Justine Gravino ’12*

Gravino helps lead Amazon project designed to create jobs for people with disabilities

Before joining the world’s largest online retailer, Justine Gravino thought she might be destined for the Army.

Gravino comes from a military family. Her father is a retired U.S. Coast Guard reservist. Both of her grandfathers also served overseas. Gravino even participated in Clemson University’s Army ROTC program during her freshman and sophomore years.

She changed her major and ultimately took a different career path. But when she was recently given the chance in her current role as a lead strategic onboarding specialist for Amazon Business to expand job opportunities for people with severe disabilities, including those injured in the line of duty, Gravino’s heartstrings were tugged.

“I’ve always had a soft spot for military in general,” she says. “That’s kind of why I was like, ‘OK, let’s do it.’”

Gravino has helped coordinate the launch of Amazon Business’ AbilityOne storefront, which offers federal customers products manufactured by community-based, nonprofit sellers. Through the AbilityOne Program, established in 1938 to provide employment opportunities for blind workers and then expanded post-World War II to include those with disabilities, authorized distributors employ blind and disabled workers who produce SKILCRAFT and AbilityOne-branded products.

Federal buyers are mandated to purchase those specific products, which range from office supplies to bedding. The revenue generated from those sales allows the sellers to increase their workforce.

“The whole goal is to get them to create more jobs for people who are blind and disabled,” Gravino says.

Gravino’s duties include training Amazon teams in the United States and Costa Rica to recruit new sellers to the AbilityOne storefront, a role Mark Fox, Amazon Business’ director of federal sales, thought fit Gravino’s background and outgoing personality perfectly after meeting her at a government trade show a few years ago. When an email from Amazon CEO Andy Jassy hit his inbox asking the company to provide mandatory-sourced products to government entities, Fox knew he’d found the right person for the job.

“She had earned trust with me where I wanted to lean back and say, ‘Hey, can we have Justine lead this effort to recruit these sellers?’” Fox says. “She’s done a bang-up job in doing that.”

Gravino and her recruitment teams have brought on nearly 50 active sellers offering more than 1,200 products since the storefront launched early last year, but she wants more. After all, maximizing sales means maximizing job opportunities.

“This,” Gravino says, “goes back to a good cause.”

Fun Fact: Gravino’s first job out of college took her to California, where she worked for Anheuser-Busch as a sales representative. “When I was in college, everyone was like, ‘You should be in sales. You can talk.’” 

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