Supply chain initiative helps Kamesha Davenport grow small business
When Kamesha Davenport got a call from the Supply Chain team at Hennepin Healthcare, she was excited—and surprised. Kamesha’s landscaping business, Pinky Fence, was a small business with just Kamesha as the main employee, marketing her services by word of mouth through her personal Facebook. Kamesha still worked a full-time job at Wells Fargo. She didn’t have a website or an accountant.
The call from Hennepin Healthcare was the biggest opportunity so far to make her entrepreneurship dream a reality. She had memories of her grandmother’s last moments at Hennepin Healthcare, and she’d lived across from the downtown campus as a teen. “I just remember being a little kid running through the hallways,” she said. “The campus has a special place in my heart because of that.” She was overwhelmed—but determined to make it work.
That was in August of 2021. Kamesha says 2022 was a life-changing year as she started her contract with Hennepin Healthcare. “The fact that an institution like HCMC believed in me—it really made me put my gears on to grind up for something bigger,” Kamesha said. “I feel like I’ve always had the same passion, but sometimes it takes that person or that bigger entity to really push you forward and rocket you off, and that’s what I feel like HCMC has done.”
Pinky Fence grew from Kamesha’s need to get outside and stay active during the pandemic. When a couple of boys knocked on her door and asked to mow her lawn, she remembered how much she’d loved mowing her grandparents’ lawn as a kid. She started mowing yards for $20 in her spare time. At the end of 2020, Kamesha was going through a difficult time personally with an unexpected pregnancy, domestic violence in her home, and helping family members. Through those challenges, she kept her dream of building a company.
Kamesha quotes part of her mission for Pinky Fence: “I started this business with the mindset that single mothers have superpowers and I can use my strength and power to dominate the landscaping industry.” At 32 weeks pregnant, she was mowing lawns herself and even bringing her kids along when she didn’t have childcare.
As of March 2023, Kamesha is now a full-time entrepreneur whose business has expanded to two full-time employees, two part-time employees, and a client list that includes nonprofits, group homes, rental homes, and storefronts. Her service area spans North Minneapolis, South Minneapolis, Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, and St. Paul. She’s expanded her seasonal services into snow removal and has featured her business in the Star Tribune and on local news. She landed an Angie’s List “Superior Service Award,” received accreditation from the Minnesota Better Business Bureau, and was awarded “Entrepreneur Member of the Year” from the Black Owned Business organization. She’s pursuing a dream to mentor teens and, thanks to a Hennepin Healthcare connection, has started her own mentorship with another local businesswoman.
Senior Contract Specialist Leese Voigt found Pinky Fence as part of a supply chain initiative to increase the percentage of money Hennepin Healthcare spends on contracts with women-and minority-owned vendors. Leese says about Kamesha, “She has an energy and a positivity that’s infectious, that’s contagious, and that really grabs you coming out of the gate. Kamesha also had an incredible desire to win the contract and the ambition and motivation to make it work. This partnership was the right fit.”
Over the last year, Hennepin Healthcare grew our spending with diverse vendors from $20M at the start of 2022 to $30M at the start of 2023. There’s more to come in 2023 as the Supply Chain gathers team member feedback on its diversity strategy moving forward.
Portfolio Manager David Grounds says this work takes extra effort as we look beyond the big companies with powerful search results and do a deeper search for smaller and newer businesses. Sometimes it means helping those businesses build the capacity to take on a bigger contract like ours, just as Leese and Kamesha have partnered to do.
“It’s very easy to keep using the vendors we are already comfortable with,” David says. “It does take a little bit of risk to try somebody who’s just starting. It’s going to take us getting off of our comfort chair to say – ‘I want to make this change. I want to make this difference. I want to help our community differently.’”
Luis Valadez, Senior Director of Supply Chain Management Resources and Contracting, says this is just the beginning: “Moving forward, diverse companies will be in the running for all services across our system. We’re hoping to have several more stories like Kamesha’s to a point that it is an expected part of our business model.”
At Hennepin Healthcare, Kamesha and her employees take care of the downtown campus – landscaping, picking up trash, cleaning up graffiti, and power-washing poles and buildings to remove the green dot visitor stickers that dot the campus.
Leese says of Kamesha, “She’s taking care of the grounds like it’s her own house. She’s an amazing communicator and she’s responsive. Many of the staff at Hennepin Healthcare are heavily invested in this community, and it’s a breath of fresh air when we bring in business partners that feel the same way.”
“We want to make sure that the campus is looking clean for anyone just traveling through,” Kamesha says. “Even though we’re a vendor, I feel like a partner.”