Wow, what a trip! Over three days I had the opportunity to connect with WBEs (women’s business enterprises) from all over Canada and the US at the WEConnect International Annual Conference in Montreal. With offices in 17 countries and world-wide connections, WEConnect International certifies WBEs that are at least 51% owned, managed, and controlled by one or more women, and then connects them with multinational corporate buyers.
In addition to connecting with women entrepreneurs and corporate buyers, I was joined by dynamic women from Newfoundland, Alberta and B.C. on a panel discussing supplier diversity. It was very insightful to hear the coast-to-coast perspectives and the bottom line, obtaining corporate or government contracts is a great way to grow your business, and WEConnect International can provide you with the support, training, mentoring, and contracts to help you.
There was significant government and corporate representation at the conference. Among the attendees were Dr. Kelly Leitch, Minister for the Status of Women; Meena Ballantyne, Head of Agency for Status of Women; Shereen Benzvy Miller, Assistant Deputy Minister, Small Business, Tourism and Marketplace Services at Industry Canada; and Susan Bincoletto, Assistant Deputy Minister, International Commerce and Chief Trade Commissioner, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada. Attendees from the corporate side included BDC, D&B, Desjardins, IBM, Merck, RBC, Walmart, and Sodexo. These representatives provided excellent information on the process to obtain a contract with their firm.
There are many opportunities for WBEs to grow their businesses. Corporations recognize it is a smart business decision to diversify their supplier base and do business with WBEs, especially if their target market is women. Walmart indicated that the majority of their customers are women, and these consumers are interested in buying products produced and developed by women. Walmart’s goal is to source $20 billion from women-owned businesses by 2016.
Sodexo is dedicated to improving the quality of life for individuals and organizations. Their client segments include corporate, education, healthcare, remote sites, senior living, and sports and leisure. Sodexo is actively looking for diverse suppliers to fill their clients’ needs, and will be purchasing $1 billion dollars of products from small to medium size enterprises by 2017.
IBM recognizes that a diverse supplier base is important to their bottom line and strategic objectives. There is a Canadian representative listed on their supplier diversity site.
You can also register your business today at Supplier Diversity Canada. This will increase your business’s visibility to inbound international buyers coming to Canada’s six host cities (one of which is Winnipeg) for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
If you would like to make connections with major multi-national corporations, WEConnect International may be of interest to you. You can self-register (free of charge), create a profile on their eNetwork, and access the training modules.
Nancy Brommell and I are assessors for WEConnect International, so please contact us (204-988-1860 or firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like to learn more about WEConnect International’s Seal of Certification, designating your business as a certified Women’s Business Enterprise.
I thoroughly enjoyed the conference and recommend participation at future conferences only if you want to network with powerful, dynamic, successful women, and wish to grow your business to the next level.
– Heather Stephens