Plus, NAWBO’s New Face of UPS Brings Her Own Passion and Personality
UPS—with its brown trucks that are familiar sights at homes and businesses in cities across the world—is best known for its capabilities and innovation, but for NAWBO, it’s just as much about the relationship. A strong, mutually beneficial, long-term partnership.
For over a decade now, we have enjoyed this type of relationship with our two key contacts at UPS: Lori Lemmon and Bobby Clayton, who are both based out of Atlanta, Georgia. They have answered questions, helped move packages, handed out pink UPS slippers from the exhibit hall at the National Women’s Business Conference hosted by NAWBO and have even overseen mini-massages for attendees. They have helped match NAWBO chapters and member businesses with the best logistics solutions for their needs. They have been quick to call in UPS experts to visit members who were in a pinch with challenging shipping requirements and deadlines. And that’s just the beginning.
Lori says this relationship dates back to around 2003 when UPS first became an affinity partner to offer NAWBO member savings. That evolved four years later when UPS was looking to increase its commitment to diversity through corporate partnerships and saw that women-owned businesses were a fast growing business segment and great opportunity. They put together a plan to approach several women’s business organizations, including NAWBO. “We started off with a handful of organizations and quickly found those organizations we could truly partner with—and NAWBO is one of the best,” says Lori, who has spent the last decade of her 25-year career with UPS working with NAWBO. “It’s truly a win-win. I feel like we’ve been able to help a lot of women-owned businesses to expand their businesses over the years, and UPS has been able to get volume and revenue out of the partnership, too. It’s made good business sense.”
At first, the corporate partnership was pretty straightforward with UPS sponsoring NAWBO each year and receiving valuable exposure among the NAWBO community of women entrepreneurs in return. But in 2012, when NAWBO headed to Louisville, Kentucky—home of UPS’s Worldport hub—for its National Women’s Business Conference, the relationship grew to the next level. “Worldport is our main global air hub and such an important place for us,” recalls Lori. “We thought it would be fantastic to show women business owners what UPS is really all about.” UPS was able to do this through a special reception at our global operations center as well as a midnight tour of Worldport that took attendees through the rows of airplanes, the meteorology room and miles and miles of conveyor belts to get a peek behind the scenes to see how their packages move. “That provided such a great opportunity to showcase the best of UPS,” she says.
Another major milestone followed when UPS found that the key to really helping women grow their businesses is connecting more on a local level in NAWBO chapters with their members. What has developed is a program where representatives from some of UPS’s local district offices become members of selected NAWBO chapters. These reps are there in person at NAWBO meetings and events to connect and offer logistics support. It started out as a pilot program and has since grown to include 13 chapters across the U.S., including Phoenix, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit and more. “NAWBO members in these chapters now have someone in the room versus a phone call away when business opportunities arise,” says Lori. “We continue to tweak this program, but it’s been a really great way for UPS to grow with NAWBO members.”
According to Bobby Clayton, who began managing the NAWBO partnership in 2010—among others for UPS—with his focus on sales, “I’m very proud that we have built and of how we have expanded this relationship. It’s almost like a household brand when someone says UPS and NAWBO now. The challenge has always been trying to get chapter presidents to really own the relationship and then hand it off to the next person when they change roles. The chapters who are really working together with UPS year after year are the ones who are really moving forward.”
This past spring, NAWBO and UPS enjoyed yet another relationship highlight: When UPS sponsored the FCEM World Committee Meeting hosted by NAWBO in New York City. “We were asked if we were interested in sponsoring the meeting knowing how important international business is to UPS,” shares Bobby. “We put a great panel together. We involved some of our global leaders to really open people’s eyes to what UPS can do in the global marketplace. We were all very happy with the result.”
Lori and Bobby have a lot to be happy about personally, too, as they prepare for their next steps. Bobby retired from UPS at the end of August—yet still came to the National Women’s Business Conference in Spokane, Washington, in September and will attend again when it travels to Jacksonville, Florida, in 2019. Lori will follow suit when she retires at the end of the year.
“Both Bobby and I have enjoyed working with NAWBO so much—from Jen Earle and the staff to all the wonderful members,” says Lori. “NAWBO has such a strong mission and a lot of enthusiastic and dedicated members. I will miss that connection.” As Lori retires, her husband is going back to work and their daughter is heading off to college. This will free up Lori’s time to focus on some other important pursuits, like volunteering with different organizations. She has long been involved in the Go For the Greens Conference in Florida, since UPS was one of the founding event sponsors. A few years ago, the conference introduced a girls’ mentoring program that takes place on one of the conference days and connects high school and college-aged girls with women entrepreneurs who can serve as role models. “This program is still developing and I’d like to continue working with them to help move it forward,” she says. “I also hope to come to next year’s NAWBO conference and would very much like to find ways to remain connected with NAWBO.”
Bobby feels similar about leaving his role but is excited about the future. “I will miss helping people move their businesses forward when it comes to logistics and other questions they may have had,” he says. “On my last day, I gave out my personal phone number and email and I’ve probably had contact with 10 to 15 NAWBO members since I retired. It’s not something that’s going to end. I also will miss NAWBO’s leadership. It’s definitely evolved over the years and is really impeccable. That’s why NAWBO has been so successful.” Post UPS, Bobby is working to launch a foundation to raise money for families who need caregivers. It was inspired by his brother, who he lost two-and-a-half years ago. Down the road, he would also like to work to better transition people who are incarcerated back into society by giving them job opportunities and the ability to earn and save money six months to a year prior to their release.
To give these two—who have played such a critical role in a strong NAWBO-UPS partnership over the years—a proper send off, NAWBO was proud to honor Lori and Bobby on stage during the final evening of this year’s conference. “I was surprised and very touched and honored,” says Lori. “It made me feel so good and so appreciative for what NAWBO has done for me personally as well as what we’ve been able to do together to grow the relationship with UPS over the years.”
READY TO GO TO THE NEXT LEVEL
Meet Nikki Crate Foster
If you attended this year’s National Women’s Business Conference, you might have already met her at the UPS booth: Nikki Crate Foster, who is passionate, full of personality and ready to take the NAWBO-UPS relationship to the next level in the years to come.
Nikki has worked for UPS for 14 years in various business development roles before she was asked to take over Bobby’s responsibilities once he retired and to partner with Lori until her retirement next month. To start, she says she was encouraged to get to know everyone Bobby knows. “I thought, ‘Oh no, Bobby knows everyone on Earth!’” she laughs. “We call him the mayor—he knows everyone and has helped everyone in one way or another. Lori and Bobby made the perfect tag team—they worked incredibly well together and were so in sync.”
“They are both so well versed on NAWBO and other organizations we sponsor,” she adds. “In my little time I had working with Bobby, we formed a fantastic relationship and still to this day if I need something, I reach out. That’s the kind of dedication and passion they both have not only for UPS, but also for our sponsors.”
Nikki is equally dedicated to UPS and sponsors like NAWBO and plans to build on the legacy Lori and Bobby built—starting with local relationships. “There’s a lot of involvement at the local level,” she says. “What we’re trying to do is make sure those local relationships are just as strong as our corporate partnerships.” So far, since taking on the role, this has meant providing UPS swag and brochures to one chapter leader, having lunch with another to see how they can get more involved and reaching out to other chapters to build connections.
Nikki also already began the process of building and strengthening relationships within NAWBO at the National Women’s Business Conference in Spokane, which she attended with Lori and Bobby. “I was completely blown away by the conference and just the presence, attitude and positively of the women I met,” she says. “Women are naturally competitive, but there, these women were sisters and were sharing obstacles and best practices. As a woman, I felt so inspired. The Elizabeth Gilbert keynote really touched me as well with her talk about boundaries. As women, we try to take on so much and don’t know how to relax.”
She adds that, “I could tell we are more than partners; it’s like we are family. I felt like I had worked with NAWBO forever even though I was just recently introduced to everyone. That made it even better!”
Looking ahead, Nikki has three key priorities:
- Local connectivity: UPS is a corporate sponsor, but doesn’t want to stop there. Nikki plans to ensure she’s helping chapters and members drive their organizations and businesses forward at the local level.
- Aligning more women business owners’ needs with UPS solutions: Nikki was surprised at the conference by NAWBO members’ knowledge of what UPS can provide that goes beyond logistics to areas like capital for financing moving containers overseas. She plans to engage more with members to see how UPS’s full array of solutions can support their goals.
- Collecting and sharing testimonials: Nikki has been inspired by all the amazing feedback UPS receives about its drivers and their relationship with customers. She plans to look at the NAWBO member-driver relationships and see how we might collaborate on things like video testimonials.
Through it all, Nikki is excited to partner with NAWBO’s leadership team. “NAWBO has been amazing,” she says. “At the conference, it was a very smooth process as a sponsor. We were provided immediate help for every request we had. It just demonstrates what a great partnership we have.”
Four Fun Facts About Nikki
1) She lives in South Carolina but works at UPS in Atlanta, working remotely every other week and travelling there on the weeks in between.
2) She has a wonderful husband, Marlo, who she’s been with since high school. They have two sons, Talan, who is 11, and Kason, who is 4.
3) Shopping is her number one hobby, especially for shoes. She uses UPS My Choice® to know exactly when her packages will be delivered and then gets them tucked away before anyone finds out. “It’s terrible and I know it,” she laughs.
4) She is a football mom. Her husband was the captain of their high school football team and she was the captain of the cheerleading team. Today, they are a house divided with her husband a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan and her son a fan of the Carolina Panthers. “I love football just as much as my boys,” she says.
Just an Email Away
These UPS managers are always eager to connect and help: