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Diverse Business Partners
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Diverse Business Partners

Baseball and Business Mix Well

Businesswoman scores with MLB, corporations
Auction winner and business owner Rebecca Boenigk listens to Audrey Goins Brichi, manager of supplier diversity/small business for ChevronTexaco. (John Schlegel/

SAN FRANCISCO -- While the Giants and the Padres were preparing to get down to business Monday night, there was a group of businesspeople in a conference room at Pacific Bell Park doing the same thing.

And Rebecca Boenigk was right in the middle of the action -- pitching her line of ergonomic chairs, fielding questions from the potential clients in the room and, she hopes, hitting a homer for her company.

Boenigk, CEO of Neutral Posture, won a silent auction at a recent Women's Business Enterprise National Council conference that earned her the opportunity to travel from her Texas headquarters to San Francisco for the meeting and the Giants-Padres ballgame that followed.

As part of the Diverse Business Partners Program, established by Commissioner Bud Selig in 1998, Major League Baseball joined with sponsors ChevronTexaco and Continental Airlines to put together a dream package for a business owner like Boenigk. From 1999 to 2001, $250 million was spent in contracts with minorities and women on business through the MLB initiative, and Tuesday's meeting was just one small part of that effort.

"The objective of our program is to increase the integration of women-owned businesses into the business world," said Wendy Lewis, vice president for strategic planning/recruitment and diversity for Major League Baseball.

The biggest benefit of Monday's event wasn't the ballgame and the hot dogs. It's the contacts Boenigk and the specific people within those companies could make in regard to her product -- ergonomic chairs.

"The real goal for today's meeting is to look at ways to incorporate what Rebecca does into our supply chains," said Audrey Goins Brichi, manager of supplier diversity/small business for ChevronTexaco.

For Boenigk, the chance to associate with companies like ChevronTexaco, Continental and MLB is a profound one. Her company, which she co-owns with her mother, Jaye Congleton, is about 15 years old but has taken off with businesses paying more attention to ergonomics in recent years.

Neutral Posture, a smaller business within its industry but one that generated $17 million in sales in 2000, already has some business dealings with ChevronTexaco and Continental. But getting together with the actual people involved in procurement was what really made her trip to the ballpark worthwhile.

"We need to get introduced to the people who do the purchasing," Boenigk said. "The whole idea is to get women-owned companies together with the buyers."

Lewis, Goins Brichi and Phyllis Graham, manager for supplier diversity for Continental, put together the idea to have a winner from the WBENC auction receive this dual business/pleasure trip.

"We thought this would be an exceptional opportunity for her to get to know us and for us to get to know her," Lewis said.

And to do it in a baseball setting is a definite bonus.

"We could do this stuff in our office, but it can't be as fun as watching a baseball game," Goins Brichi said. "By no means could it be as cool as that."

John Schlegel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.