The momentum is building for the 2018 National Conference & Business Fair! In less than two weeks, we will be gathering in Detroit with thousands of our closest friends for three days of networking, learning, connecting and celebrating. It is shaping up to be an amazing event once again, and I am so grateful for the incredible support from our Co-Chairs, Sponsors, Host Committee and Host Council.
This year, I am particularly looking forward to hearing from our keynote speakers. Robert Safian, former editor of Fast Company, has the remarkable knack of identifying the “next big thing” before it takes off and I am excited to hear his insights on the future of business. We also recently announced an additional keynote, Mandy Harvey, the deaf American singer-songwriter best known for wowing the judges on America’s Got Talent. I was fortunate enough to meet Mandy at NGLCC’s Best of the Best event and I was blown away by her inspiring story and talent.
Speaking of inspiration, I encourage everyone to read about the 2018 cohort in the WBENC Student Entrepreneur Program. These 22 incredible young female entrepreneurs will be competing for $20k in seed funding as part of their capstone pitch competition, and I know they are going to impress the judges with their innovative businesses. And the innovation doesn’t stop there! We are also hosting our second round of WeInnovate! sessions of the year, as well as the inaugural PepsiCo Choice competition, which will take place live on stage during our Thursday luncheon. So many opportunities for innovative WBEs to shine!
Of course, I know many of you are most looking forward to the Business Fair – and this year, it will not disappoint, with more than 350 exhibitors, several industry pavilions, a headshot photo booth, business coaching sessions, and even a “tiny house” filled with Women Owned products.
As we put the final touches on our preparations for the event, I know many of you are doing the same: finetuning your elevator pitch and finessing your capabilities statement, or maybe reviewing procurement needs and prepping notes for your MatchMakers meetings.
There is a famous quote that says, “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” And that could not be more true when it comes to an event like the National Conference & Business Fair. The opportunity is in Detroit – what are you bringing to the table to ensure it is a success for you and your business?
We hear countless success stories from WBEs and Corporate Members about business deals and opportunities that were a direct result from an encounter at one of our events. The consistent and common thread of those stories? Preparation, patience and persistence.
So as you prepare for Detroit, here are some words of wisdom to help you prepare for your most successful conference yet:
To WBEs: Create and research your list of “targeted” companies and organizations in advance and come ready to put your best foot forward and stand out. The onus is on you to demonstrate what unique value you can bring. Take advantage of every networking opportunity, walk the Business Fair floor, engage with other WBEs – you never know who you might meet or where the next business opportunity may be. Will you be a match for every corporation you meet? No. Just as your company has specific needs for the next 12-24 months, so do most large corporations, and sometimes an opportunity is just not there. Move along to the next on your list! But keep in mind, this is also your opportunity to better understand the needs of some of the country’s largest and most successful corporations – insights that can help your business develop, innovate and grow over time – so be a sponge and see what you can learn from having so many incredible leaders under one roof.
To our Corporate Members: I don’t mean to brag, but get ready to meet some of the most incredible women-owned businesses out there. We know your organization values diversity and invests time and resources to find the best diverse suppliers, and rest assured, you are coming to the right place. The women of WBENC mean business – literally.
I encourage you to come prepared with your list of procurement needs over the next 12-24 months, a targeted list of WBEs, and an open mind as you learn about some truly innovative companies.
For everyone, it goes without saying that we encourage all WBEs and Corporate Members to be candid and professional with each other throughout this process. If an opportunity is there, great! If not, honesty is really the best policy to ensure everyone can make the best out of their resources and time.
I hope that helps as you prepare for what is sure to be an amazing event. I look forward to seeing you all in Detroit!
WBENC President & CEO