‘Us six are truly different. We each bring a unique characteristic to the marketplace that the other person doesn’t have. It’s three men with good businesses and good business practices that are actually behind the women pushing the initiative for equality in the market,’ says Richard McKinnon, Sprout board member and CEO of MSP DVBE.
Six industry veterans have combined their expertise to launch Sprout Technology Group, a women-led MSP with a mission to move the needle forward to further encourage women leaders in the IT channel.
The company also aims to bring together a collective of strategic advisers to offer unique technology solutions and services to customers around the globe.
At Sprout, Allison Cohen will serve as CEO, Belinda Grunewald as COO, Yesica McDaniel as global CSO, Travis Woods as CIO and Richard McKinnon and Brent Yax as board members.
Cohen has been an event director at CRN parent company The Channel Company for more than 12 years; Woods has been CEO of Fort Point IT, a San Francisco-based MSP, since 2019; Grunewald is a partner advocate for Troy, Mich.-based MSP Awecomm and held previous roles as managing director, president and business consultant and companies outside the channel; Yax is the CEO of AweComm; McDaniel is the chief sales officer at Sacramento, Calif.-based MSP DVBE Technology Group; and McKinnon is the CEO of DVBE.
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Cohen is leaving her position at The Channel Company, but the five others will still have active roles in their respective MSPs.
The seed for a new MSP started with McKinnon who, from years of doing business, saw the barrier between women and men in technology. And the six who formed the MSP all liked the idea of something bigger and unique.
“I knew that I wanted to partner with people that I truly respected in the industry, that I can see believed in the women initiative,” he told CRN. “Us six are truly different. We each bring a unique characteristic to the marketplace that the other person doesn’t have. It’s three men with good businesses and good business practices that are actually behind the women pushing the initiative for equality in the market.”
Appointing Cohen as CEO with her experience in the channel, Grunewald as COO with her ideas in marketing and McDaniel as CSO with her background in international sales was a home run, he said. McKinnon, Yax and Woods became friends at an event and knew they too would make a great addition to the company.
While running events for The Channel Company, Cohen interacted with MSP CEOs and partner organizations on a daily basis, and running the business side intrigued her.
“We want to get as much clout and visibility,” she told CRN. “With other companies that’s an initiative within their organizations, to partner with minority-owned and women-owned business. The product and the service is the product and the service, but we took the nuts and the bolts of the unique offering [we all have] and we’re literally a one-stop shop.”
Sharing The Knowledge
Sprout is already offering training to its team members to teach others abut the different areas of the company. And the company has hit the ground running with customers in large enterprise, SMB, and state, local and federal government in 10 countries.
“And we’re already on the move expanding,” McKinnon said.
The group recently traveled to Colombia, South America, to stake out some potential opportunities there but wouldn’t dive into specifics.
“We do want to be that beacon of, ‘Here’s a company and here’s an environment where you can thrive and succeed in,’” Yax told CRN. “But then you also have to help create some educational programs, some exposure and what the industry actually is to get more people involved in promoting that idea within their own organizations.”
To promote that, Sprout has partnered with a nonprofit that helps under-represented individuals get into technology through educational programs.
“It’s showing that we support women,” McDaniel said. “That is something I can see a year from now, talking about how we pushed this initiative and showing that men and women can work together side by side.”
A Unique Set Of Offerings
“It’s our goal to actually set an example to show that we can be different, but we can still be the same,” McKinnon added.
For someone who craves new experiences, Woods said being CIO of Sprout means discovering new technologies and partnerships to fill the needs of a wide range of customers and industries.
“I think folks outside the organization will be surprised by the diverse projects and countries we’re working in,” he told CRN.
Sprout offers strategic guidance and a dynamic portfolio of solutions including AI, drone cybersecurity, staff augmentation, smart cities and IoT.
“We’re the Costco of the channel,” McKinnon said. “The six of us went out and picked technologies that would differentiate us from our competitors. And then we’ve been able to actually put them under our umbrella as our own.”
For Cohen and Grunewald, running an MSP is a dream. They want to share that dream with others, and so Grunewald also started a women networking group to further promote women in the industry.
“It’s really easy to divide all the tasks of starting up a company because we all bring our separate skills to the table,” Grunewald said.
“We want to show [women] they can [succeed in the industry], and they can be working with good people that actually believe in the initiative. We’re going to push that initiative as far as we can on a national scale,’ McKinnon said.
“We already have a lot of companies waiting for us to go and start this so that they can actually partner with us,” he added.
The MSP will start off with the six who formed the company with plans to hire at least three employees by the end of the year. They’re also looking to hire outside contractors, McKinnon said.
“Our goal right now is to land and expand quickly,” he said. “I think we will be growing a lot faster than most MSPs in the industry.”
Yax said having six people with diverse backgrounds in the industry make the company “pretty nimble” in that it can put together creative ways to get results.
Sprout is based in Troy, Mich., and services customers in the U.S., South America and the U.K.
Looking ahead a year from now, Cohen’s goal is to grow the business. She even has a certain number in mind. For Grunewald, she wants to spread the word about Sprout with hopes to lead by example.
“I think in a year we will totally be a for-profit company,” McKinnon said. “The money will come just based on the players and the fact that we already have great relationships in the channel with other MSPs and other people.”
For the three women, they want to be able to tell Sprout’s story to inspire more women that they can run companies in male-dominated industries.
“I’ve already had people saying, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re bringing something new here,’” McDaniel said. “We already have so much support.”