Mentee: Corey Axelrod, Founder & CEO, 2axend

Website: www.2axend.com

Mentor: Joyce Eriksen-Eggers, Director of Supplier Diversity, Takeda Pharmaceuticals

Website:  www.takeda.com

Conversation: Kathleen Castore, Disability:IN Supplier Mentoring & Development Consultant chats with 2axend and Takeda Pharmaceuticals to revisit their mentoring collaboration as they continue into a second year in the Disability:IN Supplier Diversity Mentoring Program building on their past success. They have been paired since June 2020. Let’s discover what Joyce and Corey are up to.

KC:  Corey, what services does 2axend provide?

CA:   2axend is a Deaf-owned strategic consulting and training firm that helps organizational leaders address critical elements impacting the Deaf and hard of hearing employee and customer experience, including accessibility planning, inclusive organizational design, risk management and organizational compliance, as well as Deaf cultural awareness and responsiveness.

KC: How has being a certified DOBE with Disability:IN affected your business?

CA:  After attending the 2019 Disability:IN Conference in Chicago, I knew I was missing out as 2axend was not yet certified as a DOBE. However, at the time, I truly did not know what I was missing out on.

Since 2axend was certified in the fall of 2019, I’ve been privileged to participate in Disability:IN’s mentoring program and Tuck’s Executive Education program at Dartmouth (Disability:IN sponsored my tuition) amongst other wonderful learning opportunities. Disability:IN has also provided 2axend with increased visibility and structured opportunities to interface with a variety of corporate representatives via matchmaking sessions and webinars. Collectively, these opportunities have accelerated our organization’s growth and impact.

KC:  I am so glad you are continuing with the formal mentoring program and building on that success with Joyce and Takeda.  Why is this significant to your future business and how has it been helpful to you to date?

CA:  I am grateful for the opportunity to continue to work with Joyce. Over the past year, our 1:1 conversations and sessions with Joyce’s colleagues have continuously evolved to support 2axend’s growth and increased partnership with corporate clients – we’ve talked about everything from effectively communicating 2axend’s value proposition and capabilities to making sure 2axend has the appropriate infrastructure to meet contractual requirements (e.g., cybersecurity management and insurance).

KC:  How come you decided to continue with Joyce and the Takeda team for a second session?

CA:  I’m excited about 2axend’s future – we’re projected to increase our 2020 revenue three-fold in 2021. In looking ahead to the rest of 2021 and 2022, having a trusted advisor in Joyce is beneficial and vital to 2axend’s success.

Joyce has invested a lot of time to really understand what we do at 2axend – this institutional knowledge and understanding is irreplaceable. Furthermore, aside from providing intangible expertise into the realm of navigating corporate America as a DOBE, Joyce has been one of 2axend’s biggest cheerleaders and continues to look for opportunities to help me strategically, methodically and effectively scale 2axend’s growth.

KC: I know you had a very successful year with the mentoring program, what advice would you give to the current mentors starting out for the 2021-2022 Program?

CA:  While it’s critical to meet your mentees where they are at in their journey, don’t be afraid to challenge your mentees. I leave every meeting with Joyce with more tasks on my to-do list. But more importantly, I leave my sessions invigorated and excited to accomplish things that I didn’t even think were possible before starting the mentoring program in 2020.

KC:  Do you have any advice for future mentees that are considering joining and why they should take advantage of the DOBE Mentoring Program?

CA:  Regardless of where you are at in your entrepreneurial journey, you should not pass up the opportunity to join the DOBE mentoring program. Participating in this exceptional program is one of the best investments I have ever made in myself and 2axend.

KC: Is there anything else you would like to share?

CA:  Thank you, Disability:IN, for this wonderful opportunity to learn and grow as a professional and business owner.

KC:  Joyce, you have been a diehard mentor with Disability:IN since the inception of the program.  Why did you chose to participate, especially with so many other programs out there, with Disability:IN?

JE:  At Takeda, Supplier Diversity supports Takeda’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and it’s how we drive economic inclusion within our supply base and give back to the communities where we live and work, and mentoring is part of this.  We have mentors throughout Takeda.

I have always enjoyed my experience as a mentor for Disability:IN.  In many cases, it gives me an opportunity to help a supplier become poised to move their company to the next step whatever that may be and I find that so personally fulfilling.

KC:  I believe this is your first time continuing with a mentee, which I think is great, how come you decided to? What benefits you and Corey?

JE:  Corey is on such a great track, in terms of growing his business and gaining new customers, and we felt that it was important as his business grew, his business was in a good place.  It just made sense to keep the momentum going.

KC:  You show such commitment to Disability:IN, Corey and the mentoring process; how has it helped your personal and professional growth during this time?

JE:  From a personal and professional perspective, mentoring grounds me back to understand what the supplier is going through – the hurdles they go through, and how I can, within my company make it better when they work or interact with my company.

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 specifically with Corey?

JE:  Corey has taught me so much about the deaf community and helped me to realize the barriers this community faces, and how they overcome these barriers.  He also taught me a lot about the experiences of a start-up company.

KC: What are some of the focus areas you feel are important to any mentee that you like to share with them for professional growth?

JE:  I like to share the perspective of the corporations – beyond their diversity and inclusion values, what are their requirements.  How should you present your capabilities, how should you write your quote, and what could be expected push-back, and then also what can you expect in terms on contractual requirements.  It’s easy enough to get the business – it’s when you get the business – knowing the now what, and how to address issues that might arise.

KC:  Any other thoughts to add?

JE:  I want to thank Disability:IN for giving me the opportunity to continue to grow my mentoring skills – as well as the opportunity to work with some very talented suppliers.

KC:  Thank you Corey and Joyce for your insight and I wish you both continued success this year.