element," says Clements, who serves as CEO of the San Diego-based company, which makes products from hemp grown in Colorado.
I think we're only just getting started with the options for eco-friendly supply chain.
—Kayla Clements, founder and CEO, Luna Volta
Clements ticks off the list of environmentally sound practices that her company uses: the hemp is grown using regenerative farming practices; the products she sells are placed in “precycled" glass bottles, which are unused surplus bottles that are being redistributed back into the supply chain; the bottles are screen-printed with UV-based ink rather than paper labels or glue; the boxes are made from 100 percent post-consumer waste that is turned into paper and embedded with wildflower seeds that can be planted.
On that last one, Clements pauses, because it's her favorite. “The most exciting part for me is I wanted to have something that could give back to the earth that wasn't sitting in a landfill. With the seeds, the wildflowers are actually beneficial to the declining bee population, which helps with pollination and keeping the earth healthy," she says. In addition, Luna Volta bottles are packed in recycled newsprint and shipped in recycled boxes with recycled shipping labels.
Assembling the eco-friendly supply chain wasn't easy, says Clements, and it wasn't cheap. “It's definitely more of a premium product because of each of these eco-friendly elements," she says. “Each step in the process is more expensive than a traditional mass production route." In fact, she says the launch of the company (in February 2019) was delayed a number of times because of sourcing issues. To ensure reliability and scalability, Clements says that she now has multiple vendors in the queue for bottles and shipping supplies who can step in as needed as the company grows.
Despite the challenges, Clements believes that more businesses will head in this direction, in response to consumer demand. “I think we're only just getting started with the options for eco-friendly supply chain," she says. She says that for those businesses who are considering exploring the sustainable route, it helps to define your business principles up front, like she did.
“Make sure you have those core values in place before diving into any of this. Because if you don't have those, it's really simple to get sidetracked and take an easier route," she says. “But once you have those in place, you know that you have to work towards them."
Building and managing a supply chain is one of the many challenges that women business owners and entrepreneurs face. When they do it well, the company, and its customers, benefit.
Photo: Getty Images