- Located in El Paso, Texas
- Certified Texas HUB (Historically Underutilized Business)
- Largest, independently-owned office products and office furniture distributor in West Texas & Southern New Mexico
- In business since 2001
- Small Business
Sandy Grodin, owner of El Paso Office Products, was not going to stand by and watch his biggest customer, El Paso ISD (EPISD), be wooed away by Amazon. He knew the cost to local businesses to work through an Amazon marketplace would all but decimate the profit margins for not only his company, but all the local companies doing business with EPISD. And he feared if one local agency went to Amazon, others might follow suit, which could cause significant damage to the local economy. People’s livelihoods were at stake.
34 Years in Office Supply in El Paso
An El Paso native and graduate of UTEP, Grodin’s career began in California with Levi Strauss. But his real dream was to own his own business. In 1987, after a year of doggedly pursuing the owner of a local El Paso mom-and-pop office supply company, Grodin bought Sturgis & Co. In the next seven years, he built the business from roughly $1.5 million in annual sales to $12 million in annual sales. Sturgis became the first discounter of office supplies in the area, and the first to automate. In 1994, Grodin sold the business to US Office Products.
Six years later, Grodin decided to start over by creating a new office supply business from scratch: El Paso Office Products. Today, the company boasts $5 to $6 million in annual sales. Ninety percent of their sales volume comes from the public sector including local government, K-12 school districts, colleges, and community colleges. With just 16 employees, El Paso Office Products is a certified small business.
A few years ago, Grodin learned Amazon had approached El Paso Office Products’s largest customer, El Paso ISD, about creating a custom marketplace for them. The district was impressed by Amazon’s presentation and their promises of low prices. Amazon reassured them that their local vendors would be able to participate in the marketplace, which was important to the district. But before signing on the dotted line, EPISD wanted to speak with their vendors about the potential change.
Grodin met with EPISD’s Superintendent and members of their purchasing team. He outlined why Amazon’s pricing structure would cost local businesses dearly. The percentage Amazon would take from sales would cut the district’s local vendors’ profits to zero.
Grodin had done his homework. By tracking Amazon pricing over time, he was able to show EPISD how Amazon prices often fluctuated dramatically, which meant the district may not always end up receiving the best prices on items.
Grodin knew that the relationships he had built in the community over 34 years in office supply were worth more to his customers than Amazon’s low price promises. He reminded EPISD how local vendors are able to offer the kind of customer service not possible with a business so far removed from the community. El Paso Office Products is also able to offer competitive pricing through his membership in the Region 19 Purchasing Cooperative.
Keeping Community Dollars in the Community
Grodin’s battle to keep EPISD from going to Amazon was not just for the benefit of his own business and employees, but also for the benefit of the other local businesses who depended on EPISD’s business to sustain them. He reiterated to the district the benefits of shopping locally. The money spent with local businesses stays in the community in the form of the taxes they pay, as well as the financial support they offer local organizations (typically much higher than that of corporations from outside the area).
The EqualLevel Marketplace
Taking Grodin’s presentation and research into consideration, EPISD decided not to engage with Amazon and instead, to utilize EqualLevel’s platform for their eProcurement marketplace. With no supplier transaction fees, and no fees for integrating a supplier’s existing eCommerce site (or even creating an eCommerce site for them, if necessary), the district found EqualLevel’s platform to have the same advantages as Amazon’s, but it was much more local business-friendly.
Once their suppliers’ sites were integrated with their EqualLevel marketplace, all of EPISD’s approved vendors catalogs were searchable from one online site. When shoppers placed items in their carts, the EqualLevel Savings Advisor (ELSA) feature would suggest best value substitutions, ensuring district purchasers were making the best possible selections.
About EqualLevel GO
EqualLevel GO gives small OEMs or distributors, who may have limited IT capabilities, the opportunity to establish a punchout catalog store, or punchout store, that integrates with many of the most commonly used ERPs. This allows small companies to appear in searches alongside their larger competitors.
Grodin reports that the EqualLevel GO integration with El Paso Office Products’s ERP went smoothly. He has also been pleasantly surprised by the ease in which El Paso Office Products has been able to manage their catalog in EqualLevel GO.
“A win-win for the customer, the taxpayer, and the supplier.”
After implementing his GO site, which his other customers are able to utilize as well, Grodin reports, “Having the site is a win-win for the customer, the taxpayer, and the supplier. For our customers, they receive competitive pricing with the same local, top-notch customer service they have been getting from us for years.”
For the past ten years, EqualLevel has been partnering with companies like El Paso Office Products to provide a seamless solution that is easier-to-use, faster to configure and deploy, and more cost-effective than any other procure-to-pay platform available today.