Meet Lin Thomas, co-owner of SUPRA Office Solutions, Inc. and EMSCO Scientific Enterprises. As someone who always wanted to be an entrepreneur, beginning in his teen years, Lin chose a careful and calculated route that ultimately yielded a multi-faceted supplier relationship with Penn that has spanned several decades.
Along with partners Ken Carter and Ismail Shahid, Lin operates SUPRA Office Solutions, Inc. and EMSCO Scientific Enterprises. SUPRA, founded in 2011, is a certified MBE/SBE and major supplier of office products and furniture. It is a Tier-One Partner with Office Depot/Office Max, which makes it both a competitor and occasional bidding partner with this top office supply brand. SUPRA’s customers include Fortune 500 companies, retail businesses, nonprofits, universities, and more. EMSCO Scientific Enterprises, founded in 1980, sells laboratory and research supplies as well as chemicals and excipients to companies in the life sciences industry, ranging from research universities and hospitals to pharmaceutical companies and government agencies. SUPRA, which maintains an office and warehouse in a HUBZone (Historically Underutilized Business Zone, acquired EMSCO several years ago.
Lin believes tenacity and long-term perseverance were key to opening doors traditionally shut for African-American entrepreneurs. “It takes a tremendous amount of time to develop relationships and be in a position to prove ourselves and our capabilities.”
Lin considers himself a serial entrepreneur and has had a hand in the success of several businesses throughout his career. Originally a senior accounting executive with Price Waterhouse, Lin channeled the drive that earned him that role into a partnership with Ken and Ismail. Prior to launching SUPRA, the principals led the growth of another minority-owned firm from a local $5 million operation to a national business enterprise earning more than $40 million annually.
One vexing challenge Lin ran into time and time again as a minority entrepreneur was access to adequate capital and significant contracts. While this issue still plagues entrepreneurs from marginalized backgrounds, Lin was tenacious and, in a position, to dedicate an exceptional amount of time to finding innovative ways to raise capital. He believes tenacity and long-term perseverance were key to opening doors traditionally shut for African-American entrepreneurs. “It takes a tremendous amount of time to develop relationships and be in a position to prove ourselves and our capabilities,” he says.
Penn’s supplier diversity program has been particularly helpful for SUPRA and EMSCO, along with their leadership team’s ability to forge respectful and meaningful business alliances amongst industry leaders, customers, vendors, trade groups, and related businesses. While they were able to extend EMSCO’s 37-year vendor relationship with Penn for some business and call upon Lin’s business relationships with key people in procurement, they still needed to prove themselves over a long period of time by exceeding expectations in completing small contracts. Patience was the key.
Lin notes that Penn’s activities as a leader and champion of supplier diversity helps businesses like the companies he owns demonstrate that they have the track record and capacity to work successfully with Penn – and Penn in turn can affirm that they have had a favorable and a positive performance with his businesses.