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2013 WBENC conference will encourage success through collaboration


The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC, Washington, DC, www.wbenc.org) is the largest third-party certifier of women-owned businesses in the United States. Its 2013 national conference and business fair will be held June 25 to 27 in Minneapolis, MN.

The Coca-Cola Company and Target Corporation are this year’s corporate co-chairs, and Artech Information Systems LLC and KellyMitchell Group are women’s business enterprise (WBE) co-chairs. More than 3,000 attendees and 325 exhibitors are expected to participate.

"The location, Minneapolis, is an exciting crossroads of corporate buying power and innovation,” says WBENC president and CEO Pamela Prince-Eason. “Our WBEs will have access to teams of buyers, including many from national corporations headquartered in Minnesota.”

"Join Forces. Succeed Together" is the theme of this year’s conference. "Collaboration is an integral and powerful component to success for our members and our WBENC-certified WBEs," Prince-Eason says. "We’re keeping our sights on sustainable economic growth. The work that we do together will result in enhanced revenues, new jobs, increased consumer spending, community investment, and greater prosperity for our nation."

The host council for the conference is the Women’s Business Development Council (WBDC)-Chicago, headed by co-presidents Carol Dougal and Hedy Ratner. According to Prince-Eason, "We will harness the tremendous corporate, government and WBE power in this region, which spans eight states and includes the cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Chicago and St. Louis, to make this the best national conference and business fair ever."

New workshop tracks this year include building and honing skills, leveraging expertise, and building capacity. “Anyone who wants to see their business grow and make new connections should attend,” Prince-Eason says.

Corporate co-chairs Target Corp and the Coca-Cola Company share the enthusiasm
“At Target, we know the insights and innovation of our women-owned suppliers help make us a stronger, more successful organization,” says Kim Strong, vice president of diversity and inclusion at Target. “We’re proud to serve as one of the co-chairs for the 2013 WBENC national conference, where we hope to connect with women business owners, provide visibility into our merchandising initiatives and engage with attendees.”

“Successful women entrepreneurs have a significant impact on the communities where we do business,” says Terrez Thompson, vice president of supplier diversity at the Coca-Cola Company.

“Our system-wide ‘2020 vision,’ aimed at doubling our business in the next decade, is supported by the belief that women will play a transformative role in shaping our global economy over the next decade,” Thompson says. The company has rolled out “5by20,” a global initiative committed to the economic empowerment of five million women entrepreneurs across its value chain by the year 2020. “Our supplier diversity program supports that goal indirectly and directly, so it makes sense that we would be committed partners with WBENC,” Thompson adds.

Supplier diversity, says Thompson, “goes beyond the twentieth-century notion of set-asides and entitlements; our program is now part of the strategic plan for keeping pace with technological advances, and growing with an evolving, expanding world of diversity. To compete and succeed in this diverse environment, we must have inclusion from every ethnicity, race and gender.”

The Coca-Cola Company anticipates an energetic, productive conference. “We hope to connect with women businesses that will provide high-quality goods and services to meet the needs of our system’s supply chain near term and in the future,” Thompson says. “We look forward to high-level discussions with business and procurement professionals on best practices in supplier diversity.”

She adds, “We will also have a surprise announcement in the sustainability space and look forward to engaging on the topic.”

Artech Information Systems: WBE co-chair
Artech Information Systems LLC (Cedar Knolls, NJ) is the tenth-largest IT staffing company, and the largest woman-owned IT staffing company, in the U.S., says Ranjini Poddar, Artech co-founder and president. Artech has offices across the U.S., India and China. More than 5,500 consultants were employed during 2012 and the number is projected to exceed 6,500 in 2013.

“Over the last several years, Artech has grown to be an industry leader and is generating nearly $400 million in revenues,” Poddar reports. “I am allocating more time to contributing to WBENC as a board member and co-chair.”

Poddar’s expectations for the conference are twofold. “We’re contributing to WBENC’s national programs for the women-owned businesses that comprise such a big part of our economy,” she says. “And we receive a lot of visibility for our company because WBENC does a tremendous job attracting and engaging the type of large corporations that are perfect prospects for us. It’s a win-win situation.”

KellyMitchell Group: WBE co-chair
WBE co-chair and technology consulting company KellyMitchell Group (St. Louis, MO) was started fifteen years ago by former Boeing employees who saw a need in the corporate marketplace for flexible workforce solutions, particularly in technology and engineering, says CEO and co-founder Cassandra Sanford.

“Our certification and partnership with WBENC have provided a priceless opportunity to introduce our capabilities to Fortune 100 corporations in face-to-face settings at fairs and events through the years,” says Sanford. “WBENC put KellyMitchell on the fast track to success and facilitated our growth from a local company to an organization providing services in forty-five states, and now internationally. Stepping up to be a co-sponsor of this conference was a purposeful commitment. We want to pay it forward by doing everything we can to highlight WBENC’s willingness and ability to catapult other women-owned enterprises.”

Sanford emphasizes the value of the workshops offered each year. “These sessions are a wonderful way for business owners to learn and adapt their business processes to the changing business climate, not only to survive in the marketplace, but to thrive in these uncertain economic times,” she says. “Corporate panels provide direct insight into what large organizations are doing to thrive, and have invaluable take-aways that small to mid-size diverse suppliers can apply to maximize their corporate relationships and procure businesses with the Fortune 500.

“This conference gives us a national platform, and allows us to foster new business development at the corporate level and create new, strategic partnerships with other women-owned enterprises,” says Sanford.

Intren: conference host committee member
Loretta Rosenmayer, one of the members of the conference host committee, is founder and CEO of Intren (Union, IL). Intren, which provides design, construction and management solutions for the electric and gas industries, was one of the first certified WBEs in the nation. It was certified through WBDC-Chicago several years before WBENC’s founding in 1997.

“I founded my company in 1988 with four employees performing simple trenching operations for farmers and homeowners in a rural area,” says Rosenmayer. “I never dreamed of the future that my company would achieve, with more than 800 employees working in seven states and revenues of $180 million.

“I saw the importance of safety and damage prevention in underground work early, before the industry began demanding it. That awareness differentiated me from my competitors,” Rosenmayer says. “My company now serves a large customer base including utilities, municipalities, developers and general contractors.

“My involvement in WBENC means that I can continue to celebrate the creativity, leadership and power of other women,” Rosenmayer says. “I am at a point in my career and my life where I am focused on giving back, encouraging and supporting other WBEs.”

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