TOOLKIT: Doing Business with Anchor Institutions

TOOLKIT: Doing Business with Anchor Institutions

Following a years-long collaboration, Made In Baltimore and the Baltimore Integration Partnership (BIP) have released a guide for small businesses looking to meet the procurement needs of Charm City’s anchor institutions. These buyers, including universities, museums and hospitals, wield sizable purchasing power to invest in the business growth of their friends and neighbors.

Click here to download the full document.

BIP, a partnership of anchor institutions, funders and other groups, connected Made In Baltimore with over two dozen representatives who manage procurement for Baltimore’s purchasing powerhouses. In sitting down with these institutions, many of whom are certified Made In Baltimore members, we hoped to identify ways they could tap into our city’s creative and entrepreneurial talent.

The newly-published toolkit builds on our efforts to get local makers rubbing shoulders with the buyers from area anchor institutions.

Starting in fall 2018, we invited representatives of these institutions to speak alongside Taharka Bros., Tiny Dog Press, SewLab USA and other Made In Baltimore members at workshops hosted by our friends at Open Works. Around the same time, our Meet the Makers vendor fair brought over 20 Made In Baltimore businesses together under the arched windows and opulent chandeliers of Hotel Sagamore Pendry, where they gave potential big buyers a taste of the best of Baltimore’s handmade goods.

Guests sampling HEX Ferments at our Meet the Makers fair in the Hotel Sagamore Pendry, November 2018.

These programs helped spark many new business partnerships, but also showed us the challenges small businesses face in settling contracts with big buyers, who often require a high volume and are sensitive to competitive prices of mass-produced goods. With dedicated help from BIP, we put together this toolkit as a resource for our members facing these challenges.

Even getting a foot in the door can be daunting, so our report identifies points of contact across these institutions. Some have programs to spur local reinvestment — Johns Hopkins has HopkinsLocal, for example. Other anchor institutions, like the Baltimore Museum of Industry or MICA (both Made In Baltimore members) have retail outlets which are always looking to stock local products.

After making a first connection, what are the next steps toward striking up a successful business partnership? Our conversations with anchor institutions show two primary areas of opportunity for small business owners — retailing products in the institutions’ stores and supplying branded marketing products.

Some anchor institutions like MICA are also certified Made In Baltimore members.

Our report includes tips to navigate these contracts. A big one? Certifications can be critical to catching the interest of institutions aiming to increase investment in small businesses, and particularly those which are minority- and women-owned.

As anchor institutions in Baltimore seek ways to keep more of their money local, they will rely on partners at Made In Baltimore and BIP to connect them with area businesses who can meet their expansive needs. We want our members to use our toolkit as a starting point, setting them up to take advantage of these big growth opportunities.

Having seen the hard work, dedication and creative innovation of Baltimore’s small business owners, we are confident they will rise to the challenge.


Thanks for reading! We always want to know what our members think about doing business with anchor institutions, so please get in touch with feedback on the report (click here to download) or to take the conversation further. Curious to know more about Made In Baltimore? Check out out our Instagram, or become a member.