NewsLocal News


Region's largest employers team up to help diverse suppliers grow

WTD Mechanical is one of five local businesses in the mentorship program
formatted brookbank 7-25.jpg
Posted at 3:38 PM, Jul 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-25 18:40:05-04

CLEVELAND — We've all had those moments in life when the cards are stacked against us.

"I wanted to quit so bad," said Fatima Ware.

For Ware, one of her greatest challenges was starting a career in the male-dominated sheet metal industry.

"There was one black woman and it was me. I wanted to create change," said Ware.

After being told multiple times she couldn't, Ware forged ahead.

"I'm like you know what, I'm going to make it just to prove you wrong," said Ware.

And she did.

Ware is now president and CEO of her own HVAC company in Cleveland.

"I want my chances to be better," said Ware.

WTD Mechanical is one of five local businesses selected by the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals to take part in a development mentorship program.

"By partnering together, we can then combine our strengths and help a local, diverse supplier grow even that much faster," said John Dockins, Cleveland Clinic Exec. Director Supply Chain.

The Clinic rolled out the initiative ahead of a robust expansion plan over the next five years.

"New buildings, renovating existing buildings," said Dockins.

The health systems believe their Diversity Equity Inclusion Supplier Accelerator will give underrepresented entrepreneurs like Ware a better shot at landing construction contracts.

"We want to continue to put more money that we spend into the communities which we serve to help small business, specifically diverse suppliers grow within Cleveland," said Dockins.

The six-month program provides things like financial coaching and mentoring, along with behind scenes skills to help these small business owners not only get a seat at the table but have their bids accepted.

"Knowing what paperwork to submit I didn't know. What I knew how to do was go out to the field and get the job done," said Ware.

For Ware, the forms and documents have been a huge learning curve, and that's where insight from the accelerator program has helped in her recent bid for a job.

"It was so intense it took me almost a month to compile everything," said Ware.

The clinic is looking to double its investment into diverse suppliers in Northeast Ohio over the next five-years.

"They will in turn grow, they will create more jobs and opportunities and together we can rise all of the Cleveland metro area together," said Dockins.

Meantime, Ware is doing what she can to create the change she wants to see in the sheet metal industry, but she said convincing women of color to join her has been challenging.

"I've been trying to recruit people and they're like, well my nails and my hair," said Ware.