Procurement Services Help Impoverished Nations Around the World
*** 2016 Update ***
We are excited to announce that American Procurement Services (APSCO) has “graduated” from Ascent Funding by securing traditional financing!
According to Washington Oyoo, President of APSCO, “Ascent Funding financed us during a critical and challenging time for our business. With their support, they enabled us to improve our business and establish the foundation that eventually allowed us to secure more conventional SBA-backed financing.”
We are so happy for APSCO and wish them the best of success in making the world a better place!
*** Original Story ***
Originally from opposite sides of the same continent, Sherlock Mahn and Washington Oyoo share parallel stories that led them into the same noble profession of international procurement. Hailing from Liberia and Kenya respectively, the two men witnessed first hand abject poverty, the carnage of war, and displacement from its aftermath. Both men moved to Oregon separately, graduated from OSU, and found work for over a decade with Hewlett-Packard in Corvallis. Yet the two men struggled with the impact of their work, feeling compelled to help those back in Africa. Mahn remarked, “Before coming to America, I thought, ‘there is something I can do to help impoverished people from where I came from.’” Oyoo spoke with similar conviction of seeing people flee Uganda into his native Kenya and said, “(I) needed to do something to impact human lives positively.”
“Organizations such as the United Nations can move a large number of people into a warring region to help, but there are still tens of thousands of people in desperate need which is immensely challenging,” Mahn explained. International procurement services help organizations like the UN to achieve their objective easier. So after 13 years of working with HP, Mahn voluntarily resigned from HP and used his savings to start funding American Procurement Services (an offshoot of Oregon Procurement Firm that sold some of its assets after the 2008 recession). Mr. Oyoo followed suit, leaving HP after 21 years to focus on providing procurement services to development agencies such as the UN, USAID, and the World Bank.
In order to assist with poverty reduction and human suffering in these war torn impoverished nations, Mahn elaborated, “Our firm has a very clear objective; to provide cost effective procurement services that offer competitive prices, direct from the factory rather than through middle men.“ While working contract to contract kept APSCO afloat and moving initially, fear of a repeat recession lead the duo to begin looking for additional funds to support their endeavor. In 2014, after submitting few proposals, they started going from bank to bank, seven in all, but were denied for a variety of reasons, such as being told that they were “still new” or didn’t have an “adequate history.” Washington commented, “We did not find any luck from these traditional banks. In fact, some of them did not respond to our loan applications.”
While American Procurement had heard of Ascent Funding, they knew their financial needs fell outside of the usual range of support for financing typical of the organization. “We, as a business, have a market that is very broad, and we can get various kinds of contracts.” Mahn explained, “Ascent Funding could specifically help with the smaller ones.” In 2014, via the Trans America Financial Advisors, they were introduced to Ascent Funding loan advisor Jeff Bailey and began a conversation about how they could work together. By October APSCO had put in their first application and were approved in March 2015.
With financial support from Ascent Funding, APSCO was soon taking on contracts knowing they’d receive payment in time to take on their next project. Such short-term contracts with the UN have included providing gym equipment, automobile tires, toner cartridges, medical equipment, as well as GPS and communication devices for peacekeeping efforts on the Ivory Coast, Congo, Ethiopia, and others. Mr. Oyoo spoke candidly, saying he felt gratification from being able to help.
“With emergency delivery, we feel that we are making a difference.”
Oyoo and Mahn are grateful to Ascent Funding for simply giving them a chance. “We were struggling and had nearly $400,000 (potential) contracts we couldn’t execute. (Ascent Funding) understood our problem, and were willing to work with us.” With the approved line of credit, APSCO were able to execute smaller contracts. With those payments, they began to pay Ascent Funding for their loan. “They gave us leverage,” Oyoo explained. “We are working with them to make sure our working relationship continues smoothly.”
American Procurement has begun setting up their own advisory board and is also working on telling their specific story via their website. Taking advantage of Ascent Funding’s Business Advisory Services, Oyoo and Mahn have connected with an Ascent Funding volunteer advisor. The advisor is helping them develop their narrative to increase growth via connecting with funders, as well as simply sharing their story and subsequent services to the world. They also have been introduced to the SBA (Small Business Administration) network for monthly meet-ups.
Mr. Oyoo expressed deep gratitude to Ascent Funding; “They listened to us, looked at our business model, and then looked at the human aspects of the business. It impressed us how they acted… when you compare with what we went through at a conventional bank.”
He continued, “They were empathetic and it signifies what Ascent Funding stands for – much more than helping people’s lives (via business) there is a human impact, not just in Portland, but impacting people worldwide, helping those impoverished people in developing countries.”
Once they are able to establish formal performance records that traditional banks need, Oyoo and Mahn say, they will do an evaluation and see where they will go, but they intend to be with Ascent Funding for some time. Mahn concluded, “Even if we succeed, we would like to contribute to Ascent Funding down the line. It is not a short term, but a long term relationship; we want to come back to Ascent Funding to help other similar organizations.”
You can find more information at Americanprocurementcause.com
Written by: Greg LeMieux