GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – As a diverse supplier, Darby Smith recognizes it takes more effort to thrive in a competitive market.

“You might say, ‘Hey, you don’t look like the average automotive person,’ but that is my strength because I come to the table with a different background and a different perspective,” said Darby Smith, director of business development at Roylco Industrial.

When companies like BMW open their doors specifically to minority-owned businesses, Smith said it can change everything.

“We’re able to actually have a meaningful discussion and connect versus trying and trying and trying to get someone on the other end of the phone line,” said Smith. 

In what is one the country’s largest diversity supplier events, 240 exhibitors network with more than 2,000 people inside the Greenville Convention Center.

And for 11 years, it has served as one of the most effective ways for local, small businesses to reach customers.

“That’s why we are here,” said Oliver Haase, senior vice president for BMW Purchasing, Quality and Supplier Network America. “We want to have this kind of a conference. We want to have a network and bring them together and we need this for our future and this is very important for BMW.”

While the suppliers network, they also hear from guests like Mervant Vera, a semi-finalist on America’s Got Talent, who joins the conversation. 

While reaching potential customers is more challenging as a small business, BMW making room for these suppliers, on their international platform, allows them to shine.

“All these differences are what makes us stronger and makes a better product at the end of the day,” said Smith.

BMW said since the first conference in 2012, the company and its suppliers have nearly quadrupled spending with women, minority and veteran-owned companies.