Looking for minority- and women-owned small business vendors for FRC

Where does your team buy robot parts and other items needed to run a FRC team?

In the 19-20 season, 5.9% of our team’s expenditures went to women-owned or minority-owned small businesses, and it would be interesting to see if we could get that number up in future seasons.

  • Adafruit
  • Sports Specialties II, a screenprinter in Hartstown, PA - produces all the shirts for our offseason event Rumble in the Roads
  • D&M Metal and Industrial Sales in Hayes, VA - our primary metal & plastics supplier

What small disadvantaged businesses does your team shop at?

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Just because they’re women or minority owned does not make them disadvantaged.

Totally down for supporting more women/minority owned businesses in this industry (and every industry) though, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t even a number our team has considered before, but will definitely be paying better attention to from now on, thank you!

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Ah, you are right of course! However, that is the term that the Small Business Administration uses in the US.

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www.wcproducts.com

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Not necessarily a parts supplier but Word Play All Day is an FRC related store.

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Kristine’s artwork is amazing!

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I appreciate the sentiment and the goals, but also think about what it would be like to be AndyMark right now. COVID-19 just knocked you down, and before you can get back on your feet, in a year when total FRC team expenditures is way down, a bunch of teams want to start buying from someone else for political reasons. I haven’t been with FRC long, but I was under the impression AndyMark had been a great supporter of FRC and FRC teams. Am I wrong?

I mean sure, vote with your wallet if this is important to you, but I’d hate to see AndyMark getting kicked while they’re down. I think this is the kind of initiative to do when there’s enough FRC demand to support bringing more vendors in, rather than replacing the ones we have.

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AM is AM and will not be replaced by looking for other vendors. AM are a cornerstone of our Robotics ecosystem. What Nate is looking for is a way to diversify where his team’s money goes. I never thought about team money as a political tool for change, but it is. I’m learning a lot over the past few months about a great many things and none of them are directly robot related.

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I’m in the same boat. Since Covid started I’ve been way more cognizant of supporting small business as much as my budget will allow me. There are still days I opt for convenience by going to a large corporate store, but there’s definitely been a shift in my thinking.

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That’s one of the most impressive things I find about FIRST, as a mentor, is that it gets students thinking about real-world “squishy” problems, like how do you convince sponsors to give you money, how do you estimate how much you might need (which includes “what is a spreadsheet” and “how do I use it”), how do you physically get the necessary people where they need to be, how do you spend money when it’s stuck in some bureaucratic account somewhere, etc. What are the non-technical consequences of this action? These are the types of problems that the working world deals with every day, and companies and organizations need people who can deal with them. It brings real value to this program.

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Found a new tagline for my bio

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No one is saying don’t shop at AM - in fact, I ended up finding a use case for AM products in my non-FIRST work, partially motivated by the pandemic.
AM-type parts are no more than 10% of our budget. We spend much more on materials, tools, graphics materials, travel cost, etc… All those costs are outside the community-specific vendors. This isn’t a rob Peter to pay Andy choice, it’s an opportunity to look at what your budget does, and consider how you can move some buys around to make the effects your organization wants in the world.

Ie for team meals, two years ago we mostly patronized global franchises, and this year we kept >50% of team meals in independent restaurants.

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Wouldn’t that be rob Andy then?

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