Accounts Payable Specialist Dives Into Increasing the Diversity of Co-op Vendors

Mira Kilpatrick, Weavers Way Racial Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee

Candy Bermea-Hasan

Since last summer, a lot of behind-the-scenes work has been taking place at Weavers Way to assess how we are doing through the lens of racial equity. As part of that process, the Co-op created the part-time position of vendor diversity coordinator and hired current Accounts Payable Specialist Candy Bermea-Hasan to fill it.

As part of her duties, Candy is charged with increasing the level of diversity among our current crop of vendors and bringing in a wider variety of products to the Co-op. She’s excited to take on both tasks.

“I have been passionate about diversifying the Co-op for quite some time now,” she wrote in an email. “I also always believe that everyone should be given an opportunity. Working in finance, you get to see different products come in, and I would like to see more diversity in our product selection…”

The Co-op’s Vendor Diversity Initiative, made up of various staff members from all three stores, researched our current vendor makeup and concluded that it is severely lacking in racial diversity. Increasing that can help close the racial wealth gap, empower communities and create jobs in Black communities as well as those made up of people of color. It also will have the effect of bringing in a more diverse range of products, which in turn can make marginalized community members feel more valued in our stores.

Candy and Purchasing Manager Norman Weiss will be working with buyers at all three stores to help identify and add new vendors with the purpose of improving racial diversity. Additionally, the Co-op has initiated a New Vendor Incubator Program, which Candy will help facilitate. The program will help potential vendors who don’t have liability insurance, access to a certified commercial kitchen, or other factors which would normally keep their products from being sold on our shelves to overcome some of these hurdles. Weavers Way is committing $10,000 in grants and $10,000 in low-interest loans to the program in fiscal 2021.

Among Candy’s first tasks will be to go through an extensive list of vendor candidates who have expressed an interest in having their products sold at the Co-op.

“But I am excited to meet every one of them and hear their stories,” she wrote. “When we talk about diversity, I don’t want to just add a few vendors of color to make our numbers look better. I want to bring in quality products as well.”

Her short-term goal is “to find diamonds in the rough — people who have great products but do not have the know-how to get them in the stores. These are the people that I would love to help the most; it’s the best way to help a struggling community, in my opinion.”

Weavers Way is committed to improving diversity, equity and inclusion on our staff (particularly in middle and upper management), in our customer base, and in the businesses we support. As one of the people now responsible for attaining that goal, Candy recognizes that her work is an essential part of the process.

“We will search out vendors that fit the profile, which means that you do not get in because you are a minority; you get in because you have a great product and happen to be a person of color,” she wrote. “Some of these products will meet the needs of more diverse shoppers such as black hair care, more ethnic foods in the grab ‘n’ go case and halal meats.

“This not only brings more diversity to our vendor base; it provides products for a more diverse shopper so that they feel more included,” she continued. “Unconscious bias is a reality, but we are hoping to close that cultural and racial gap. I am a true believer in this program.”

Shuttle Issuu: