As national and global economies come thundering back as pandemic-stoked uncertainty fades and how we work is evolving, women in supply chain are driving a smarter path forward. These female leaders are building back with a better and more resilient normal for supply chain. At Let’s Talk Supply Chain, we understand the importance of women tapping into our collective power to shape a more diverse, accepting industry and professional community.
Because when women rally behind each other they make big things happen—opening doors and breaking status quos and stale, dated gender roles. At Let’s Talk Supply Chain we’re committed to doing our part each month. We’re proud to feature the trailblazing women supply chain leaders and their bold moves forward to a more inclusive and resilient supply chain community.
In our Women in Supply Chain series, we introduce the women who are dominating supply chain now and what they’re doing next. We ask what and who motivates them and explore how they are creating positive change in their organizations, industry, and community. Let’s Talk Supply Chain shares the challenges women supply chain leaders have tackled, their greatest leaps of faith, and the starting points that led them to where they are today, leading organizations across the global supply chain.
In our Women in Supply Chain series, these women share their experience breaking glass ceilings and gender roles across the chain. They dish helpful career advice also and what they want future supply chain leaders to know when they get their start in the industry. Read on for inspiring stories, career advice, and expert guidance on breaking into the chain.
This month we’re proud to feature Stephany Lapierre, chief executive officer and founder at Tealbook, a technology provider harnessing AI and machine learning (ML) to deliver smarter procurement approaches. Stephany has worked in procurement for over two decades and has more than a decade of leadership experience. She has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Women in Supply Chain, and her business has recently been hailed by Gartner with the Cool Vendor Award and by Spend Matters as one of the Top 50 Companies to Watch.
Over the last decade, Stephany has built a successful strategic sourcing and procurement firm to empower her mission of delivering a ‘Trusted Source of Supplier Data’. She plays an active role as a thought leader and in her local community and sits on the boards for The International Association for Data Quality Governance and Analytics (IADQGA) and on the C-Sweet for Corporate Successful Women Executives and Emerging Talent at Georgia Tech Research Institute.
How did your supply chain journey start and what drove you to launch Tealbook?
Before Tealbook, I spent a decade building a successful strategic sourcing and procurement consulting firm focused on large-scale sourcing optimization projects. I witnessed failed enterprise software solution implementations and became convinced that these failures and friction were not caused by the software itself, but by the lack of quality data available. Within complex enterprises, I couldn’t see how data issues could be resolved by adding more software. More software created the opposite effect, duplications, disconnected, silo and static information, lengthy processes, expensive services, etc. One question haunted me: what was the cost of bad supplier data to the enterprise? Whichever direction I looked, the cost kept adding up and it was immense (hundreds of millions of dollars to the enterprise).
I could see the solution clearly but spent nine years trying to poke holes at it and gain the courage to do something about it. In 2015, the market started to change and cloud technologies were being adopted by all software providers claiming that cloud software would digitize the procurement function. I couldn’t see how disparate systems that still required services and portals could. Machine learning concepts were still immature, but I was fortunate to have found a CTO who could bring my vision to life. We could use ML and AI to proactively create supplier information without requiring third-party services or depending on suppliers to update and maintain portals. It was game-changing.
The journey to build and grow Tealbook was challenging, as we created a new platform category that could autonomously enhance data for every supplier in the world. Today, Tealbook is recognized as the ‘supplier data foundation’ that optimizes enterprises’ investment in software, people, and suppliers. We partner with Fortune 500 companies across multiple sectors including pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, financial services, higher education, and technologies.
Tell us about your commitment to building a more diverse and inclusive supply chain.
Not only is the supply chain industry historically male-dominated, but it’s also rare to be a woman founder/CEO at the helm of an AI technology company. I strongly believe that being a woman founder is a huge competitive advantage to hiring top talent. At Tealbook, we have been committed to and intentional about building a diverse team. Tealbook has a 50/50 female to male ratio across our board, our leadership, and the general workforce. Diverse teams perform better with a broad spectrum of opinions, experiences, and perspectives.
As a company leader, I need to build core values and define the type of company that people will be proud to work for and eventually have on their resume.
How has this commitment extended to shaping your company values and culture?
My leadership consists of four themes to unite and inspire our employees:
The first is Teamwork. The impact we have is always greater when we work together. We bring our authentic selves, unique experiences, perspectives, and passions across teams, functions, and geographies to solve problems and deliver better results.
Next, trust through transparency. We build trust by communicating honestly, authentically, and with respect. We hold ourselves accountable, we admit to our mistakes, and do what we say we’ll do. Our success is deeply rooted in building trust through open and clear transparency.
Also, delight. We are all customers. We listen to needs, we challenge our ideas of what’s possible, and prioritize work that will drive success and build satisfaction. We constantly look for ways to differentiate ourselves and create a lasting impact and impression.
Lastly, the Will the Win. Change is the only constant, we don’t just believe this, we take on the unknown. We dare to challenge the status quo, continuously adapt, change, and evolve. We act with urgency; aligning our priorities with the company deliverables and drive decisions backed by data.
How did you find your voice as a supply chain leader? How can other women leaders in the making find theirs?
It has been a series of moments. Early on I thought other people would have the answers or would somehow know better than me because they might have built a tech company before or have more technical experience. While I listen to others and openly accept feedback, I also learned to trust my instincts—that’s something any woman leader needs to do.
Own your instincts. They are usually right and can give you the confidence to recognize that you are exactly where you should be now.
Have you had any mentors who helped you along the way?
In my career, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have many wonderful mentors, advisors, and colleagues. I am proud to create and actively partner and collaborate with a stellar board of directors, investors, and a network of tech founders. I couldn’t have found a better group of individuals to support my journey from founder to CEO and vision for building a massively successful company.
Who has inspired you in supply chain?
It’s hard to pick one person, I learn and get inspired by so many people. I admire Dr. Elouise Epstein for challenging our industry and speaking openly about the shift that needs to occur to achieve digital procurement success. I sat through one of her presentations at ISM four years ago as she was presenting the future of our digital technology ecosystem with a white box in the middle of her slide. I thought “ that’s it! This is Tealbook! We are that supplier data foundation that sits right in the middle of an integrated technology ecosystem”.
While it was still early and the market hadn’t caught up yet, it was a huge validation for me that such a prominent thought leader was seeing the world the same way as I was and confirmed that we were heading in the right direction.
What have you learned about yourself as a leader on your journey in supply chain and procurement?
I have learned that no matter the challenge, there is always a path forward. Building a tech company is incredibly consuming and requires an abundance of conviction for the problem you are solving. Passion is contagious. It attracts customers, investors, and talent. When you have a dream to make the industry better, most people are incredibly generous and want to support it and share in it. People are not all motivated the same way and understanding that goes a long way in driving a more accepting and engaged workplace.
Self-care matters also. Finding balance and personal satisfaction is necessary to be a good leader.
What have you learned from the pandemic disruption over the last year and a half?
When COVID hit, our team wanted to help and came up with the idea of providing free relevant supplier lists with contact information to any organization facing supply chain disruptions. We all got behind it and were able to execute fast enough to support 170+ organizations desperately looking for suppliers just in the first few weeks.
We worked to help Brooks Brothers find suppliers of raw ingredients to produce
over 100,000 N95 masks in record time and help the UK identify over 60,000 ISO-certified PPE manufacturers in Asia. This initiative received a lot of media attention including two articles in Forbes while more than doubling our business pipeline in two weeks.
What causes are top of mind for you and your business?
Black Lives Matter hit home in many ways but mostly impacted our African American employees. Taking the time to understand the history and impact on the Black community was enlightening
to all of us. I asked them for guidance on how to respond as a CEO and on behalf of Tealbook. One of the most powerful things our Director of Marketing said was, “Silence is the real problem. We don’t ask you to be perfect allies, just to be an ally.” I knew at that moment that we needed to do something.
Within days, we offered the market free access to Tealbook to access over 32,000 certified African American suppliers at no cost to improve access and opportunities. We also made a statement about our values and beliefs for justice and equality.
What advice do you have for future supply chain leaders?
Find something you absolutely love and go all in. It doesn’t matter what it is but if you love what you do, you will always thrive to be better at it. It will never feel like work. So, get out of your way and go for it.
What does being featured in Women In Supply Chain mean to you?
I am honored to be featured in the Women in Supply Chain Series. We need to recognize and elevate women for their achievements more often—make it the norm. Regular recognition and empowerment are vital to inspiring other women to take on leadership roles or launch their own businesses.
As a mother of three daughters and the CEO & founder of an AI tech company with 50/50 gender equity, I want to contribute to seeing more women at the top by sharing my experiences, supporting other women, and learning from them. Because as women in supply change we can only go further—together.
This Women in Supply Chain feature was made possible by our sponsor, Apex Logistics. Apex Logistics International Inc is deep-rooted in diversity and culture, led by our own “Woman In Supply Chain” CEO, Elsie Qian; these values are why we partnered with Let’s Talk Supply Chain for the Women In Supply Chain series. Apex is recognized as one of the fastest-growing Top 25 airfreight forwarders in the world, with a network of over 2500 global employees in more than 70 countries.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Naomi Garnice is the Director of Marketing for MicroAge where she leads the marketing team and creative strategy. Naomi has been a content marketer for 14 years and is passionate about creating engaging content that matters. Throughout her career in marketing for technology, healthcare and supply chain organizations, Naomi has advocated to highlight female thought leaders in male-dominated industries.