EPISODE 031
Creating My Own Narrative
This episode is a conversation with Cloe Guidry-Reed, a tech startup founder in Atlanta. The idea for her technology came from specific challenges she witnessed in Supplier Diversity during her years in Corporate and her desire to solve them in an unconventional way. 
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Host - Monique Mills 

[00:00]: Hi everyone, welcome back to the Unpolished MBA podcast. In this episode, I had a conversation with Cloe Guidry-Reed, a tech startup founder in Atlanta, Georgia. The idea for her technology came from specific challenges she witnessed in her corporate job, and her desire to solve them in an unconventional way.

Her experience was enough to spark the curiosity to solve the problem, and well, Hire Ground, her company, was launched. Of course, there were more steps involved, so let's hop in.
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I'm going to ask you the first two questions that I ask everybody. And the first question is, are you an entrepreneur or an employee?


Guest - Cloe Guidry-Reed

[00:44]: I'm an entrepreneur. 


Host - Monique Mills 

[00:46]: MBA or no MBA?


Guest - Cloe Guidry-Reed

[00:48]: MBA. 


Host - Monique Mills 

[00:48]: So did the MBA come way before entrepreneurship, during, just before?


Guest - Cloe Guidry-Reed

[00:54]: Just before, I graduated from GSU in 2012, and I started Hire Ground in 2019. 


Host - Monique Mills 

[01:01]: Was there a reason in particular why you chose to do your MBA?


Guest - Cloe Guidry-Reed

[01:05]: Yes, my company at the time AON, was paying for it and my boss at the time, my manager, the managing director of our office said, "Are you interested in this?" You know, during just our regular sort of performance review, he was like, "I heard you talking about, potentially looking at your MBA and there's no better time than the present." I did the Professional MBA program at GSU, which I don't think they have anymore. I think it's just the Executive MBA program and then the traditional and fast track.


Host - Monique Mills 

[01:37]: So what's the difference with the professional one and the others? 


Guest - Cloe Guidry-Reed

[01:40]: Yeah, so the Professional MBA program was for sort of like mid-career manager level. They had program participants, program leaders that sort of set everything up. They had dinner for you in the evenings. It was Monday and Wednesday from five to nine-thirty for two years. And so they basically, they understood that you were working full-time so they created a sort of separate schedule and had the instructors sort of go around, fill in based on that schedule.

And so our cohort was I think, close to about 50 people and we took all of our classes together and we had the same group. So I had within that 50, we had a group of six individuals that we sort of had was our core group for the two-year period and went through all of our projects and group work together and all of our coursework.


Host - Monique Mills 

[02:34]: How did you get from that to then starting your own company? 


Guest - Cloe Guidry-Reed

[02:40]: Yeah. So, you know, I'll go back to my days at AON.


Host - Monique Mills 

[02:24]: And what's AON again? What do they do? 


Guest - Cloe Guidry-Reed

[02:46]: AON is a risk management and human capital consulting firm, a global firm. One of the big three, arguably the largest one, neck and neck with Marsh every year. And so I specifically worked in the risk management side. And worked in supply chain. So helping companies with risk identification, quantification, mitigation, and helping them figure out if they wanted to self-insure that risk and how do they do that and manage that, and putting enough reserves aside or helping them build towers of insurance to offshoot that risk. And then how do you manage that and then managing claims. 

So specifically working in the supply chain vertical, having a lot of conversations around due diligence and supplier vetting and just supply chain risk, was looking at a lot of contracts and limitation of liability wording, and saw that there was a huge need for diversity in the supply chain. And not only did I see the need, but then some of my clients started asking, they're like, "Hey, you know, can you connect us to some diverse suppliers? Because we have mandates, we have goals." And that was sort of my first entree into supplier diversity. And so trying to meet a client’s need, I went and tried to search for a tool that could help because this wasn't something that AON did.

And then we also had to be very careful about you know, consulting on things that wasn't part of our core solutions or services. Just from obviously being a risk management consulting firm, the liability of doing-- recommending stuff that we hadn't properly vetted and the huge liability just on the relationship side of our clients.

So in searching for a tool to just kind of, you know, recommend, I couldn't find anything that I would want to recommend to any of my clients at the time. And so, not anything that, that I would want to use or that I felt like would integrate with their existing technologies or just understanding just their businesses in general. And so, because of that big business need and because of just my background in vetting suppliers, and then also just understanding.  I dove into supplier diversity after that because I was like, this is something that I'm super, super passionate about, right. It's connecting women and minorities and veterans and LGBT-owned businesses to some of these opportunities. Because you just didn't see them across the supply chain.

And so if I felt like I could create a solution that then addresses this need, it would not only help the corporations but also help some of these underserved groups. And so it spun out of just a business problem that I had and that some of my clients had. And, I just kind of started. You know, it wasn't initially where I was like, oh, I'm going to build this company. It was just like, well, let me start brainstorming and talking to people. And let me start thinking about what it would look like. And then I just started, you know, I came to ATDC actually, to start doing some customer discovery and really kind of-- I came there too, to create a framework on how best to do customer discovery still not really thinking like, okay, I'm going to build this technology, I'm going to build this company. But as I started listening, I ended up talking to close to about 80 companies and people in these various roles and it just started coming to me like how it needed to be built.

I knew that there was a market for it, and I knew all the different verticals and the challenges that they had. And I mean, it was sort of a-- it was a blessing like passion meets skillset meets purpose because from a risk perspective, could help them with just addressing some of their challenges. I was also so passionate about it. Didn't know how to build technology, but I was like, you know what? Um, I can figure that out. Yeah, I can fill that and I can hire a team to kind of help me. But now I get into rooms and I know just as much about technology as any of the other founders. So yeah. It's been an interesting journey. 


Host - Monique Mills 

[07:01]: Yeah, exactly. It's funny you say that because a lot of people focus on building the tech versus solving the problem. And as I always say, I'm like, okay, so you end up with a solution looking for a problem, right. No, I'm like, no. You did it the right way--Here's the problem, let me talk to these folks, and then let's figure out the best way that we'll solve it for them. Not the best way and the easiest way for me, but that’s easy for them. 


Guest - Cloe Guidry-Reed

[07:25]: Right, right. Exactly. Exactly. 


Host - Monique Mills 

[07:29]: This is interesting because most businesses come out of something that we've experienced or we've seen. So you're intimately in touch with and in tune with all of the components that go with something like this and exactly who it would help. So how has your journey been? So when I say your journey, you said, okay, I'll figure out how to build the tech, right. And I'll figure out those other things. How has that been? Have you been surviving off of two hours of sleep or has it been "okay well, I can leverage my corporate network and they can help me"---like what has that been for you?


Guest - Cloe Guidry-Reed


[08:05]: So here's another thing. So right after my MBA, maybe about a year after that, I ended up getting certified as a Green Belt in lean processes. So I feel like that really, really helped me because I was like, okay, what do I need to really, really do? How can I organize this and what parts need to come before these other parts for development. And I kind of just laid out a roadmap and then, when things are laid out, just in writing for me, just the way my brain works, I can execute that way. And so I just kind of started telling people what I was doing.

And, you know, I found that there were tons of people that were also really equally as passionate about it. Leveraging my network 100% to your point, not necessarily my corporate clients. But I was in a sales role, so I knew tons of people in the city of Atlanta and just tons of people in general. And so I just kind of started, “Hey, I'm looking for an engineer.” And my neighbor is actually a Professor at Georgia Tech and he connected me to one of these students that he was really, really impressed with. Didn't go to Georgia Tech though, he went to Morehouse. And he worked with him and he was like, he's probably the most, one of the most brilliant engineers that I've ever met.

And for him to be an engineering instructor to say this,  I was just like, “oh yes, let me meet him.” And he is, he is. And, so I hear so many horror stories about building technology and people not having the right teams and just, you know, going through the ringers with engineering. But he's kind of taken the lead on that and he helped develop sort of our architecture and foundation, but then we've also hired various agencies, you know, to do certain things and he's helped manage that process. Both of us have, so it’s been good.


Host - Monique Mills 

[09:56]: That's a huge advantage. You have transitioned from, you know, being the businesswoman to now being what we would call a STEM entrepreneur because you have founded a STEM business, a technology business. And it does not mean that you have to build the tech yourself, but you have coordinated this whole thing to now put you into another group of people. So you have made this journey from working in risk and in consulting. Now, not just a startup founder, but you're now, even in this even more rare group who is like--" I'm a woman of color S.T.E.M entrepreneur."


Guest - Cloe Guidry-Reed

[10:38]: Right, right. I'm the type of person, like, I kind of keep my head down and just do the work and, you know, I have my goals and just try to focus. So I would like to be more connected to just the S.T.E.M community here. You know, understanding and acknowledging yes, that I am a founder of color and a woman of color and understand all the challenges and the limitations that come with that, particularly just in technology and the VC world. But making sure that I don't let that be my story too. So I constantly see articles, oh, you know, black women only get, you know, X amount. What is it? I don't even, I don't keep the...I don't log these numbers. I don't log these numbers to memory because I'm always like, I'm not claiming that. And I don't want to necessarily...I can be a part of the conversation if we're talking about changing it, but I don't want to necessarily you know, just continue to perpetuate that this is the outcome for all black women and all black, you know, founders. So, yeah, I just try to keep my head down and do the work. And, you know, when we get to the point where hopefully, I can do a little bit more philanthropic work, I definitely want to get out there so that other young black women can see, hey, you can do this and don't even listen to those statistics because I just want you to look at me and see that I did it. 


Host - Monique Mills 

[12:03]: Exactly. That is the part I love about and how you've been able to drive your own journey. Right. And yeah, you don't have to adopt that narrative as your story. 


Guest - Cloe Guidry-Reed

[12:13]: Right.


Host - Monique Mills 

[12:14]: Tell me a little bit about, because I know that you mentioned the company real briefly, you said Hire Ground. So tell me a little bit more about it. 


Guest - Cloe Guidry-Reed

[12:21]: So we're here in Atlanta. We're a technology startup. And the way that I kind of describe it is we're a vendor management platform. So we help organizations better manage their existing suppliers. So we have a CRM component to our software because what we found is a lot of supplier diversity and procurement teams and supply chain teams don't have a way to sort of track the suppliers that they're meeting with and keeping sort of a running log of potential suppliers. When category managers come in and say, hey, we need this, or we need X. They don't have a system for that. So there's a CRM component. And then there's also a sourcing component, which is the part that we, I think we talk about publicly the most.

Because it acts as sort of a, a marketplace. So the other side of our business is attracting diverse suppliers. So four verticals that we fall into in terms of just attracting and marketing to these suppliers is minority-owned businesses. Women-owned businesses, veteran-owned businesses, and LGBT-owned businesses.

So we get them onto the platform and then when any of these organizations are our clients--and corporations, Higher ed institutions, public and private government entities--They can then post procurement opportunities directly onto our platform and then invite any new diverse suppliers that they want to then bid on those opportunities.


Host - Monique Mills 

[13:44]: Wow. That's a robust system. As far as suppliers, the vendors themselves signing now, how did they find out about you? 


Guest - Cloe Guidry-Reed

[13:52]: So there's a lot of different ways. Right now we are really just focused on the enterprise side. So, we did a huge sort of push last year on focusing on the supplier side because building a marketplace it's, you know, it's the chicken-egg, right.


Host - Monique Mills 

[14:06]: Yep, called the chicken and the egg problem. 


Guest - Cloe Guidry-Reed

[14:08]: Yeah, exactly, exactly. And at first, I was like, well, I have to do both. I have to do both at the same time because we need the suppliers to attract the corporations, but we also need the corporations to attract the suppliers. But we built out the entire sort of CRM functionality while attracting these suppliers and worked with a couple of government agencies. And so last year, our whole focus was just onboarding suppliers. We've closed the supplier portal for now and not taking on any new suppliers. And we're now we're focusing on growing the enterprise side and then hopefully in Q3, we'll open up the supplier side back again and start bringing on some more suppliers.

But we want to make sure that we can meet the demand and we have enough opportunities to go around that our suppliers can actually see the value of the platform, especially if they're paying for it. 


Host - Monique Mills 

[14:56]: As you were talking. It made me think about like the sustainable goals for a lot of companies that do have a focus on ESG and sustainability, and your platform fits right into that. It makes them, it makes it easier for them to fulfill certain goals. Now, which one, which one of the sustainability goals does your company fall under? 


Guest - Cloe Guidry-Reed

[15:18]: Well, there's several actually. So, equity and work and then gender equity. We fall into both those verticals, but then there's also the, you know, vertical, I think that's eleven where it's economic development. We 100% fall into that as well. 


Host - Monique Mills 

[15:37]: That's great. One of the things that I've been working on for a while, but it's actually becoming a little bit more public is the work in sustainability. And so it was so many companies that have ESG goals and they're trying to figure out the best way to accomplish them without totally disrupting their operations and organization. So if those enterprises were interested in just learning more, where can they find out more about you? 


Guest - Cloe Guidry-Reed

[16:06]: Well, they can reach out to me directly, you know, just via email. 


Host - Monique Mills 

[16:10]: Yeah. That's what I'm talking about. That's a true startup founder statement. "Call me, call me directly. I'm the CEO and I'll handle this." 

(laughter)


Guest - Cloe Guidry-Reed

[16:19]: I'm going to handle this. And yes, they can call me. And I always love having those initial, I mean, I'm still like, just obsessed with customer discovery. I love talking to potential clients and prospects and hearing what some of their challenges are and where they have needs and see if we can help them. So that's something I don't think I'll ever get away from.

But yeah, they can, they can reach out to me at Cloe at Hireground dot io.  And Hire Ground is H I R E ground dot I O 


Host - Monique Mills

[16:48]: I want to thank you so much for spending time with me today and also for sharing so much of yourself with the audience. So I really appreciate you being here. Thank you. 


Guest - Cloe Guidry-Reed

[16:59]: Thank you for having me, Monique. It was an absolute pleasure.


Host - Monique Mills

[17:05]: Well, that's it. So what did you think? I must admit that I've had the pleasure of being a witness to part of Cloe’s startup journey and she is one of the most determined people I have ever met. While making the leap into the tech startup scene, she's decided to define her own experience and not let statistics or anything else get in her way.

And in reality, that's the way that one must be as an entrepreneur, you have to be determined and just like Cloe, be someone that others want to connect with work with, and help to fulfill your goals so that you can have an impact on the world. She's proven that in everything, from being introduced to the opportunity to pursue her MBA all the way through being introduced to her brilliant developer. While there's so much more in between those events, for sure, I hope this episode provided you with the insight on what's possible when you grasp opportunities and are not afraid to figure it out as you go.


Thank you for listening to the unpolished MBA podcast. To hear more episodes or to request, to become a guest, please visit unpolished mba.com.

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