The Women Moving America: Elise Benedict, University Moving

This March, Women’s History Month, northAmerican® is celebrating just a few of the outstanding women drivers and owners that have and continue to contribute to our company’s success.


In 2019, we set out on an in-depth research project that explored diverse supplier programs. This research culminated in a whitepaper that detailed our findings regarding the benefits, challenges, and opportunities for both the companies that utilize these programs and the external firms who are the diverse suppliers themselves. For the purposes of that undertaking, we focused on certified minority, veteran, and women-owned businesses. Our research gleaned information regarding diverse supplier programs from an array of companies.

According to our findings, we found that diverse supplier programs are overwhelmingly popular and viewed as highly effective and integral by our respondent companies. We also found that many of the most common challenges faced by companies with these programs revolved around finding certified suppliers to grow the program, finding suppliers who were able to scale to the firm’s needs, and measuring the ROI of the programs themselves.

Interestingly, we also found that many companies tended to source diverse suppliers for services other than those in real estate, moving, and related services-an area that may prove beneficial for those seeking to grow their programs to examine more closely given the number of certified minority, women, and veteran-owned companies within these industries.

In honor of women’s history month this March, we are revisiting this research through the eyes of our very own certified women-owned agents here at northAmerican® by hearing directly from them about their motivations, experiences, and inspirations behind becoming a certified woman-owned business.

Elise Benedict is the owner of University Moving & Storage, a certified woman-owned moving company and northAmerican® agent.

1. In your experience, how has being a certified woman-owned agent benefited your company?

We’ve found the certification is very beneficial. It opens the door to the Diversity connection at the company who is often able to connect you to the decision-maker. Being certified woman-owned is also beneficial in getting responses to RFQ’s and RFI’s while providing us with greater visibility to companies who are looking to expand their diversity programs and working with diverse suppliers.

2. What made you take the leap to become certified?

For exactly the reasons above. Several years ago, we recognized the advantages of a WBENC certification in providing us a differentiation point from other movers with our target audience, including those that don’t necessarily have a diversity program. Being a certified woman-owned business helped open doors to opportunity.

3. What attracted you to the world of household goods moving?

When I first got involved in moving, I was new to the business world. At that time, northAmerican was owned by PepsiCo, who invested in promotion and growing the brand. I loved the energy and diversity of the business, and the potential for a steady and reliable stream of business -- everyone moves at some point, so there is a never-ending supply of customers. I was soon the first woman-owned agency in the northAmerican network.

4. Where would you recommend companies seeking to grow their diverse supplier programs go to find new suppliers?

Large corporations tend to seek out diverse suppliers for larger purchases. For companies seeking diverse suppliers, the best place to start is with local chapters of diverse business organizations like the WBENC, MBE or NMSDC. These organizations can provide them with names of companies by commodity or service offering; listed companies have been vetted and are ready for new business. Another option with major corporations that have a diversity program is to contact them to see if they offer any “meet and greets” for Tier 1 suppliers. This offers the supplier the opportunity to meet with decision makers and discuss their needs, which is particularly important because transportation expenses related to moving tend to be higher than the company expects. When a certified diverse supplier receives a meeting opportunity, my suggestion would be to review where diverse supplier funds have been spent in the past with the finance department.  In general, if the company has a diversity program, the diversity staff knows where to find quality suppliers, they just need to be engaged and supported by procurement and other decision makers.

 5. About how many companies have found you as a result of your business being certified?

When I purchased University in 1986, actively seeking business with certified diverse suppliers was huge with certain large companies, like Renault, Rockwell, Johnson Controls, Bechtel, but not generally a common practice. Over the past 10 years, many companies have begun to see the benefits of working with diverse/minority owned suppliers, making the practice more common. Since getting certified, we have met with many major corporations as a result (Dow, Bank of America, UPS, Cisco, AT&T and many more), each seeking to work with a WBENC certified business.

6. As a northAmerican agent, how do you think your business is uniquely positioned to overcome the challenge many companies reported having with finding diverse suppliers who are able to scale to their needs?

Being a certified WBE may open a door or provide an introduction. However, to win the business, the diverse supplier still needs to be competitive and operate with world-class quality.  We are uniquely positioned because we have spent years building a world-class quality organization with personnel who hold vast expertise. We can scale to our customers’ unique needs because of our infrastructure and place within a large van line network.

 Want to learn more about our study on diverse supplier programs? Request a copy of our whitepaper by clicking here

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