‘Light Bulb Moments’ from the WBENC 2015 Conference

I recently attended the WBENC 2015 Conference and Business Fair in Austin, Texas and over the five days I spent there, I had five “light bulb” moments I’d like to share.

  1. Whole Foods, a grocery store chain that specializes in organic food, carries at least one identifiable Manitoba product. As I walked the aisles of the store with the Canadian Trade Commissioner who works in Texas, we came across a noticeable Manitoba Harvest Hemp product display.
    Nancy’s Light Bulb Moment: Well there’s one Manitoba product here…can there be more?”
  2. Central Market is a popular gourmet store that caters to customers who are looking for top quality brand name products. The fresh croissants they carry are flown in daily from Paris.
    Nancy’s Light Bulb Moment: Manitoba food processors (and other manufacturers of non-food products etc.) have the highest quality products. What would it take to get them onto these store shelves?
  3. Walmart has set aggressive Supplier Diversity targets and is open to talking with owners from majority woman-owned businesses who can help them meet these targets. A number of the Canadian delegates had the opportunity to meet with Walmart representatives at the WBENC Business Fair.
    Nancy’s Light Bulb Moment: By becoming a Certified Diverse Supplier, women-owned businesses now have an opportunity to sell their product to Walmart. Is Supplier Diversity an avenue you would like to pursue? If so, I am happy to help you get this process started.
  4. Horty Girl is a B.C.-based business that was established in 2005. They sell uniquely packaged live plant products in retail stores throughout Canada and the Northern United States. Cheryl, the owner of Horty Girl, attended WBENC 2015 as a member of the Canadian delegation. During the week, she met MP Kellie Leitch, Canadian Trade Commissioners for her region and Supplier Diversity retailers looking for Diverse Suppliers. She also met with a floral manager while on a grocery store site visit. Cheryl told me she found it very powerful to have a trade commissioner standing beside her and be able to say to that she was there “on a Trade Mission organized by the Canadian Government”. It immediately piqued the interest of the store’s floral manager.
    Nancy’s Light Bulb Moment: My clients are like Cheryl. Why aren’t they here?
  5. Some say Austin is the  ‘eccentric’ Texas city. Unlike Dallas and Houston, Austin celebrates its weirdness with the slogan “Keep Austin Weird”. The motto is found  on every tourist t-shirt, coffee cup and shot glass. Austin reminds me a lot of Winnipeg. While I wouldn’t say Winnipeg is weird, it certainly has a distinct personality that sets it apart from other Canadian cities.
    Nancy’s Light Bulb Moment: Are there synergies between Austin and Winnipeg that we should explore further?

This year’s WBENC Conference and Business Fair was a very valuable experience. My many “light bulb moments” lead me to one final question: How can we build on this experience to help women entrepreneurs in Manitoba access markets across Canada, in the US and around the world?

– Nancy Brommell