Changing The Game – Ep.8

Innovating for Inclusion – Ep.7
November 11, 2020
Thanksgiving, the Perfect Occasion for Inclusion – Ep.9
November 25, 2020

Founder of Keystone Gifts, Liz Tsuji shares the challenges she faced as a minority woman business owner, offers advice on how corporations can diversify their suppliers, and how small businesses can influence diversity and inclusion.

Melyssa Barrett:  Welcome to The Jali Podcast. I’m your host, Melyssa Barrett. This podcast is for those who are interested in the conversation around diversity, inclusion, and equity. Each week I’ll be interviewing a guest who has something special to share, or is actively part of building solutions in this space. Let’s get started.

Liz Tsuji graduated with a bachelor’s degree in linguistics from University of California, Berkeley. She spent five years at Burkhart Company and at the Industry Council for Small Business Development. She worked at Crown Zellerbach in advertising and sales promotions, and went on to start her own small business called Keystone Gifts. During her career she was the vice chair of the Minority Business Enterprise Input Committee of the Western regional supplier diversity council. And they were focused on outreach to Asian business owners and diversity certification education. She participated in their supplier Academy and wrote a guide to understanding diversity classifications and certifications. Now retired, she’s been married for 45 years with three kids and four wonderful grandchildren, including many hobbies that she’s looking forward to getting back to in her retirement, including wax jewelry, ceramics, and a host of others. Please join me this week on the podcast by welcoming Liz Tsuji. So welcome, Liz, and thank you so much for being here.

Liz Tsuji:  I’m happy to talk to you, Melyssa. This is such a big subject. It’s a big subject and it’s an important subject and it’s even more important now. We’re on the cusp of so many changes. We just do not even know what it’s going to be like tomorrow. I find that so amazing. I mean, I guess I feel like it’s going to be better tomorrow. That’s my optimistic view.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes. Well, we can help for that for sure. We all want things to be better, so we definitely need to make sure that we move in that direction. So I’m so interested in your background. You have been one of my many mentors over the years. I think I’ve known you probably for at least two or three decades at this point.

Liz Tsuji:  Yes, I think we’ve known each other since I started my company. So that’s like 28 years, now it’s 30.

Melyssa Barrett:  There you go.

Liz Tsuji:  Amazing. Isn’t it?

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes. Time flies. So tell me, I mean, one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you is because not only do you have such an interesting background, but you have worked so much when it comes to supplier diversity, with certifications. And I know you spend a lot of time with, I want to say it was the Input Committee for the Western Region Diversity.

Liz Tsuji:  Yes I did, I spent a lot of time.

Melyssa Barrett:  So, maybe you can talk a little bit about how you got there, even just your background of your own small business. And then, how much of a focus you spent on diversity and inclusion?

Liz Tsuji:  Right. Well, when I first started my business in 1992, I approached Levi Strauss. I had worked with them when I worked for Burkhart Company. So I went to them when I was starting my own company. I just said, “I would like to have your business.” And that it was a pretty large department and it was a department based on diversity and inclusion. And they had to think about it. They said, well, we owe some loyalty to the Burkhart Company. How, on the other hand, everything we’ve done has been with you personally. So they said, “Okay, you may, we will give you our business, but we want you to join the The Western Regional Minority Development. It’s the NMSDC, it’s complicated, but they are the certifier of minority businesses. So I went through the certification to prove that I was a legitimate minority owned business.

Liz Tsuji:  And in those days, and this was 1992, they had people who then said, “Oh, okay, you’re certified. You’re working with us. We want to help you get as much business at Levi as you can manage.” And I had a person that I worked with, a person named Josephine, and she would say, “You know what? I’ve been looking at your numbers and you don’t seem to be doing anything with marketing. You’re doing all this stuff with training, and I’m going to introduce you to a few people.” And that’s a wonderful mentor relationship. Where somebody’s looking at your stats and saying, “I think I can help you here. And I can introduce you here and see what they’re doing.” Now, I will say in the whole purchasing process, people get to make their own decisions. And very few times in a corporation can a buyer or a human relations person or whatever say, “You must do business with this company. People will fight that like crazy.”

Liz Tsuji:  But I had somebody who was a mentor to try to help me. And that was amazing. Now, Levi Strauss has changed a bunch since then. I mean, they had eventually all of the headquarters people there at Levi Plaza, they’re all gone now, they’re in other places and things have changed. I mean, there’s all kinds of things have changed, it’s about back and forth. So I lost that relationship over the years, but I knew what it was when it was happening. It was a wonderful thing. However, interestingly enough, people who been at Levi moved to another company that you and I both really know. And they said, “Okay, we’d like you to do business with us.” And I said, “Oh, some other sales person has that account and I’ll help them, whatever.”

Liz Tsuji:  And again, they said, “No, no, no. We want to do business with you, Liz Tsuji.” So they introduced me. And that’s how I met you, Melyssa, because you know, it was, I don’t know who you talked to. You talked to somebody and gave them my name. And then we started talking and I have to say, my whole business life has been that way. It’s been through referrals. And you know, there’s all this stuff about social media and what have you. I mean, I do all of that, but really when you get right down to it, it’s still the-

Melyssa Barrett:  The relationship.

Liz Tsuji:  … person to person relationships, and people have to trust you to buy from you. They have to know that you have their interests at heart. And I think that’s still true in a good relationship that any relationship. I mean, for that matter, even your doctor, you have to have some trust that that person is really for you. And I would say I joined these associations. One of them I joined is the industry council for small business development, which is very big in the San Jose area. All the big defense companies belong and they are under the guns to do a certain amount of business. And so they sponsor the industry council. And I also worked with the The Western Regional Supplier Development Council.

Melyssa Barrett:  And that was where you were, they were focused on outreach to Asian business owners and diversity certification education, right?

Liz Tsuji:  Yes.

Melyssa Barrett:  That was like a big deal for what they were doing. I don’t know what timeframe that was, but.

Liz Tsuji:  Let’s see, I’ve been doing that really starting in the 2000s, I think. But you know, when you get right down to it, I’m not sure how much business. I mean, it’s not like you can say, “Oh, I got business from that.”

Melyssa Barrett:  Right.

Liz Tsuji:  “I got some visibility,” and that should help you get business, but I didn’t see such a direct relationship. So I still think that the most of the business that I ever got while working for 30 years was through personal relationships that I developed, and actually that the salespeople who worked for me developed. And interestingly sometimes, even if a sales person would leave, I would still keep the relationship because they felt that Keystone Gifts was helping them work through the relationship so that it didn’t automatically mean that I would say I didn’t always have an exact direct relationship with each client I ever had. But they know that you’re going to do things a certain way.

Liz Tsuji:  And that’s actually, I put down on my little bio, I put down influential books for an entrepreneur because there’s, let’s see, I put down The E Myth by Michael Gerber, which is really a classic. And one of the things he talks about is, and this is an old book now, but it’s been revised many times, and his whole training business’ based on that book and a couple of revisions. But he says, if you build you should build so that you’re always consistent. You always do things in a way that is your customers are going to be comfortable with. So I had a system set up and I made all the salespeople follow and all the … Everybody in the organization worked on the same set of rules and that gives people comfort. They feel like they will get things done the way they want and that you will handle all problems for them. Those are things that it takes a while to establish that rapport. But once you have it, it really is good. And that’s the basis for many referrals I’ve gotten over the years.

Melyssa Barrett:  It’s so interesting that you mention that, because I was in a meeting not long ago. And somebody told me that, they kind of looked around and noticed that all of their clients looked like they did. And their clients weren’t diverse and they were trying to figure out how do I shift things around to create the diversity that I want? So, when you’re talking about personal referrals, you can see how that can have an impact on lots of the ways that you do business. So then can you talk a little bit about some of the challenges you experienced in your career?

Liz Tsuji:  Well, I graduated from Berkeley in ’69 and started, I decided to take a break and actually went to Saigon and I worked for Buddhist relief agency. I did that for six months, but that was as much as I could take. At six months I thought, “Wait a minute. I think I’m part of the problem, not part of the solution.” So I came back and I was very business oriented then. And I went to work for a couple of large corporations at various jobs. And I was really, I thought, “Okay, this is what I want. I want to make money.” And I still feel that way. I think it’s perfectly healthy to want to make money, want to be profitable. So that was the path that I took. And I was mentored at large corporation by many people who were in the organization and it was kind of informal.

Liz Tsuji:  And it was a big paper company at Krafts Allerbeck, they’re no longer around, but they were around for many years and they were huge. I worked in the marketing department where I was one of eight marketing managers. I was the only woman. See, I was the only minority, I was younger than them. They were all white guys who were over six feet tall. I mean, honestly, they were all over six feet tall except for one guy.

Melyssa Barrett:  And you’re kind of short?

Liz Tsuji:  I’m kind of short, I’m five feet tall. So, you couldn’t put more. Oh, the other thing about these guys were, they were all ex-air force officers. And so the head of the division felt that he himself was an ex-air force officer and he felt he could trust other ex-air force officers. I mean, and as a matter of fact, you see that pattern. I’ve worked for a guy who he himself was not Mormon, but he really felt that Mormon managers were very good managers. And I agree with them, for various reasons. And the thing was they kept hiring more Mormon managers. So there is something happening there. And I think-

Melyssa Barrett:  People are more prone to pull in their own type or. Which is why I think it’s really challenging at some … To really challenge your own thinking about diversity and inclusion, because you do have. I mean, I think everybody has that tendency to want to just pull in somebody that’s like them.

Liz Tsuji:  Yes, yes. Because he starts to feel trust for even some ways that you don’t even talk about. But I worked for this very great group of guys. I mean, they were wonderful guys and they actually did a lot of training to me personally. I mean, things like I had never done an expense report. I’d never had a company car. So they were like, “Okay, you got to do it this way. You’ve got to do this.” I mean, that is the kind of onset training that actually, I would say if you’re new to a corporate environment and you’re a minority, you may not know any of those things. And so I feel like I learned a lot from them. And the other thing that I got from them which was so wonderful is, that they always had a big training budget, but these guys were always like flaking out, “Oh no, I have to fly to New York.”

Liz Tsuji:  So then they go, “Okay, who would like to go to this training?” And I would always sign up. So I worked for Crown Solar back for 12 years and maybe seven or eight of them were in this marketing department. I got thousands and thousands of dollars worth of training for free. I mean, when you own a small business, it’s hard to say, “Okay, I will forego this. So I will go to this training session or I will send my people to a training session.” So that’s one of the things that if you’re working for a large corporation, you might as well try to get that. And so I learned a lot of stuff about how to make presentations, how to deal with hostile questions, things that really matter. And those are not particularly minority things, but they’re things that not everybody gets training on.

Liz Tsuji:  And it’s something that’s really useful for people to learn. And that’s what I would say that to new people that you’re starting, you want to start a business, you have a great idea. You need more than a great idea. You need to have some tools and they’re all very achievable. You just have to say, “Okay, I need to know something about finance. I need to know something about how to manage people. That’s actually the E-Myth that he says, “Even if you’re just one person, you have four different hats you must wear. And if you leave any of them out, you’re not going to make it.” And I think that’s really true. You know, some people don’t. They have a great idea, but they don’t have marketing background. Or they have a great idea, they don’t know how to put it into practice. Or they don’t know, they have a great idea, but they don’t know how to count beans, which is a very important part of it. So that’s why I really like that book. And I also put down all the four agreements. Have you ever read that book?

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes, I have.

Liz Tsuji:  I love that book.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes, it’s really good.

Liz Tsuji:  So you read the whole book. They’re only about 25 words that really, really matter. And you know, I’m a great believer in the [inaudible 00:15:31] school of management, that things need to be cut back to the simplest haiku kind of description, and then you’ll remember it. But you know, one of his things was you are, you should always be impeccable in what you say. That it should always be the truth. And I believe in that and I believe that’s very, very hard to do. And one of the people, one of the things people don’t trust with salespeople is that they don’t believe in them. Many salespeople do not believe in that.

Liz Tsuji:  You can kind of see their eyes go just a little funny and they’ll be lying to you. And also politicians same thing. But I really believe that I will not lie to a client and they know that. And if sometimes it’s very hard to say it and you have to think about the best way to speak the truth, but yeah, you still have to tell the truth and the other agreements are be impeccable in what you say. Don’t take things personally, which I don’t. So even if somebody is kind of insulting me, I just go, “Just let’s move on.” Because it doesn’t really do you any good to get seriously offended. Instead, you’re trying to find a way to make it work. So, that’s a different subject altogether. But I like the four agreements because it’s … The 25 words can be very, very useful in almost any situation.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah, for sure. Well, so how difficult was it for you to start your own business and I mean, you had it for what was it? 20?

Liz Tsuji:  28 years.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah.

Liz Tsuji:  Well, I worked for, I eventually left Krafts Allerbeck and I went to work for a distributor who was a woman. It was woman owned company and she was somebody I knew and actually my parents knew. So I started to work for her and I did very well, which was kind of a shock because I’d never done sales, and I did very well. And then she sold the business to some guys who I just did not get along with. So I was kind of stuck there. I was like, “Uh-oh, I’m in trouble.” And I don’t know if I ever told you this story, Melyssa. But I’m kind of moaning and groaning to my daughter, Maya, who was, I think she was 11 or 12 at the time. And she said to me, “You know, mom, you know we have this rental that you’re just stalling, and your plan is to sell the rental and sell the house in San Bruno and move to San Mateo. Why don’t we just stay in San Bruno and you can use the money to start your own business? Honest to goodness, she said this to me. Yes, she did.

Melyssa Barrett:  Wow.

Liz Tsuji:  So then I said, “Well, wait a minute-“

Melyssa Barrett:  So wise 11 year old.

Liz Tsuji:  So I thought about, I said, “Okay, I can do this.” I mean, because I myself really didn’t have this entrepreneurial urge. I was trying to kind of get out from a bad situation, but I knew I could sell. I had confidence in myself for that. I had great clients who I felt there was some serious loyalty there. And I just did it. I started with a little bit of money that I had by hook or by crook gotten. And I would say that one of the things when you start a business is, people think they can start it with other people’s money. And boy, I don’t know under what circumstances that works out really well. But usually, especially for minority businesses, it’s hard. You need to have assets. And that’s one of the things I would always recommend to people. Have assets of some kind, a house is really good.

 And then go look for loans and lines of credit when you don’t need money.

Melyssa Barrett:  Right.

Liz Tsuji:  That’s the best way to start a business. That’s not always possible. I don’t know if we ever talked about this, but one of the few ways that the government actually will give you money is the small business seats SBA program for buying an office building. As long as you occupy it, and there are certain statistics about how much you occupy and all this other stuff, and you must be the primary owner, primary occupant. They will underwrite a 10% down purchase of a building. And that’s a very good way to create an asset for yourself at a much lower rate, because that 20% is very huge threshold, especially in the Bay area, but to do a 10% loan. And they will actually, they will actually let you buy a building that’s what maybe a little rundown and include renovations in the loan. So that’s an old program, but I just heard them talk about a couple of years ago. It’s still around, so-

Melyssa Barrett:  Interesting.

Liz Tsuji:  I did that.

Melyssa Barrett:  And a lot of minorities certainly sometimes don’t even get the information to be able to take advantage of those types of programs.

Liz Tsuji:  Yes, yes. I would say, minorities, well, you know, start to make generalizations, but a part … A minority person who’s going to start a business, they have to think about all of the other parts of the business that they need to run besides having a great idea. And they’re, it’s that’s where it’s good to go to, like the Western regional group or the industry council does some great training too. And they will help you to figure out these things, because that there’s so much paperwork. We were, when I had the business, we were certified by the West … Do I [crosstalk 00:21:07].

Melyssa Barrett:  Western Regional Supplier.

Liz Tsuji:  The supplier clearing house.

Melyssa Barrett:  Oh.

Liz Tsuji:  Yeah, the supplier clearing house is another group and they certified both minorities and women. And that certification can get you in the door with all of the public utilities, which is PG&E, which is the communications companies like Verizon, AT&T. Get you in the door means you get a hearing. It doesn’t particularly mean you get business. And all of those things require a lot of paperwork. So if you’re not comfortable with doing paperwork, you’re going to have problems. But you could find somebody who will do that for you. Or you could be glad what you pay. Or you can see if you can find interns who can help you with stuff like that. I think those are options, but there’s paperwork for any of those things.

Melyssa Barrett:  That is so interesting because when you think about small business, there are … I mean, as you said, you’re wearing many hats, but are there other suggestions you might provide for the group as they think about diversity and inclusion? I mean, you being a small business owner, I think in some cases we think about large corporations and what they can do to influence diversity and inclusion. What are some of the things that small business owners can do?

Liz Tsuji:  Well, let’s see, when you’re working with corporations, large, because there’s lots of kinds of clients, but many people think that they only want large corporations. That is the toughest nut to crack. And so the corporations are saying, “We want small businesses,” but they’re not really set up to embrace small businesses. As a matter of fact, you remember there was a time when my largest company corporation that I worked with said to me, “We are streamlining our purchasing to strategic purchasing, not just global purchasing, and you’re out.”

Liz Tsuji:  And I was like, “What?” So I was one of their largest minority vendors and we were a little company, but they did not have much minority business. But I went to not a person in supplier diversity because well, I didn’t do that. I went to an SVP. I just happened to know a teeny bit because her people worked with me. And I said, “They’re about to knock me off.” So she personally worked on it and saved me. But the thing is that what they were trying to do was say, “Okay, we only want three vendors of promotional products and you didn’t make the cut. And we want three big ones.” Well, that’s that kind of ruling, which is actually not that uncommon is very hard on small businesses and minority businesses and women owned businesses. So the thing is, I would say if a large corporation can carve up little niches, so that will enable them to give small businesses a chance to show themselves.

Liz Tsuji:  Then it’s not as high risk for the corporation. And it’s an opportunity for the small business. What they often will say is, “Oh, why don’t you become a subcontractor?” And that is so unhelpful, because I’ve been to many meetings where the minority subcontractors are going, “When are we going to get paid? And how come you keep pushing me to be a subcontractor when I never get paid as a subcontractor?” And you know I don’t know that that’s true for everybody, but I know whenever there’s a meeting, that’s the subject that comes up first. I worked with them, East Bay Mud for years. Their programs have changed so much recently, partly because they had all these financial issues themselves. But East Bay Mud used to have somebody who did their … On cubicles you know how there’s a little sign that tells you the name of the person?

Liz Tsuji:  And they had a particular vendor who just, they just made up little signs and people order from them and put the signs up and they would put the signs up. Well, in their system of streamlining their suppliers, they cut this company out and they went back and they protested and they said, “Well, you know what, we’ve done this for years. We’ve done a great job on it.” So PG, excuse me, East Bay Mud at that time they did a program, they said, “Okay, we’re going to carve this out for you because you have shown that you can do it.” And the person who had inherited it was a large corporation, a large supplier. And they actually didn’t like doing that. It was a little, I mean, because it’s an order that’s going to be, you know, 50, a 100, $200 every time.

So it worked out pretty well, but that’s a kind of carve out that can help. I’m not saying to make it so that they get the business no matter what, but a carve-out can do something that you could say, “Okay, this slot is for small businesses. And if we put somebody in here, we want to see that they can really perform, and then we will give them more opportunities if they keep performing.” So that’s the kind of thing that would really help people, but it’s work. And otherwise I’ve been to many seminars where large corporations will talk about it. And so one of the big ones will say, you know, I’ve heard them say things like, “Well, when we look at small businesses and minority businesses, we want to see $2 million a year for three years to show that you can perform. You cannot be, our business should not bring you more than 20% of your revenue.”

And so that’s a big problem, because for small companies when they start working with a big company, they can be over 20% in a heartbeat. Those are rules that the large corporations tend. I mean, then they’re doing it there. They say they’re doing it for the small businesses’ protection. And in a way they are, because if they take that businesses, what I did the business could fold. And I’ve seen that with say a T-shirt company and they get all the T-shirt business that the company changes their mind, they fold. So it takes some serious planning to say, “Okay, we’re a large corporation, but we want to help small businesses. We’re going to help small women’s businesses, small minority businesses, and just in general for that matter, and also differently abled businesses, all of those things.” You might have to kind of say, “All right, let’s do this in a special way.”

Melyssa Barrett:  Intentionality.

Liz Tsuji:  Yes, that’s exactly right-

Melyssa Barrett:  I mean were really talking about intensity.

Liz Tsuji:  That’s exactly right. Because saying, “Okay, in order to do this, you need to come up to our standards.” In a way, if you were doing construction, say you were doing it, you wanted to find some good contractors to build a building for you. I don’t think there’s any problem with saying, “Okay, we really have to get somebody who’s really big and that can perform all these complicated things for us. And also can be insured to a huge amount of money.” Whereas, if you were saying, “Okay, so somebody who’s going to do the signs on the cubicles. What’s the risk there?” So the large corporations are very risk averse, but I’ve never seen, I mean, I’ve worked with lots of large corporations. They tend not to say, “Oh, what can I do for you?” They don’t say that. They say, “What can you do for me?”

Melyssa Barrett:  Right. Right, right. So then in terms of the diversity classifications, because you had certifications being a minority owned, women owned small business. And although you may not have received tons of business that way, how important is it from a certification perspective when you’re looking for a business, especially now?

Liz Tsuji:  I would say, if you are a young business or whatever business, if you are capable of getting your certifications, yes, get them. Because they talk about opportunity. Good luck is when a hard work meets an opportunity. And may have that opportunity. It sometimes open stores. If you have the supplier of, let’s see what, the supplier, a clearing house for the PUC, public utilities commission. If you have the PUC certification, you will get invited to various meetings where they, the people who are looking for vendors, and it doesn’t particularly mean just minority vendors, but sometimes it’s just minority vendors, but they’re looking for vendors.

They will have meetings and you can go and make an attempt. You may have to go to three meetings and shop all three meetings and be ready to talk at all three meetings to different people who have booths or what have you. Maybe that will work. And if people have an opportunity, that’s where you’ll see it. And you can see a bunch of them in one day. I once went to Sacramento and it was the City of Sacramento I think, that they had a fair and they said, “Okay, if you sign up and you’re a minority owned or woman owned company, we will sign you up for appointments for these companies who think they can use you.” And I’ll be darned. I went to the meeting. I was there on time for my appointment and there was a table. And they have like five vendors at a time coming at a table. And I was in line and waiting. I ended up talking to this person for like 20 minutes.

And she said, “Okay, I’m taking all these names down and what they can do.” And she called me back and she said, “I’ve decided to use you.” And she gave me about $50,000 worth of business in one shot. And I have never met her before. And it all worked out great. But that happened once in my 28 year career, but I was ready. I was ready to do that. And that’s what you have to keep … You have to be prepared. You have to be prepared to make a speech. If somebody says, “Okay, talk about your company,” you have to be able to do that. And I think I’ve been to presentations where somebody says, “Well, what does your product look like?” And they go, “Well here, let me pull up a picture on my phone.” You know, if you’re showing your product, you better have some of it. You know, you better have something more than the picture on your phone. So you really have to be prepared in every sense of the word.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes, indeed. Now on a lighter note, knowing that you’ve just officially retired and now sold the business, I know you have a passion for diversity and inclusion and you have lots of hobbies. So what are you planning on doing?

Liz Tsuji:  Well, I just retired in March and the reason I did it was actually, I’ve been trying to work on a retirement, doing an exit strategy for the last three or four years, but I’ve had a couple of problems with that. One is business was so great that it’s so hard to walk away from a business that’s really doing great. And it was wonderful. And I was talking to a bunch of people. I was working through a broker, talking to a bunch of people who wanted to buy my business. The hard part was they were all, pardon my French, white guys. And I was just unmoved by that. And I didn’t think that all of my clients were going to be happy with that arrangement. So I was thinking, “Well, maybe I could just find the right person who’s a minority or a woman or something.”

So I was really, it was really tough. And in my 25 years, 27 years of previous to that, I had thought, “Well, it would be great if I could sell to Carolyn who used to work for me. I mean, she works for me.” She’s my sister by coincidence, but she’s has many years experience. We kind of think alike and people even say we sound alike on the phone and she knew my clients and she could talk to them. And we’d often come up with the same ideas. Like sometimes we would work on a big project and we’d look at what we both came up with and there would be many matches. Financially it would’ve been way hard to sell to her because the dollar signs just weren’t working. But I pulled the company through two huge cataclysms, 9/11, and the recession of 2008, 2009.

And I did it and I went into huge debt and I didn’t declare bankruptcy. I just kept going. I made it work. I came back and was profitable. So I did it twice. I said, “I don’t want to do it a third time.” Because I knew in some ways COVID has some similarities to 9/11, because you know, all air travel was closed down.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes.

Liz Tsuji:  And it did not come back for months and months after. I think the return is going to be even longer in this situation. All meetings were canceled. I mean, everything was canceled and it’s hard to come back from that, but we did. So at this point, I thought, “Wait a minute. At this point, I could afford to sell my business at a reasonable amount to Carolyn and know that my clients are getting exactly the kind of care they want and I don’t have to deal with these other people.”

So it just was perfect for me. And I have to say, if I were under the gun, like I had a lot of debt or whatever, I wouldn’t have been able to do it that way, but it worked out just perfectly. So if I was willing to wait another year to sell, ooh, I might not. I didn’t want to do that, but she’s doing fine. She’s doing fine. There’s not a lot of business around, but then she’s not in debt herself. So she’s making it work. And so she’ll come out fine in another eight months or so I think.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah, it’s definitely a different type of recovery, especially knowing that there’s potentially kind of the second wave of closures and things coming back. So it is challenging, especially when you can’t have events for a promotional company obviously.

Liz Tsuji:  That’s right, that’s right, exactly.

Melyssa Barrett:  That’s kind of a big deal. But I will tell you, I get promotional gifts sent to my house now. So it’s kind of funny how things have shifted a little bit and people aren’t so worried about getting addresses and sending out those promotional items-

Liz Tsuji:  Yes, I think my particular industry is going to change. There are changes in the wind. And I think, some of the corporations who’ve said, “We like how people are doing, working at home. They can do it forever if they want.” And that’s like, “Whoa, I do think that a combination of working from home,” and I don’t know, one day a week, one day two, every two weeks of having some sort of board meeting, that’s because face-to-face has some benefits, has some real benefits.

Melyssa Barrett:  Definitely yeah.

Liz Tsuji:  That’s something to think about. So over time though, like a lot of the companies that we do business with are training sections, they’re doing all remote training now, and that might last for quite a while.

Melyssa Barrett:  Right, yeah, yeah, definitely. Well, awesome, Liz, thank you so much for joining me. Lots of nuggets in there regarding supplier diversity and small business advice. So I appreciate you coming on and sharing your perspective always.

Liz Tsuji:  All right. Well, thank you so much. Great to talk to you, Melyssa.

Melyssa Barrett:  You too, my dear. Thank you so much. Thanks for joining me on The Jali Podcast. Please subscribe so you won’t miss an episode. See you next week.