By Jessica Bedore

The Packers Mentor Protégé Program hosted its second panel discussion and networking event since its creation in 2011. The session, “Roadmap to Doing Business with Private Companies and Public Agency Partners,” was led by panelists from purchasing departments and general contracting companies in the area on Wednesday, Sept. 12.

The program was created with a goal to pair minority-, woman- and veteran-owned companies (protégés) with established and knowledgeable companies (mentors) that can provide exposure, training and resources that may not be accessible to protégé companies.

The Green Bay Packers and AFF Research LLC are the administrators and co-creators of the program. Anna Steinfest, president/CEO of AFF Research, was the opening speaker at the event and encouraged protégés to take advantage of the advice and knowledge that mentor companies have to offer.

“We are so lucky to live in the community where the Green Bay Packers are leaders not only on the field, but also in our own business community,” Steinfest said. “They use their strong ties to assist in the strengthening of minority-, woman- and veteran-owned businesses, and we are very thankful for that.”

Mentors at the session included Lathrop & Clark LLP, Schreiber Foods, Inc., The Growth Coach, Tweet-Garot Mechanical, Inc. and Wipfli LLP. Panelists were Green Bay Packers equipment manager Red Batty, Northwest Technical College (NWTC) purchasing director Mark Cichon, NWTC purchasing manager Jennifer Canavera, UWGB director of institutional purchasing and support Linda Depuis (recently retired) and Oshkosh Corporation executive assistant Gena Miller.

Members of the panel spoke for about 40 minutes on the ins and outs of providing products to public and private companies. For Samantha Payne, a protégé from Machine Plus, one of the most valuable takeaways from the session was the one-on-one interaction that protégés were able to have with the mentors and panelists during the networking session.

“The interaction that we were able to have is really valuable,” Payne said. “They are willing to talk to you, whereas at some other meetings I’ve been to, people don’t take the time to help you. This program is nice because they go out of their way to sit down with you and see how they can really help your business.”

Mike Augustian, of Local 400 Plumbers and Steam Fitters in Kaukauna, Wis., agreed with Payne.

“You really see the importance of networking and building the relationships that are already in your network,” Augustian said. “They emphasized that here today, which is something that I think is really important.”

The Packers hosted the session in the Legends Club at Lambeau Field. While the program is still fairly new, the organization intends to continue it for many more years.

“Our goal is to utilize the mentoring resources available in our community to help grow and strengthen small businesses, which will increase the economic development in our community,” said Aaron Popkey, Packers director of public affairs and a consultant to the program. “We have many great mentors on our team and we’re encouraging more protégé companies to sign up for the program and help position their businesses for future growth.”

Although this was Payne’s first time attending a Mentor-Protégé session, she hopes to come back for more in the future.

“We are trying to make our company grow and the best way to do that, like they said in the meeting, is to find someone who has already been through it,” Payne said. “I think, because of that, meeting like this are very, very good for any company to attend.”