Mentee: Casey Droege, President & Founder, Casey Droege Cultural Productions
Mentor: Kaitlin Vallance, Head of Procurement: Global Brands & Global Travel Diageo
Supplier Diversity Website: https://www.diageo.com/en/esg/champion-inclusion-and-diversity
Kathleen Castore, Disability: IN Supplier Mentoring & Development Consultant spoke with Casey Droege from Casey Droege Cultural Productions and Kaitlin Vallance from Diageo to discuss the progress and lessons learned from their time in the Disability: IN 2022-2023 Mentoring Program. Let’s hear more about them and their time together so far.
KC: Greetings Casey, so glad you are here with us.
KC: Casey, please tell our readers about Casey Droege Cultural Productions and your services.
CD: Casey Droege Cultural Productions (CDCP) has two branches. One is community focused and offers arts programming and exhibitions to the public. The other arm is commercially focused and operates under the brand The Art Supply Co. We help clients incorporate artwork or artists into their spaces. Most often it’s placing art on the walls of a space, but it can also be working with artists to create special wall coverings, lighting, furniture, event takeaways, or large public art pieces.
KC: How has your passion as an acclaimed artist and a person with a disability driven you on a personal level and helped your business grow?
CD: The mission of my business is about building arts economy. I want to get artists and arts workers paid and I want to do so in the most equitable way I can. We find solutions for clients while also creating opportunities for artists, particularly underrepresented artists. This is the kind of mission our clients understand and benefit from, and allows us to stand out from other art consultancies.
KC: How has being a certified DOBE with Disability: IN affected your business and not just from getting a contract signed, but also the programming, peer support, educational programs and networking opportunities we offer?
CD: I’ve loved attending the programs and building my network through Disability:IN. I’m constantly growing my circle, my skills, and finding new ideas. I’m now in my second year of the mentorship program, and I’ve learned so much from all of the one-on-one sessions with my Supplier mentors and also with the Disability:IN team.
KC: Can you tell us about your mentoring time with Kaitlin and the Diageo team?
CD: Kaitlin and I have been meeting monthly to talk through specific problems, brainstorm new ideas, and help me learn more about how a large company like Diageo works. Kaitlin’s background in marketing has been really helpful in not only problem-solving some of the expected issues that pop-up, but also in helping me think about new types of clients to reach out to.
KC: What objectives have you worked on during the past months that you have achieved (or ongoing) that has helped you have a clear path to the next step?
CD: One of the ideas we focused in on early was taking the services I offer to our core clientele of architects, interior designers, and developers, and offering them to other types of clients – like experiential brand agencies. With her support, we researched these types of firms, the language they use, and have started having exploratory conversations with them to see if it might be a good fit.
KC: Has anything surprised you that you have learned about yourself from participating in the mentoring program?
CD: It’s not really a surprise, but I’m always amazed at how much I learn each day/week/year. It’s exciting and sometimes exhausting to feel like you’re always expanding your skills and knowledge.
KC: Do you have any advice or encouragement for future mentees that are considering joining and why they should take advantage of the DOBE Mentoring Program?
CD: This is the kind of program that allows you to shape it to meet your own needs. It is a great opportunity to get to learn from someone while also sharing your own knowledge. It’s a mutual exchange that can help solve problems and potentially create longer-lasting changes on both sides.
KC: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about Disability: IN? Feel free to write whatever you like here.
CD: Disability:IN has been such a generous organization to be a part of. I wish there were more hours in the day to try and take advantage of the great programs and opportunities. One of these days I’ll learn how to be in two places at once!
Thanks for all the work that you all do!
KC: Thank you Casey and good after noon Kaitlin, Disability: IN is so happy to have you as a mentor, I have some questions for you as well.
KC: Diageo has so many iconic brands used across the globe; you have some of my favorite. Please tell us more about the company so we can support those brands that support us! Kaitlin advertise your company here basically
KV: Absolutely! Diageo has over 200 brands, 27,000 employees and 132 production sites worldwide and we really are all driven to be the world’s best brand builder, leading the way in premium drinks – the most exciting consumer products category! Our purpose at Diageo is to help people celebrate life, every day everywhere and it really is an exciting business to be a part of.
KC: Why did you decide to participate in the mentoring process, especially with so many other mentoring program options out there, with Disability: IN?
KV: I have always been a huge advocacy for diversity as I truly believe diverse teams make better work! At Diageo we want to help create a world where everyone can be themselves. As part of our business ambition to increase our spend with diverse suppliers and create a more inclusive and sustainable world I was lucky enough to be introduced to Disability: IN and after researching what it aims to achieve was immediately connected to the ambition! Disability: IN is a brilliant community to help build understanding and inspire real industry change and I got a real sense of putting ‘people first’ which I loved from the get-go, so this opportunity really excited me from day one.
KC: Can you speak about how the mentoring process has been with Diageo and Casey?
KV: Wow I have loved every session I have had with Casey! I set out through the program to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and barriers diverse owned enterprises face when it comes to working with larger corporations such as Diageo, and I have gained a whole lot more along the way. It’s been fantastic to be able to share learnings and knowledge across a whole host of things with Casey, from marketing, branding and how to get the best out of agency pitches, to growing our combined networks across agency partners and industry experts.
KC: Diageo has ambitious goals and commitments around I&DDE&I including Society 2030:Spirit of Progress and Value Chain Inclusion, this is incredible and we know that People with Disabilities is included in the supplier diversity aspect. Can you tell our DOBEs more about the efforts and what Diageo wants to accomplish?
KV: Of course! To shape a more diverse and successful long-term business first, and the society in which we operate second, requires ambition and action which is why we’ve set bold goals as part of our 2030 Spirit of Progress action plan.
We will accelerate inclusion and diversity in our value chain, committing to spend 10% with diverse owned and disadvantaged businesses by 2025, and 15% by 2030. This includes those suppliers who are owned and operated by people living with a disability. We want to inspire our suppliers and agencies to drive even greater diversity within their organizations too to drive diversity of thought and knowledge to the collective advantage of our joint ambitions. It’s a real journey we are on with our partners and the industry and one I am incredible proud to be a part of!
KC: How does your supplier diversity program work from a global perspective? You are in over 180 countries, so how can our global DOBEs participate in other regions other than the US.
KV: Our Supplier Diversity program is live across all of our markets globally and we have an internal network of Champions to ensure we are joined up, sharing learnings and continually challenging and improving the way we are promoting the program and driving results. We are also widely connected to organisations and industry bodies such as Disability: IN, WEconnect and MSDUK to ensure we build our network with diverse agencies and suppliers and continue to stay up to date with potential partners and ways of working. As a Procurement function we also run Supplier Showcase Sessions across our various markets to highlight the work, capability, and opportunity to partner with diverse owned and operated business to our Diageo stakeholders. These sessions have resulted in many new diverse partners winning work which has been brilliant to see and helps our entire organisation globally stay connected to our 2030 ambitions.
KC: We know being a mentor and not just the mentee learn during the mentoring process, what have you come away with during this experience with Casey?
KV: I have learned an incredible amount from Casey including what it takes to start and run a business and all of the challenges and opportunities that come with it. It has been invaluable to learn firsthand what agencies like Casey’s go through to win work from clients and to see things from her perspective has enabled me to really build on my own ways of working and approach with our suppliers here at Diageo!
KC: What are some of the key focus areas/tips you feel are important to any mentor that you would like to share with others for professional growth and success?
KV: I would say the biggest thing for me is to be really open, honest and vulnerable. My biggest learnings are when I admit to not knowing, not understanding and needing help and that goes for mentors and mentees alike. It’s okay to not know the answer, it’s all about the growth mindset and really trying to be a better version of yourself every single day to achieve the small (or sometimes big!) wins. I am very much a people person and hence have loved this mentoring opportunity as it’s allowed me to get to know Casey, where her strengths and knowledge compliment mine and how we can help each other to learn and grow. There is something you can learn from everyone and magic in every conversation, take the time to listen, ask questions and embrace the opportunity to be curious – “those who don’t believe in magic will never find it!”
KC: Any other thoughts to add for us today? Feel free to write whatever you like here.
KV: A massive thank you to Disability: IN for the continued great work and inspirational leadership on empowering business to achieve diversity, inclusion, and equality and for the opportunity to take part in this fantastic mentorship program – I urge anyone and everyone to do the same!
KC: Thank you Casey and Kaitlin for your insight and I wish you both continued success throughout the rest of the program.