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Supplier Diversity: The Power of Women-Owned Businesses

The TJX Supplier Diversity Program connects minority-, woman-, veteran-, disability-, and LGBTQ-owned businesses with opportunities to provide not-for-resale products and services to TJX in the U.S. For more than 25 years, this program has helped us develop relationships that enable us to encourage economic development and aid us in identifying the best vendors for mutually valuable relationships – like our relationship with Atlas Travel. Atlas has been the exclusive travel services provider to TJX in the U.S. since 2007. Elaine Osgood, Atlas founder and CEO, recently shared her story and what it’s meant to her to be part of the TJX Supplier Diversity Program.

Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?

A: When I graduated from college in the 1970s, career choices for women were more limited than today, with many leaning toward traditional options like a nurse, secretary, or teacher. I couldn’t stand the site of blood, and I couldn’t type with my long nails, so I followed in my father’s footsteps and became a teacher.

Q: Why did you make the jump from teacher to travel agent?

A: I actually made a couple of career changes. After teaching school for two years, I was bumped out of my position due to lack of seniority, and then began working for the Department of Social Services where I investigated child abuse for nearly a decade. After that, my husband encouraged me to start my own business. I considered options that I would both enjoy and that would give me flexibility and a good income. With that, I launched into travel services and began learning about the travel industry as an agency franchisee.

“As a business owner, I appreciate that TJX has made an ongoing commitment to support diverse suppliers like my company.”

Elaine Osgood

CEO and Founder of Atlas Travel

Q: Was it an easy transition?

A: Starting a travel business with no travel or business experience was challenging, but I was brought up with a strong work ethic so working hard was not a problem for me. There were a few surprises when I first opened my business. For example, as a local business owner, I wanted to network through local community organizations, but the Lions and Rotary Clubs didn’t accept female members — something I didn’t expect! I heard “you can’t” from a lot of people and that motivated me to focus even more on “I can.”

Q: And you did!

A: Within a few years, I became the town’s first female Rotary Club member, and by 1997, I had grown the business enough to be able to shed the franchise relationship. I now have nearly 200 employees across the U.S. and U.K., and we serve 500+ corporate accounts, as well as individual vacation travelers, incentive programs, and meeting planners.

Q: What does it mean to be identified as a woman-owned business (at least 51% owned, operated and controlled on a daily basis by one or more females, as designated by the U.S. Small Business Administration)?

A: Being certified as a woman-owned business has opened doors for us, no doubt. We’ve been able to generate new leads and secure more business relationships because of it. But ultimately, retaining the business comes down to our ability to provide customized, superior service. My philosophy has always been to hire the best professionals available and then move out of the way so they can do their job.

Q: Why do you think Atlas and TJX make good partners?

A: As a business owner, I appreciate that TJX has made an ongoing commitment to support diverse suppliers like my company. In addition, we see many similarities between the TJX and Atlas cultures. At Atlas, we value people, and foster a diverse, inclusive environment. Our Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives focus on achieving goals set forth by our five Strategic Pillars. To support our desire to welcome individuals with a wide breadth of experience and expertise, we created a travel program in a local high school and encourage those interested in a career change to consider our exciting industry. We provide mentoring, in addition to comprehensive training, through our Atlas University. The more I think about this, the list of similarities seems endless.

Q: You not only have passion for your business, but you have passion for your community?

A: The entire company works together to give back to our communities. Our employee-run Corporate Social Responsibility program, ReachOut, empowers Atlas employees to get involved in many charitable opportunities, including volunteering.

Q: What’s your favorite place to travel?

A: I have been blessed to be able to travel to many wonderful destinations all over the world, but there are still so many places left to visit. My favorite place is where I happen to be at that moment! Every destination provides a unique experience and something to be appreciated and remembered. I always travel with an open mind and willingness to explore all that a destination has to offer.