WBENC moves into its second decade with “the power of progress”
Women business stars were recognized at the council’s annual “salute” gala in Washington, DC this March. Some 2,500 attendees are expected in Atlanta for the national conference in June
The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC, www.wbenc.org) entered the first year of its second decade with its annual “salute to women’s business enterprises” on March 20. At the event, WBENC recognized fourteen WBE business stars of 2008, one from each of the council’s certifying organizations. Among them were an industrial safety products supplier, a warehousing and logistics company, a trucking specialist and several IT consulting and staffing organizations.
Kudos were also presented to other corporations and government agencies that do business with WBEs. Microsoft was corporate chair for the event; other corporate sponsors included Raytheon Co, Shell Oil, UPS, AT&T, Chevron, Pfizer, Turner Construction and United Airlines.
WBENC has chosen “the power of progress” as the theme for all its major national events this year.
Making connections in Atlanta
The WBENC national “women in business” conference is a highlight of the year for the WBEs and corporate sponsors who attend. WBENC notes that 96 percent of attendees reported making new business contacts at the 2007 event; a large majority intend to return this year.
“When I became executive director of the Georgia Women’s Business Council (www.gwbc.biz) in 2006, it was part of my plan for Georgia to host the WBENC annual conference within five years,” recalls Roz Lewis. Lewis is delighted that the opportunity has come so quickly. Atlanta, one of fourteen WBENC regional partner organizations, “is a great location,” she notes. “It is central and convenient for a lot of the membership.”
Lewis hopes that conference attendees take the opportunity to connect with other WBEs as well as potential corporate clients. “Corporations today are ratcheting down their supplier base and looking for the one-stop shop,” Lewis explains. “WBEs have to walk the talk! Building your business is not just about corporations doing business with you, but about what alliances you’ve formed with other WBEs to fill a need for your clients.”
WBE and corporate co-chairs
Since 2005 the CEOs of four companies, two of them WBEs and two corporate members, have shared the honor of chairing each national conference. This year Home Depot and UPS are corporate co-chairs, with Accel and ASAP as WBE co-chairs.
Accel Inc (www.accel-inc.com) is a developer of advanced packaging solutions. Tara Abraham, its CEO and founder, explains why her firm chose to make the considerable financial commitment to this year’s event. “We are committed to national WBE initiatives. It is very important for women in business to support each other.”
Sponsorship equals recognition
“Of course sponsorship also helps my business to be recognized as a WBE by national corporations like IBM, Microsoft and others,” Abraham notes. “I’m letting them know that my company is global, with operations in China and Mexico as well as the U.S.”
Limited Brands, one of Accel’s largest clients, is a sponsor of the national conference. “The Limited is very committed to supplier diversity,” Abraham says. “Through that connection I’ve gotten a lot of exposure to other clients. We were proud to receive the Limited’s 2007 supplier diversity award.”
The other WBE co-sponsor is ASAP Staffing LLC (www.asapstaffingllc.com). It’s a $60 million provider of IT staffing services and project management.
This is the second time ASAP has been a national conference co-sponsor, co-owner Nancy Williams notes. “We got respect and visibility from the large corporations when we were a sponsor in Miami in 2006. Atlanta is in our back yard, so we decided we needed to do this again.”
Valuable for all
The national conference is valuable for all WBEs, Williams declares. “It’s about ‘How do I take my certification and drive contacts to make contracts?’ ‘How do I take my company from $500k to $2 million, then from $5 million up?’ ‘How do I network with other WBEs?’”
Like Roz Lewis, Williams stresses the importance of forming alliances with other WBEs to target specific business opportunities in an increasingly competitive vendor environment.
“You have to do your homework and know your target audience. It can become overwhelming for the newer WBEs; that’s why you need to sit down with the program ahead of time and plan your strategy for the conference. If you meet one person from one company and that leads to getting it as a client, you can say the whole conference was a success.”
New directions at WBENC
Linda Denny, who became WBENC’s second president last June, points to several new developments in the past year. One is an alliance with the first international WBENC affiliate, Women’s Enterprise Connect in the U.K. Efforts are underway to establish connections with groups in China and India, Denny says.
“Our corporate sponsors want to use supplier diversity programs on an international basis and find women-owned companies in other countries. But up to this point there has been no group to certify international companies,” she explains. This international involvement expands on WBENC’s efforts to help its U.S. WBEs offer services to major clients with an increasingly global presence. As in the past few years, a post-conference day of workshops will focus on global business topics.
In addition to corporate co-chairs Home Depot and UPS, Women in Business 2008 has attracted a long list of other corporate exhibitors and sponsors. They include Accenture; Alcatel-Lucent; American Express; Archer Daniels Midland Co; AT&T; Bank of America; BP America; CDW; Chevron Corp; Chrysler LLC; Coca-Cola; Dell; Deloitte Services LP; Energy Future Holdings (formerly TXU Corp); Ernst & Young LLP; Exxon Mobil Corp; Genentech, Inc; Georgia Power; Harrah’s Entertainment; IBM; JCPenney; Johnson & Johnson; Kraft Foods; Limited Brands; Manpower Inc; Microsoft Corp; PepsiCo; Pfizer; Philip Morris USA; Pitney Bowes; Raytheon; Robert Half International; Shell Oil; Sprint Nextel; Staples, Inc; Target; Time Warner; Verizon; W.W. Grainger and Wal-Mart.
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