• Distributor of MRO, electrical, industrial supplies, and tools & equipment.
  • Headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • Founded in 2010.
  • Certified minority- and woman-owned business (MWBE).

In 2009, Chris Ellington received a call from ODP Business Solutions (formerly Office Depot OfficeMax) that would change the trajectory of her business. OfficeMax asked Ellington to partner with them on their supply contract with the Inter-University Council Purchasing Group of Ohio (IUC-PG). As a purchasing consortium, the IUC-PG comprises state universities, community colleges, technical colleges, and private educational institutions throughout Ohio. 


The Inter-University Council Purchasing Group of Ohio (IUC-PG) comprises 89 members including state universities, community colleges, technical colleges, and private educational institutions.

Among their university members include Kent State University, Miami University, Ohio University, and Ohio State University.


If you look at Ellington’s resume you can see why OfficeMax reached out. For the previous seven years, she owned and operated MRO Express LLC, an MRO and industrial supply distribution company. And before that, she spent many years building an impressive career in procurement. 

Knowing the volume of sales generated by IUC-PG members, Ellington leapt at the opportunity to join the contract. In 2010, Ellington founded a new company, GBEX, LLC, to focus on facilitating IUC-PG sales. Located in Cincinnati, Ohio, GBEX (pronounced Gee-bex), is an acronym for “Going Beyond Expectation” and is a certified Minority and Woman-Owned Business Enterprise. GBEX offers a one-stop-shop for office supplies, jan/san, break room supplies, copy paper, technology products, promotional products, and office furniture.

eProcurement: A Requirement for Doing Business

Shortly after joining the contract with IUC-PG, Ellington discovered that their members by and large facilitated orders through their ERPs. GBEX’s eCommerce system, as well as each of their suppliers’ platforms, would need the capabilities to seamlessly communicate with all of the different IUC-PG members’ ERPs. This would be no small task.

GBEX dove in head first by employing a software solution. For the next eight years, they utilized the system to communicate with both member systems and supplier systems. However, they weren’t thrilled with the platform. GBEX’s implementation manager grew frustrated with the system’s lack of control as well as its inflexibility when modifications were invariably needed. There was no way to retrofit the program to be a better fit for members’ needs and less than ideal workarounds were the norm. In short, their existing system was holding them back and they were ready to try something new.

Time for a Change

GBEX went on a quest for an eProcurement solution that could easily integrate with their clients’ ERPs and their suppliers’ eCommerce platforms. They talked to a few companies but it wasn’t until they found EqualLevel that they felt they had the answer they were looking for. In their conversations with EqualLevel, GBEX learned that EqualLevel’s Tier 1 Diversity Marketplace solution could be easily configured out of the box with minimal customization. If the system did not already have the features GBEX needed, EqualLevel was willing and able to write new modules to handle the unique requests.a

In fall 2019, GBEX contracted with EqualLevel to implement their eProcurement solution and in January 2020 their Diversity Marketplace went live. Ellington was thrilled with the results. “EqualLevel’s system helps us to be perceived as a company that can handle transactions for major suppliers and large organizations. This in turn is attracting more customers beyond the IUC-PG,” she espoused.

Three years later, GBEX continues to utilize EqualLevel for its eProcurement platform. The company still works with several IUC-PG members, but also handles ordering for many other large institutions as well. “We are proud of our work helping small and disadvantaged businesses like GBEX,” said Sungwhan Oh, Vice President of Technical Operations & Support for EqualLevel. “The Tier 1 Marketplace established for GBEX meets not only the needs of GBEX but also ODP Business Solutions and their customers.” 

“EqualLevel’s system helps us to be perceived as a company that can handle transactions for major suppliers and large organizations. This in turn is attracting more customers beyond the IUC-PG.” 

President/CEO, GBEX, LLC

GBEX’s regular onboarding of new customers requires a complex dance between GBEX, suppliers, and the new organization. GBEX Implementation Manager Jodie Driggs, who works on integrations with the EqualLevel team, reports that linking the three systems can be challenging. “We have to work closely with the customer’s ERP, the supplier’s system, and EqualLevel to ensure we are able to seamlessly pass information between all three systems. EqualLevel’s excellent communication and flexibility has been key to making these integrations possible.” 

“Switching a solution provider is not an easy task for businesses of any size. We are happy to have lessened the technology burden on GBEX so that they can focus on what’s most important to them: customer satisfaction and strengthening their partnership with ODP Business Solutions,” said Oh. GBEX and EqualLevel are currently wrapping up an integration with the Cincinnati Public School District.

Ellington is also pleased with the EqualLevel platform’s adaptability. “Every day we get new customers with unique requirements. Never once have we come to EqualLevel with a special request that they have not been able to fulfill. The versatility of their system allows us to consistently meet the needs of our customers.”

For the past ten years, EqualLevel has been partnering with companies like GBEX 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.