Shardé Marchewski serves as Wayfair’s Head of Supplier Diversity and is focused on ensuring the company’s commercial strategy is inclusive of underrepresented groups. At present, she is focused on increasing Wayfair’s assortment of products from Black designers and makers while also establishing the company’s roadmap for supplier diversity. She has been at Wayfair for over four years and grew her career at the company within Category Management for Wayfair Canada. As a member and former co-leader of WayBlack, Wayfair’s Black Employee Resource Group, Shardé received the company’s Annual Award in 2021 for being a “Community Builder.”
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John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact Podcast. I’m John Shegerian and I’m so honored to have with us today, Shardé Marchewski. She’s the head of Supplier Diversity at Wayfair. Welcome to the Impact Podcast Shardé.
Shardé Marchewski: Thank you John.
John: Hey before we get learning about all the important impactful work that you and your colleagues are doing at Wayfair. Can you share a little bit about your background? Where did you grow up? How did you get inspired to do this important and great work that you’re doing and tell us a little bit about your journey.
Shardé: Yeah, for sure. So I was actually born in Texas and I grew up in both, Texas and California. I went to school at Atlanta, business school in Nashville. And you know, I really kind of began my career right after undergrad. I started off in banking, so I kind of got my feet wet there. Learned about various companies, how they operate. I went off to business school and once I graduated business school, went into Investment Banking and got even more ingrained into how companies think about financing themselves and how investors look at various companies, how you start to think about strengths and weaknesses of organizations. After doing that for about three or four years.
I ended up moving to Boston with my husband and I made a career change, where I ended up working at Wayfair, which is an excellent opportunity and where I’m at right now. And you know, the switch was really interesting because I went from a finance background to more of a commercial side where, I moved from advising companies to actually being in the weeds within a corporation and helping to really grow the business and think about setting various strategies for the company. I began on the Wayfair Canada team. So I oversaw our strategies for the furniture and decor categories for Wayfair Canada. And after doing that for about 3 years, I had the opportunity to move into a new role and begin Supplier Diversity.
And Supplier Diversity is a really cool interesting place. It really started about 2 years ago and fortunately with the murder of George Floyd a lot of corporations began to really think about, how can we take a lens of diversity and really start to think about DEI beyond just the human side and how do we start to think about this within our commercial strategy. And so with that, I had the opportunity to kind of build this organization from the roots and really take this into something that we have today, which is the Supplier Diversity work, which I’ll kind of go into a little bit more on what we’re doing.
John: I want to hear more about that. I want our listeners to learn more about that because as you said. Supplier Diversity and inclusion and getting them to buy into what you’re doing at Wayfair has become really, really a hot topic and really one that’s important because, what I’ve learned along the way talking to other folks that sit in your type of chair at other corporations is, Supplier Diversity and also inclusion can vastly improve the brand that you’re working for and make a better experience for everybody. Not only the suppliers win, but also Wayfair wins as well. And obviously we all win as a general society, as things get better. Talk a little bit about Wayfair. There’s a large portion of our listeners and viewers who aren’t really knowledgeable that much about Wayfair and of course people can find Wayfair at www.wayfair.com. But what is Wayfair and what is it generally sell and how big is Wayfair?
Shardé: Yeah. So Wayfair is a large company. I think around 13 billion dollars in revenue. We’re an e-commerce platform that’s focused on selling home goods to end customers. So we don’t create our own products, but we are just an online marketplace where we pair our suppliers to customers and we allow them to meet one another and creative transaction then.
John: So about how many global suppliers do you have today?
Shardé: Oh my gosh, we have a lot. I don’t know the exact number, but we have [crosstalk] thousands[?].
John: So in the homework that I did, tell me if this sounds like the general range 11 thousand or so global suppliers. This is a big number of suppliers that you have.
Shardé: Yeah, definitely.
John: Okay. So like frame it up, because in everything that we talk about. Great corporations and great people can define similar titles in a different way. As we know sustainability can be seen broadly, it can be seen on a very narrow basis. ESG the same thing, planet positivity, the ship from [inaudible] the circular economy. So now that we talked, today we’re going to be talking about diversity inclusion. The head of Supplier Diversity means what at Wayfair?
Shardé: Yeah. So the head of Supplier Diversity means that, my focus is really thinking about how do we get more diverse owned suppliers on our platform? How do we expand and really find more relationships there within our supplier base? How do we coach them and make sure that they’re winning once they do join our platform and how do we also make sure that our end customers know that we have products from diverse owned businesses.
John: Wonderful. So does that roll up eventually, does that roll up into your annual sustainability or social impact report that’s published every year? Does that information get aggregated and is made transparent to your client base and to your Wall Street and others?
Shardé: Yes. So it’s actually reported in our annual diversity report. So we first talked about it last year and then we gave an update this year as well.
John: So with 11 thousand or so suppliers. How do you go about scoring them, understanding who they are? So first you understand, who your base Marketplace is and then how do you decide to go about expanding that and making it more diverse? How does that work?
Shardé: Yeah. So, I mean the first thing was really just looking at our overall supplier base to going back to the numbers that you said. Also looking at our product assortment and really just beginning to think about, do we have diversity at all levels, right? So when we think about the partners that we work with, the folks that are on our platform. Does it feel diverse, does it feel like it’s a good reflection of our overall end customers. And from there, what we really did was start to think about you know, how can we highlight diversity?
Which you know, frankly we weren’t really going out of our way to highlight it. But have we really make sure that this is a top priority to our customers, know that this is something that we’re focused on and how do we make sure that we’re leaning into various supplier groups and may need, either additional support or just some additional attention to really make sure that they’re growing our platform. And so with that, we launched Supplier Diversity. And so, the way that I kind of thought about going about finding new suppliers was; 1, who’s in our existing supplier base? Right? So asking suppliers, you know, how do they identify, what percentage is your ownership and also focusing on suppliers that were certified by various organizations? So supplier gateway, national minority Supplier Diversity Council. Really groups that were saying, you know, we are a black owned company.
And so we started there, we were really focusing on how do we think about expanding our black end supplier base? And then from there, we’re beginning to think about. You know, how can we really support this group? How do we talk to them? How do we make sure that they’re getting all the support that they need? And so after we identified the suppliers, we started to just have conversations on, you know, do you see Wayfair as a strong partner for you? Yes or no? If no, how can we be better? And we really just started to have conversations. We started to have, you know listening sessions and say like hey, where do you struggle? Where do you need additional support? And then from there we were able to create the Supplier Diversity Program, which is really focused on removing any roadblocks and really helping diverse owned businesses succeed on our platform.
John: Understood. And you took this role about how many years ago, this exact role of head of Supplier Diversity?
Shardé: It’s been about a year and a half.
John: So it’s relatively new and you know as corporations go. As the journey unfolds, that’s very, so that’s still a new program and your still a new leader. Explain the experience first. Before we talk about the results, talk a little bit about your own personal experience. What did you expect going in and what turned out to be as expected and what also turned out to be not as expected?
Shardé: Yeah. So I think going in I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. I have never launched anything within an organization before. And so going in it’s like, okay well, you first have to get an understanding of what your baseline is. Who you’re working with, who are your suppliers, who are the existing folk out there. And in the beginning, I think you know, I had this thought of, well what I’m going to do is just find all these suppliers and just show them how to use the Wayfair platform and then from there boom, they’ll start growing. And what I did was really just take a step back and say, all right. Well instead of me making assumption of what suppliers actually need, why don’t we really begin with having conversations on where they are. If they find our platform easy to use, if they think that were great partners and go from there.
And so what I found was, that a lot of diverse owned businesses have the same issues as most small businesses. And I would say that a lot of diverse owned businesses, once you start really going down into the numbers and the amount of revenue that they’re bringing in, these are typically small companies, small businesses. And the biggest issue is really time and bandwidth. So I think oftentimes, you know, there’s there’s this idea well, you really need to coach these businesses. They may need help on strategy in regards to pricing or fulfillment operations, things of that sort. I think the first thing I realized was like the owner of this business maybe the CEO, the CPO, the COO, you know and they’re doing everything from times creating the product, doing Q&A from actually shipping out the items.
They’re also customer service. And so the first thing that I realized is like, wow a lot of folks just don’t have the time and bandwidth[?] to really manage a really big relationship with Wayfair. And if you start thinking about some of their peers and some of the other larger suppliers that we work with. A lot of suppliers may have a team dedicated to Wayfair within their group. So, you know, it could be a supplier with 500 people, maybe 5 people are dedicated to a Wayfair account, 5 people could be dedicated to some of our competitors. And so that was the first thing that I realized. The second is, you know, when you start thinking about companies overall and e-commerce and inventory. Access to Capital is always one big thing and so, you know after that you start to peel back the onion, you really start to say, okay. Well one, there’s an issue with time and bandwidth.
You know, like how many hours do you have in day to actually run your business. But 2, if you’re starting out and if you’re a smaller company. How much capital do you have to front inventory? How much do you have to pay your team and things of that sort. So those are the things that they weren’t necessarily surprises to me, but I think I was so ready to just say well, you know what, all these businesses are ready to go. I’m ready to start coaching them and show them the Wayfair way and what we really need to do is just take a step back and say where’s the Baseline? How do we really think about growing you from the root to where you’re having long-term more sustainable growth, and really steering these companies to the way that they’ll eventually be able to grow the right way and not just a you know, kind of quick way that wasn’t too thoughtful.
John: 18 months in. Do you feel like, is it becoming? You feel like you’re under solid footing now? Do you feel like you’re making the progress you want to be making and you feel like the uptake is the response from the supplier world is working the way you envisioned it. Like are you happy with what’s going on right now?
Shardé: Yeah. Look I’m happy. I’m definitely happy with where we are so far. I think there’s always room to improve and I’m learning it and we know with the first year, it’s really just launching, seeing what happens and then getting ready to iterate again. It’s how I think this year kind of closes out that’s next thing we start to say, what happened? What were the results and how do we make it better?
John: Talk a little bit about, celebrate Black makers. This very new and impactful program that Wayfair created. You know, what does that mean for your supplier, suppliers? What does it mean for your customers? And how has it been since you rolled that out?
Shardé: Yeah. So celebrate Black makers is really our consumer facing campaign to support and celebrate and show that we have products from black-owned suppliers and companies. If we go back to Supplier Diversity, that’s really a program where we’re focused internally on growing our supplier basis. So this is like the behind the scenes that customers actually don’t see. How do we coach suppliers? How do we think about speed to customer? How do we think about pricing? How do we think about merchandising? Celebrate black makers is really the consumer facing side where customers are able to go into Wayfair, and so if you got to wayfair.com right now. If you do a search for black-owned, you’ll see this beautiful landing page that really highlights all the different products that we have from black-owned businesses. So you see decor, you see wall art, you see textiles and so Celebrate Black Makers is our ongoing way of saying, you know, we have items from black-owned businesses and they’re easy to find on this landing page.
John: Got it. Understood. And how’s that been received so far?
Shardé: It’s actually been received really well. We’ve since. let’s see. I don’t know the last time we’ve kind of given you an update but we’ve launched our black and landing page on all modern. So we have black modern makers. We also recently launched black designers on Paragould as well too. So these are other you know brands that sit within the Wayfair family, but we have 3 different platforms with their own distinct landing pages that are also highlighting or offering from black-owned businesses.
John: Wonderful. For our listeners and viewers who’ve just joined us. We’ve got Shardé Marchewski with us today. She’s ahead of supplier diversity at Wayfair. To find Sharde and her colleagues and all the impacts they’re making in Supplier Diversity and sustainability, please go to www.wayfair.com. You know you mentioned earlier. One of the challenges of working with smaller suppliers, is that sometimes suppliers that you’d be working with, the CEO, who’s also the CTO, who’s also the every person at their company, they don’t have the time, the resources, the assets to create the engagement that you were hoping for. That’s a barrier to creating uptake and engagement. What are some of the other barriers that you’ve run across over the last 18 months when trying to create more Supplier Diversity at Wayfair and how have you overcome those barriers?
Shardé: Yeah. I mean, I think that the biggest one I will say is definitely time. So I’ve had some suppliers say like hey, I would love to join Wayfair. I can’t right now because I’ve already committed to a partnership with one of your competitors. So you think about this a lot of our competitors and other e-commerce retailers in general have also made some sort of commitment to diversity, right? So if you think about it, it’s there’s oftentimes. This one supplier that has an amazing product and we’re all like hey, your products are amazing, they are great, I want you on our site. And most of the time the supplier has their own direct to Consumer website that their running. So that’s like the first thing and that’s where the majority of the revenues coming from, and then they kind of pick and choose which retailers to work with.
The way that we have been kind of standing out is by making sure that we are offering a program that really fits their individual needs. And so when we start thinking about other challenges, the first thing is, of course, like I said overall time and bandwidth so one of the biggest perks of partnering with Wayfair Supplier Diversity Program, is that we offer a supplier relationship manager. And that person will be able to take a lot of the administrative work off of your plate so they can update your pricing for you, help you with updating imagery. If you have you know issues with your shipping speed, we can go in and update in that. That and the system for you as well too. So, I think the overall like the number one issue is of course, bandwidth. Other than that, it could be small things, you know the cost of merchandising, taking great pictures, hiring a photographer is really expensive and we’ve been able to partner with an AI Studio who’s been able to offer free services to some of our suppliers and to really help them get their imagery up and going.
I think one is staying in stock. You know, it’s like it’s one of these things where because suppliers are starting to get a lot more visits. You’re starting to see an increase in conversion. We’ve had folks run out of stock very quickly. And so, you know again, being able to front Capital, to bring more product overseas if they’re importing it, or a lot of times our suppliers actually making products by hand. So we work with a lot of suppliers that do Ceramics and pottery, plates things like that. And they can get backlogged on orders because they now have an influx in orders and so products can go out of stock as well too. [crosstalk] Sorry. I was just going to say it always goes back to you know, like these issues of kind of like growing pans.
John: It’s great though. Really, what I’m really getting out of this is you came from a banking background. So let’s just talk in banking perspectives and business, strict business. So you basically are running inside of a larger Corporation. You’re an intrapreneur inside of Wayfair with this. This is an intrapreneurial project really and a program. And what you’re really offering to your suppliers to increase the diversity and the base of your diversity is resources, your resource provider for them. Like you said, you know, you give them a person that’s a resource, you’re giving them assets in terms of, resource assets to help improve how they’re viewed, such as photos.
Plus also access to Capital. So when they become more successful by selling through the Wayfair brand, they therefore can keep up with the demand that you’ve created at Wayfair for them and the pole is going to be able to be kept up with because you find them or help them facilitate finding more financial resources. So in every way you’re sort of helping to incubate and grow these businesses. I think that’s a fascinating and and a winning model. Everybody wins in that situation including of course Wayfair and then including your customer base as well.
Shardé: Yeah. Definitely. I mean for sure it’s definitely been interesting. I will say that you know, like you said it’s being an entrepreneur within an organization that’s already a well-oiled machine and it’s been very interesting to say, okay. I know how this company operates. I know how we win. I know how to grow on the site and I’ve been doing it for years with other suppliers. And so it’s really thinking about how do we take the knowledge and the skill set of how to grow with businesses that may not necessarily be at the same stage as some of our other suppliers. When how do we really think about that in remove any barriers that they may have to where they’re able to find that same success and really start to get into that flywheel of growth.
John: Is Celebrate Black Makers being looked at as a paradigm in your industry now? Will you find competitors or frenemies? Because as we know copying, winning programs is just truly of a great form of flattery. Is this a paradigm that’s going to be used as a model that other competitors or frenemies are going to now start to model themselves after as well?
Shardé: I would hope so, but honestly, if you start thinking about, you know, like frenemies and competitors. We all have our various ways of operating businesses and different strategies. And so if I look at you know other competitors that maybe a little bit more heavy on the brick and mortar side. They have a completely different strategy than the way that I think about it. If I look at other e-commerce players that may be beyond home, right? Some of them may focus on food or apparel. Their strategy is also different and honestly the way that I think about this, I connect with other folks that run Supplier Diversity initiatives at other places too.
I see this is like we are all kind of like, holding hands together and figuring out how do we do what’s best for underrepresented groups and really amplify them and highlight them. But I think overall look if there’s if there are other organizations that are interested in learning more about what we’re doing at Wayfair and how I think about it and you know, if they want me to be a thought partner, if they want to come get me feedback. I’m always open to it and I would love to have more conversations because the ultimate goal is you know, frenemies are not as really to make sure that we’re doing the best and we’re doing what’s right for underrepresented groups.
John: It’s so true because at the end of the day, Shardé, it’s not a zero-sum game. Take away the names of the businesses and the great brands that you represent and other great young people like you also represent. It’s really one planet and one Earth. And the more diversity that’s created and the more diversity that’s encouraged. It just makes society and our culture just better all around.
Shardé: Definitely, definitely.
John: Is your fraternity of other head of supplier diversities or other names that they’re called that other corporations, is that a fraternity that you find to be growing and as you said, very sharing together? A friendly for fraternity?
Shardé: Definitely. it is definitely growing and I would say that I leverage my group a lot. And so I’ll use them as thought partners, they do the same thing with me. And oftentimes we can be in different industries. So there’s someone who I work with very closely that works at like a courier. So like, you know, not a direct competitor in it. It’s more so like a partner that we would work with. I always love to talk to them just to say like, you know, how are you thinking about amplifying businesses? How are you guys doing it internally your company? And we kind of leverage each other. We have conversations all the time and we talk about ways that we think that we can help each other out.
John: What’s the culture and structure like it Wayfair? Do you have an annual supplier conference that you host? And in and that conference there’s a sub conference where, then you also have a diversity division that you bring in more and more diversity into that conference every year? How does that work?
Shardé: Excellent question. Yes, so we do a supplier summit every year where we bring in some of our top suppliers and really folks that are key to our overall strategy. Diversity of course is key to our strategy right now. And so we do invite many of the suppliers that I work with. This past summer, I think we had about 6 or 7 of my suppliers come in and it was great. It was really nice for them to come into the office, meet our c-suite, meet leaders around the company, take a tour of the offices and really have the chance to sit down and get an understanding of how Wayfair works behind the scenes.
I think one thing that we’ve, like all kind of say that, I have noticed is that often times, there are programs that are facing towards suppliers and saying “Hey, this is how we want you to grill.” But I think the true partnership is like when you really bring folks to the table to have a say and to say like “Hey, this is how we can grow together.” and where it’s not just me talking at them. You know, I’m saying like this is what you were going to do, but allowing them to really come behind the scenes and get an understanding of how we work all together. And so our suppliers really allows that to happen and we have another one coming up in a few months or will have someone else or a few other diverse owned suppliers come in as well.
John: Seems[?] part of what you do is incubating and facilitating for your diverse suppliers. Are you finding there’s more capital. Going back to the capital markets discussion and the it financial institutions discussion, which you’re well versed in and you know that language very well, because you were on that side, you wore that hat before. Is there more capital coming in to fund more black entrepreneurs now than ever before or is that’s still a barrier in our culture as well?
Shardé: So I will say this. I’m somewhat removed from capital markets. It’s been about 5 years since I’ve been in banking side, but I do stay up-to-date on Venture Capital funding and firms, things of that sort. I will say this. Like if you look at the actual numbers of who’s getting capital. You oftentimes see diverse owned businesses get less than others. With that being said, I think that it’s been acknowledged in the industry. I think a lot of people have, you know said like, we get it. We also see that, you know, a lot of money has not gone to diverse owned businesses and there does seem to be more of a focus to try to get money to diverse owned business owners. I’ve seen this through grants. I’ve seen this through various Venture Capital firms.
I’ve seen this through organizations that are focused specifically on making sure that diverse owned business owners have access to capital. But with that being said, I’d be like that. I feel like the wrong person to say there’s like a true influx[?] coming in. But I know I often times direct my suppliers to you know, go look for it, talk to your local banking Institution. I think a lot of this also comes with making sure that you’re prepared to have conversations with a bank. So again like house, you know, how are your accounting procedures? How are you really measuring your business? Are you well-versed on you know, like what ebitda means and what banks actually look for when it comes down to lent money. And so we do sessions like that here as well to throughout Supplier Diversity. You know, I brought in a few of my former colleagues to come in and talk to my suppliers to basically say. As you start to think about growing your business and as you scale, it’s important to make sure that you’re properly financed in order to really see grow throughout your business.
John: You give them the tools because as their level of financial literacy for sophistication needs to grow with their business, you’re helping to give them the tools and resources to be able to talk that talk with the people that could help unlock more business for them by giving them future fundings. I get it. It makes a lot of sense. Yeah, and like you said historically, you know, let’s take another group. Historically all the numbers I’ve read in terms of venture capital money and other capital flowing, another horribly marginalized sector of society is woman. And still have been unbelievably ignored by the financial institutions and the PC’s. And this is not a political discussion. I purposely don’t make this show political, but man, we could do better. I mean, we could just do better as a whole. Obviously you’re unbelievably successful and this is working really well. You’re 18 months into it, which is still relatively the beginnings of a longer journey. Talk a little bit about, Shardé , some of the projects and initiatives that get you super jazzed to get out of bed in the morning, go attack, that you know are going to be coming online in 2024, in 2025 and beyond.
Shardé: Oh, man.
John: A couple that you’re allowed to talk about. Just [crosstalk]. I know
Shardé: So I’m trying to think through the things that I know allowed it to talk about. Let’s stick to what we currently have. I’m excited to continue to expand Celebrate Black makers. I will say this, everyone should be on the lookout for what’s you know, what’s going to happen in February. I think we’re going to have some cool announcements coming up. But for now, I will say this. I’m super excited to continue to expand, Celebrate Black Makers. We are constantly onboarding new suppliers, we’re getting new products. We are, you know always making sure that we’re offering the best selection to our customers. So, one big thing that I’m focused on right now is just the recipe on e-commerce, right? Like everyone wants something tomorrow and they want it for the best price possible.
And so that’s one thing that I’m making sure that we’re doing. Like how to do products that are coming from black-owned businesses and diverse owned supplier groups really able to compete with some of these bigger suppliers that have the, you know, the resources and the capabilities to ship quickly and to stay in stock. And so honestly, that’s one thing that I get excited about. Look, I have a background in commercial. I love talking about business. I love talking about scaling and creating just overall strategies and really getting excited about growing businesses.
And one thing that I’m super passionate about is how do I bring that to groups that oftentimes have not had that exposure or have not had access to that? And so I think that it’s great, you know, like if I look at myself, there’s not a lot of people who look like me that have the same background. We’ve done years of banking where they have been able to sit within a major organization like Wayfair and help to really lead and set the commercial strategy for major categories and oversee a significant amount of dollars. And so it really feels good to be able to bring that to groups that just may not have access to that. Right? Like if I think about some of our other bigger suppliers, everyone’s a business everyone’s a business.
John: Hundred percent. Because that’s another hat you get to wear as an educator and you get to unlock all these great entrepreneurs that want to grow their businesses and now have a platform to grow on.
Shardé: That and also, I’ll also say exposure to our customer base. That’s probably like the biggest thing. So, education, coaching and then also exposure. So really making sure you know, the Wayfair is a massive platform. We have millions of customers and what we’re also doing is making sure that we are amplifying underrepresented suppliers and elevating their products and their names and really leveraging our position in the Home Goods Market to allow them to really access our customer base and to grow.
John: That’s wonderful. And for our listeners and viewers, to find Shardé and her colleagues and all the important in great work they’re doing in Supplier Diversity, sustainability and social impact. Please go to www.wayfair.com. Shardé . Thank you for all you’re doing in Supplier Diversity. Thank you for all you’re doing to make an important impact and thank you over all for just making the world a better place.
Shardé: Thank you John. I appreciate that.
John: This edition of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by Engage. Engage is a digital booking platform revolutionizing the talent booking industry. With thousands of athletes, celebrities, entrepreneurs and Business Leaders, Engage is the go-to spot for booking talent, for speeches, custom experiences, livestreams and much more. For more information on Engage or to book talented today, visit letsengage.com. This edition of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by ERI. ERI has a mission to protect people, the planet and your privacy and is the largest fully integrated IT in electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity focused Hardware destruction company in the United States and maybe even the world. For more information on how ERI can help your business properly dispose of outdated electronic Hardware devices, please visit ERIdirect.com.
Supplier Call to Action: If you’re a Black maker or designer and are interested in selling on Wayfair, visit https://www.aboutwayfair.com/celebrate-black-makers to reach out Customer Call to Action: Support Black-owned home brands by shopping here: https://www.wayfair.com/celebrate-black-makers~b582.html?rtype=7&redir=black+owned