The goal of business owners competing in marketplaces always is to grab the attention of viable corporate supply chains seeking unique products and services. That goal is no different if the small business enterprise is run by a woman, and many owners of women-led companies are leveraging available resources to help make that happen.
The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council
The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) is the most visible of U.S. business advocacy organizations for women, providing certification, mentoring, recognition, and other services to women-owned firms. WBENC’s certification services, for instance—attesting that at least 51 percent of a company is owned by a woman—helps these firms get a foot in the door to getting their products recognized in the marketplace.
One example of that is a nationally recognized plus-sized lingerie brand that is featured in thousands of stores of major retailers nationwide. Another example is a women-owned warehousing and distribution company serving customers in the food-processing, medical, and technology industries.
In less than a decade, the lingerie brand has grown into a global enterprise with a varied, multiple product line selling online and in physical stores. The warehousing and distribution company is one of the largest women-owned storage and distribution companies in the United States and Canada, providing warehousing, distribution, inventory, and supply-chain management services.
Both companies have worked extensively with WBENC and its affiliates, with one of them being spotlighted as a WBENC “Enterprise Star,” a premier national award of excellence for high-achieving women business enterprises. Major corporations that engage with WBENC certified diverse firms typically view these organizations as being highly committed to growth and capable of competing within large supply chains.
One of WBENC’s biggest events each year is its National Conference & Business Fair. In 2017 from June 20 to 22, the event will be held in Las Vegas, bringing together corporations, government agencies, women business owners, and partner organizations for participation in a program of educational sessions, mentoring, and informal business networking. The business-fair portion of the program, which includes “matchmaker” meetings for WBENC-certified firms, typically puts more than 4,000 women business owners in front of Fortune-level corporations and U.S. government agencies seeking to do business.
In addition to WBENC, women business owners can tap into a number of other resources in private industry and government. Here is a sampling of them:
- National Association for Women Business Owners (NAWBO): NAWBO’s mission is to strengthen the wealth-creating capacity of women business owners and promote economic development. The organization represents women entrepreneurs across all industries and operates chapters across the United States through the building of strategic alliances, coalitions, and affiliations.
- National Women’s Business Council (NWBC): The NWBC is a non-partisan federal advisory council that analyzes U.S. corporate supplier diversity programs and highlights areas of opportunities in which suppliers, corporations, and policymakers can work better together to scale up and grow women-owned businesses. The organization notes that while there are more than 10 million women-owned businesses and that they make up more than a third of the nation’s privately held businesses, only 3.4 percent of these women-owned firms generate $500,000 or more in annual revenues. Thus, the NWBC works with corporations and government agencies to improve transparency about supplier diversity program offerings and contract requirements.
- Greater Women’s Business Council (GWBC): The GWBC is an example of a regional organization that works closely with WBENC and other advocates to provide services to women-owned business enterprises. Atlanta-based GWBC partners with major companies to bring education, training, and mentoring to women businesses in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
- U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA): The SBA operates a national network of nearly 100 educational centers throughout the United States and its territories designed to assist women business owners. The SBA’s Women's Business Centers have a mission of leveling the playing field for women entrepreneurs who still face unique obstacles in the business world. Operated by the SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership, the centers provide women entrepreneurs with comprehensive business training and counseling and other services.
Resources directed to women-owned businesses are in abundance. Does your organization offer any resources that seek to serve women-owned business development? If so, please email us; we’d be happy to include you on our list.