Avisare: Uniting All Businesses Under the Sky
by Melissa Lowery
Sky Kelley is on a mission: create easier access to contracts and capital for small businesses; provide easier access to potential suppliers and demystify the path to success.
Kelley is the founder of Avisare, an electronic bidding platform that serves as a central place for information about all contracting opportunities, whether it’s a government agency, municipality, public utility or corporation. The intuitive interface is designed to make creating a profile, searching for companies, hiring subcontractors and finding new business opportunities simple and fast.
The problem and the solution
The idea to simplify access to contracts came to Kelley when she was running new product strategy for a division of Disney & ESPN. She was constantly looking for new technology to leverage, new companies to work with and but the inefficiencies of the process were daunting.
“That’s where I learned how difficult it is to find the right company, and especially to get diverse businesses included in the bidding process,” Kelley said. “I was often told, ‘Oh, we don’t have any diverse companies who can do that.’ I knew there were people out there.”
But when Kelley learned about the process and method for gaining access to these opportunities she realized there was a formidable barrier to entry—having to complete and maintain the registration process with each company’s portal.
Kelley’s thought — the overall inefficiencies in the process and the undue burden on small businesses to maintain multiple third party registration profiles beg the question — “Why don’t we do it differently?”
“Avisare is a network, not a database” acting like LinkedIn for the supply chain, according to Kelley. A small business can create a single profile that is accessible to whomever requests it, which solves one inefficiency immediately.
“Having a single profile reduces time needed to input information by about 80%”, Kelley said. “We’ve done a lot of work in the space to find out what information companies and government entities use to evaluate you, then making it simple by giving you this one profile and maximizing the use out of it so everyone can see that same information that they need on you.”
Profiles include basic information about the company and capabilities, but Avisare goes several steps further by enabling companies to add case studies, sales and marketing materials, client references, green and technology certifications, testimonials and veteran, disability and minority certifications. Certification status is a searchable criteria on the platform, adding relevance and attractiveness to potential business partners. The profile is especially beneficial to service-based businesses that need to showcase their value.
“We’re not leading with certifications, but naturally we’re finding this aspect created a great differentiator for our users, including corporations who want to meet and exceed their self-imposed diversity goals,” Kelley advised. “With an Avisare profile, you can maximize the exposure of everything that makes your business unique. If a company is looking for a mobile applications developer with insurance industry experience in Florida who is LGBT-certified, Avisare makes it easy to find them.”
The Avisare platform enables collaboration across the enterprise to streamline research and matching potential opportunities to eligible suppliers early in the procurement process. Buyers, the people who will ultimately hire and work with the suppliers, can search for businesses—all businesses, not just certified diverse firms—through the platform. Both procurement professionals and supplier diversity managers can see which categories and what types of businesses their buyers are searching for on the platform and use this information to submit qualified diverse businesses to the appropriate buyers.
“This allows procurement and supplier diversity managers to track who is interested in which categories before a Request for Proposal is issued, while buyers are still in vetting mode,” Kelley said. “The three constituents can also collaboratively create RFP drafts so supplier diversity managers are aware of upcoming opportunities and can research vendors before the RFP is posted.”
Kelley and her team have also built in additional functionality for buyers, for whom growing the supplier base is an imperative. Establishing, developing and maintaining relationships and communication with potential suppliers often provides a competitive advantage.
“The Avisare system tracks all activity that happens on the site, when buyers, procurement professionals and supplier diversity managers are searching for suppliers, looking at profiles, downloading information or inviting a supplier into a private bid,” Kelley said. “All of that history is stored in the company’s record of each supplier, so if your main contact person leaves the company, the history of that relationship does not walk out the door with them.”
Although the company does not disclose the exact size of its user base, Kelley confirmed that thousands of businesses are now using Avisare. As Avisare grows into a centralized platform to access contract opportunities around the country, Kelley has initiated the next phase of the Avisare strategic plan to save time for small businesses by maximizing the value of having one profile and sharing that information. The company is set to launch a pilot project in the Los Angeles area focused on access to capital. For many new businesses, and especially diverse businesses, working capital—which is used to keep the doors open, make payroll or to pay bills—could mean the difference between success and failure.
Kelley’s vision for Avisare is to be a one-stop shop for small businesses in the contracting space to gain access to contracts and capital. She and her team believe doing so goes beyond individual success to create real impact for small businesses and the communities around them.
“I have always felt passionately about leveling the playing field for diverse groups—minority, LGBTQ, women, veteran and disability communities—to be able to get ahead, to be empowered, to know what it takes to succeed,” Kelley said. “So often people in our community think there’s some magic or secret sauce to growing a company and creating generational wealth. My goal is to demystify it and make it accessible. We won’t make instant millionaires of everyone, but at least you’ll have a path, a guide to accomplish what you want to do.”
To learn more about Avisare or to set up your free small business profile visit Avisare.com/join.