This June’s WBENC conference
will help women make the connection
The summer conference focuses on bringing corporations and WBEs together
“More and more WBEs are recognizing that certification can be a key marketing tool.” – Linda Denny, WBENC
'The Opportunity Connection” is both the name and the theme of the 2010 Women in Business conference scheduled by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC, Washington, DC). The three-day event is slated for Baltimore, MD, June 22 to 24.
WBENC is a national council of certified women-owned business enterprises (WBEs) and corporate members. “We chose this year’s theme by going back to our core values: certification, opportunities and resources,” says WBENC president Linda Denny. “It’s WBENC’s job to certify that a business is at least 51 percent owned, operated and controlled by a woman or women.
“After that, we provide a variety of resources for learning and growth, and work to bring certified WBEs together with corporations looking for vendors, as we do at this great yearly business conference.
“What could be more obvious: making the ‘opportunity connection’ is what we do!”
Operating, as it always does, together with its fourteen regional partners, WBENC expects to certify WBE No. 10,000 this year. “That’s really exciting for us,” Denny says.
Denny surmises that certifications may be speeding up because WBEs are looking for additional ways to sell in a tough economy. “I think requests went up in 2009 because more and more WBEs are recognizing that certification can be a key marketing tool for them,” she says. “Many corporations will allow a certified WBE special access and contact within its supplier diversity team. It’s another route to the corporation.”
Beverly Williamson is VP of worldwide process excellence with Johnson & Johnson (New Brunswick, NJ) consumer products, and co-chair of the WBENC 2010 conference. She calls WBENC certification “the gold standard.” WBENC WBEs “are really the best in class,” she says.
Many chances to connect
The conference will include workshops, matchmaker meetings, guest speakers and a business fair. More than 2,500 attendees and 350 exhibitors are expected.
Workshop topics include green suppliers, healthcare, the global marketplace and government contracting. The popular matchmaker meetings involve a series of one-on-one get-togethers between corporate reps and WBEs. “We set them up before the conference, using technology and a lot of hard work,” Denny says with a smile.
The business fair is “a little different from other conferences,” Denny notes. It’s not a trade show: instead, procurement and supplier diversity leaders are there to introduce themselves and their companies and opportunities to the WBEs.
Sheila Johnson, CEO of Salamander Hospitality (Middleburg, VA) and management partner of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, will be a guest speaker. Johnson is the first African American woman to own a stake in three professional sports teams: in addition to the Mystics she’s into the NBA Washington Wizards and the NHL Washington Capitals.
“She’s an outstanding business owner who operates a large portfolio of luxury properties, and a great philanthropist: a global ambassador for CARE,” Denny reports. “We are so pleased that she will speak this year.”
J&J’s Beverly Williamson is co-chair and speaker
“Providing opportunities to our suppliers is a part of our credo,” states conference co-chair Williamson. “So the opportunity connection theme really resonates with me. It’s time for our company to play a stronger role in WBENC.”
Williamson joined Johnson & Johnson in 1987 and has been VP of process excellence for the past eight years. Before that she was director of manufacturing for Vistakon, a division of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care. She has a 1977 BA in business management from the University of West Florida (Pensacola, FL) and a 1985 MBA in industrial management from the University of Dallas (Irving, TX).
Williamson sees great value in WBENC for WBEs and corporations alike, particularly in a challenging economy. “We don’t grow without our suppliers’ support; and this is an excellent opportunity to have exposure to them. A lot happens in those conversations,” she says with
She’s eager to meet WBE suppliers at Johnson & Johnson’s Opportunity Highway, a special section set aside for matchmaker meetings with WBEs. Reps from J&J’s business, pharmaceutical, medical devices and consumer lines will attend. “We want this to be a fully
J&J-supported event,” she says.
J&J reps will be particularly interested in meeting suppliers in areas like packaging, chemicals and contract manufacturing of finished goods. “We’re looking to grow more in marketing and the indirect spend as well, but the concentration is more in the direct category right now,” Williamson notes.
Co-chair Gloria Bohan of Omega
World Travel has WBENC roots
Gloria Bohan, WBE co-chair of the conference, is president and CEO of Omega World Travel (Fairfax, VA). The company is one of the largest travel management companies in the U.S., with over $1 billion in revenues and 1,100 employees. Omega was certified as a WBE ten years ago, and has been involved with WBENC ever since.
“I wanted to co-chair because it’s so important to show support for an organization that’s doing good things for us and others,” Bohan says. “WBENC has the credibility to organize Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 companies; this provides great exposure for both WBEs and sponsors.”
The conference, she stresses, is a friendly environment where WBEs will meet many companies that support diversity.
Bohan came to the travel industry with a background in education. On their honeymoon, she and her husband and business partner Dan Bohan were upgraded to a suite on their cruise ship. “That’s when I became intrigued with the industry,” she says with a smile.
Omega serves a range of industries including healthcare, environmental, education, government and military. “We have seventy-five offices around the world and more than
a thousand partnerships,” Bohan declares. “Diversity is part of our business!”
She’s also proud of her company’s technology leadership. “I was using computers in 1978 and dial-up in 1982,” she says. “We have our own technology company and our own search engine. Our latest venture is mobile technology, so clients can receive advisories and keep up with opportunities on their trips.”
Personal relationships are an important opportunity at the WBENC conference, and Bohan advises attendees to make the most of it.
“Being able to shake hands, meet face to face and let your prospective customers know who you are is so important,” she says. “This is not just a one-time event; you can continue the momentum year after year.”
Jennifer Collins of the Event Planning
Group chairs the host committee
Jennifer Collins is president of the Event Planning Group (Bethesda, MD), an award-winning company. She’s an active industry spokesperson and entrepreneurial advocate in the DC metro area, and is excited to see the conference come to Baltimore.
“I knew I wanted to be a certified WBE, and I wanted to make use of my certification by attending WBENC events and getting involved with the Women Presidents’ Educational Organization-DC, the local regional partner organization,” she says. “When I learned the conference would be in Baltimore I thought it would be a great next step to chair the host committee.”
Collins has a 1994 BA in public communication from the American University (Washington, DC). She spent several years working at public relations firms, and decided to launch her own business in 1997. Since then her company has been named one of the top twenty-five event-planning companies in the DC area, and one of the top 100 MBEs in Maryland.
She also serves on the education and training committee of the Maryland/DC Minority Supplier Development Council and is past president of the Greater DC chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (Washington, DC). Last year WPEO-DC gave her its outstanding women’s business enterprise award for the DC region.
Collins is pleased with the connections she’s made through WBENC. “I met a company at last year’s event, we talked throughout the year and just recently found an opportunity to do business together,” she says. “It came from the WBENC relationship.”
The government market
The proximity of the conference to Washington, DC naturally suggests government agencies
as potential customers. The host committee will conduct a workshop on how to approach this market.
“It’s important for us to provide the rules of the road for getting into government because it’s not quick and easy,” says Collins, whose clients include the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (Washington, DC). “Again, you have to build those relationships.”
Pamela Prince-Eason of Pfizer and WBENC
Pamela Prince-Eason is VP of worldwide procurement for Pfizer Inc and, since January, the chair of the WBENC board of directors. This conference, she says, “will give our women businesses access to educational and leadership development forums that encourage higher levels of excellence and sophistication.
“This deeply enhances their partnerships with world-class corporations and contributes to more innovative and profitable business relationships. But most important,
it will be the ‘opportunity connection’ that all businesses seek.”
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