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Group O Celebrates 40 Years of Success

September 30, 2014

MILAN, IL — While some approach middle age with apprehension, Illinois-based Group O is embracing its 40th birthday this month – and is looking forward to many years to come.

One of the country’s largest and most diverse Hispanic-owned businesses, Group O has more than $600 million in annual sales and 1,500 employees.  The company specializes in business process outsourcing solutions in the areas of marketing, supply chain, packaging and business analytics.  Its clients range from high-tech and telecom leaders such as AT&T, Samsung and Microsoft to packaged goods providers PepsiCo and MillerCoors to manufacturing giants like Caterpillar and John Deere.

As with many start-ups, Group O began with humble origins.  The company was founded as Bi-State Packaging on October 1, 1974, when Bob Ontiveros quit his job to start his own business selling packaging supplies out of his family station wagon.  As one of 10 children born to second-generation Mexican immigrants in the working-class Floreciente neighborhood of Moline, Illinois, Ontiveros knew that he wanted something more – and that he could create his own opportunities.

Ontiveros started by knocking on doors selling packaging supplies and equipment.  Around the same time, corporate clients started to practice supplier diversity initiatives and suggested that Ontiveros look into getting certified as a minority business enterprise.

“I started researching supplier diversity and went to our first minority trade fair in Chicago,” said Ontiveros.  “We joined the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) in 1981, and those connections helped us grow our business even more. Supplier diversity has grown from a federal requirement to a new philosophy based on demographics. Companies today see that it’s good for business and a win-win.”

As the company grew through the 80s and 90s, it added new businesses and entered new markets.  Bob’s wife, Blenda, and sons Chris and Gregg joined the family business, and the Group O corporate umbrella was formed in 1992.

“Customers would ask us ‘what is it that you do?’” said Gregg Ontiveros, Bob’s son and current CEO. “Our answer has always been ‘what is it that you need done?’ That can-do attitude toward solving problems and helping our customers do things better, faster or less expensively is baked into the company’s DNA.”

Today, Group O solves problems for its clients across a wide spectrum. The Packaging Solutions team continues to help clients optimize their containment results through a custom mix of materials, equipment, service and analysis. The Supply Chain Solutions unit, meanwhile, does everything from bottling and shipping coolant worldwide to assembling custom repair kits for heavy equipment to managing high-tech devices and merchandising for retail locations. The Marketing Solutions group provides large-scale customer reward and rebate solutions, including data management, sourcing, creative services, and web and mobile application development. A 250-seat customer care center provides branded, high-touch support and sales. And the Business Analytics team recruits and manages more than 190 technology professionals both at client sites and offshore to help clients make better business decisions.

Gregg Ontiveros expects that recent facility additions in Minneapolis and Dallas will enable Group O to expand through the midsection of the United States and return to its employment high of more than 1,800 people, despite challenges that affect minority and other businesses alike.

“Based on factors like rapidly emerging technologies, business cycles have compressed from three to five years in the past to 18 to 36 months today,” says Ontiveros.  “You really have to be diligent about understanding where your customers are going and what they’re doing. If you’re not evolving with them, you could find yourself facing your own ice age. That’s not exclusive to diversity companies. It’s the world we live in today.”

Based on its record of growth, Group O has done well evolving with its clients. NMSDC selected Group O as National Minority Supplier of the Year and the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) recognized the company as one of the top-five Latino-owned businesses in the country. Group O has also earned top-supplier recognition from several of its clients.

Both Bob and Gregg Ontiveros have also been recognized for their professional achievements, business mentoring and community involvement. Gregg was named USHCC Hispanic Businessman of the Year in 2012 and to the 50 Influentials list published by Hispanic Business. Meanwhile, Bob Ontiveros has received a variety of recognition, highlighted by a 2013 Order of Lincoln award – the state of Illinois’ highest honor.

Awards like that recognize the Ontiveros’ family’s commitment to serving its community and mentoring other minority business entrepreneurs. Gregg Ontiveros has participated in the President’s Hispanic CEO Roundtable at the White House. And the company also announced the second of five $10,000 scholarships for Hispanic MBA students at the USHCC national convention September 23 in Salt Lake City.

“Our philosophy is that everyone wins when people are given an opportunity to show what they can do,” said Ontiveros.  “The next generation of Hispanic business leaders will need to be prepared to lead and compete on a global level — and we’re excited to partner with USHCC to help make that happen.”

As Group O celebrates its 40th anniversary, its CEO also looks forward to building on the company’s success and helping pave the way for future growth.

“We’re like any other 40-year-old,” says Ontiveros. “We need to stay in shape, keep flexible and listen to others – namely, our clients. If we continue to build on our strengths, we’ll be in great shape for the coming years.”

About Group O
Group O is a diversified business process outsourcing provider specializing in marketing, supply chain, packaging and business analytics solutions. A Corporate Plus member of the National Minority Supplier Development Council (nmsdc.org), Group O is an NMSDC National Minority Supplier of the Year honoree and is recognized as a Top 5 Latino-owned Business by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.  Headquartered in Milan, IL, Group O is one of the largest Hispanic-owned companies in the United States and employs more than 1,500.  To learn more, visit www.GroupO.com.


Group O and USHCC Foundation Award Hispanic MBA Scholarship at National Convention  

September 29, 2014     

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH — Group O and the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USHCC Foundation) awarded the second of five $10,000 scholarships September 24. The recipient was announced during the 2014 USHCC National Convention in Salt Lake City – the largest gathering of Hispanic business leaders in America.

"The USHCC congratulates Group O for its promise to cultivate the next generation of business leaders." said USHCC President & CEO Javier Palomarez. "These scholarships will empower students to continue their journey to attain a higher education and become part of our country’s enduring success."

Group O, recognized among the Top 5 Latino-owned business in the US, has made a $50,000 commitment to award graduate level students scholarships for five years, targeting different universities around the country each year. This year the scholarship recipient is pursuing an MBA from the University of Iowa.

“Our philosophy is that everyone wins when people are given an opportunity to show what they can do,” said Gregg Ontiveros, Group O CEO.  “The next generation of Hispanic business leaders will need to be prepared to lead and compete on a global level — and we’re excited to partner with USHCC to help make that happen.”

Julian Valencia, an MBA student at the University of Iowa was awarded the $10,000 scholarship. After graduating from Ohio State University, Valencia joined Teach for America and served as a middle school teacher for the Miami-Dade County Public Schools. As a young entrepreneur and community leader Valencia has already founded three companies, co-founded a non-profit organization, worked as an inner city teacher and organized multiple community events in Ohio, Florida and Colorado. After graduation, he plans to focus on his latest venture, Career Karma, to continue to marry his passion for education and create systems that empower students.

About Group O
Group O is a diversified business process outsourcing provider specializing in marketing, supply chain, packaging and business analytics solutions.  A Corporate Plus member of the National Minority Supplier Development Council (nmsdc.org), Group O is an NMSDC National Minority Supplier of the Year honoree and is recognized as a Top 5 Latino-owned Business by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.  Headquartered in Milan, IL, Group O is one of the largest Hispanic-owned companies in the United States and employs more than 1,500.  To learn more, visit www.GroupO.com.

About the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation
The USHCC Foundation is the philanthropic and educational arm of the USHCC. The mission of the USHCC Foundation is to enrich experiences of current and future leaders in the world of business through life-long learning and support. The Foundation's initiatives awaken and nurture the entrepreneurial spirit, support business growth, strengthen local chambers and foster leaders. For more information, visit www.ushccfoundation.org.


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Insurance Industry Bands Together to Support At-Risk Youth

By Betsy Myatt, Executive Director, Northeast Division for the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation 

On a sunny July day this summer in New York’s Central Park, adults and children came together to play some softball. At first glance, the packed fields resembled any other Thursday afternoon at the park. This day’s event was no ordinary get-together, however. This tournament of games brought together people of all ages from across the insurance industry to support St. Aloysius School in Harlem, a school for inner-city children at risk of not reaching their potential. 

This softball tournament was coordinated by the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF), a 501(c)(3) tax exempt public charity funded and directed by professionals within the insurance industry. The organization exists to provide grants, volunteer service, and leadership to communities across the country. With four different divisions in the Midwest, Northeast, Western, and Texas/Southeastern U.S., the IICF aims to make an impact on a regional and national scale with its initiatives.  

The teams taking the field and engaging with the children were made up of colleagues and competitors within the insurance industry—spanning thirteen different companies—who collectively raised more than $65,000 for the school.

This money will now go towards supporting St. Aloysius, which enriches children’s lives through a variety of programs and activities. 

Specifically, the IICF’s Charitable Softball Tournament raised funds for the school’s summer camp—itself called the “IICF Camp at St. Aloysius”—a four-week program that gives middle-school children the opportunity to experience life away from the city in a new and exciting environment (it was held in Harriman State Park this year). This will be the third summer that IICF has funded the program. With this upcoming grant, in total, IICF’s Northeast Division has contributed $206,000 to St. Aloysius through the multi-year engagement. 

Ignacio Lopez, St. Aloysius’ associate director of development, explained that many St. Aloysius students come from challenged neighborhoods where families often struggle with poverty, crime and other serious problems. As a result, strong peer relationships, which the summer camp in particular helps to facilitate, are essential in helping the students to excel. 

“The sleep-away camp in particular opens children’s eyes to new world views,” Lopez said, explaining that the site is in a rural area, exposing the children to new wildlife and experiences they may have never had before. 

For example, the students learn to face new challenges like swimming and rowing a boat for the first time. 

“Giving the children these new experiences broadens their perspectives of their futures and what’s possible for them,” Lopez said. “Providing them with challenges to overcome shows the students that if they focus, they have the potential to achieve something, which instills confidence.” 

Though St. Aloysius’ initiatives carry a great benefit for children, they can be difficult to fund. According to Lopez, St. Aloysius School—including the camp initiative as well as all other activities—requires about $3 million a year to run. 

“Funding from different companies is essential for us,” said Lopez. “To be able to have the IICF cover the entire summer camp initiative is amazing for us.” 

Helping to enrich children’s lives is a sweet spot for the IICF. In the past six years of IICF sponsorship, this charitable softball tournament has raised $270,000 for children's charities in the New York tri-state area. Furthermore, IICF initiated a partnership last year with Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit branch of Sesame Street, providing a $750,000 grant to help support “Every Day is a Reading and Writing Day,” an early literacy program that provides resources for caregivers to spur their child’s early learning process. 

More broadly, IICF’s Northeast Division grant program has contributed more than $4.5 million to the community since it launched in late 2007. Nationally, IICF has contributed more than $21 million in local community grants and more than 179,000 hours of volunteer service in its 21-year history. Along with supporting childhood education programs such as St. Aloysius’, IICF programs touch areas including at-risk children, health and safety, disaster preparedness, and the environment. 

The softball game, which took place on July 31, was another opportunity for the IICF to give back to the community in a more hands-on way. The thirteen teams from different insurance companies duked it out on the field, with Arch Reinsurance Company claiming the title. However, at the end of the day every team left the fields feeling like champions simply for having participated in such an inspiring cause. 

What made the event particularly unique was the interaction between the St. Aloysius children and the various insurance teams. Members of each team stayed loose between games by playing ball with the children on the side of the field, developing a true, organic relationship with the students in the process. 

Lopez echoed a similar sentiment. He explained that the children were nervous at first to interact with so many adults, but once they warmed up they had a great day. 

“It’s another example of social interaction that these kids are just not used to,” he said. “The most valuable connections we form for the school and especially our students are the ones that come from face-to-face interactions.” 

By interacting with the adults on the field, the students could also see the potential for their own future career paths. 

Lopez recalled that during IICF’s Week of Giving, an eight-day industry-wide event where teams of insurance professionals volunteer at local nonprofit organizations, a number of professionals visited St. Aloysius School to share information about insurance careers. 

“It opened their eyes to the different types of jobs that are out there,” Lopez said. “You don’t just have to be a superstar or, conversely, a dishwasher. There is a whole world of jobs out there.” 

The St. Aloysius children saw even more of that world as they opened up to the adults on the softball field. Like the force behind winding up a softball to peg someone out at first base, the children’s momentum to hold conversations built throughout the day. Suddenly, unknown insurance professionals became their friends. 

Equally, the interaction on the field was eye-opening for the insurance professionals enjoying the afternoon in the park. Though competitors on the field and in business, these individuals quickly realized that on that day, they were all playing for the same team: Team St. Aloysius.

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