Editor’s Note: In 2017, WBENC is proudly celebrating our 20th Anniversary year by launching the Legacy of Leaders, a structure established for recognition of Corporate Members and WBEs who have served in a significant leadership role throughout the WBENC network. One of two groups under the Legacy of Leaders umbrella is the Women of Distinction. This exclusive group of WBENC-Certified Women’s Business Enterprises (WBEs) is comprised of 25 women leaders who have demonstrated a deep commitment to the organization and to breaking down barriers for women owned businesses in the corporate and government supply chains. The Women of Distinction program was established to create a strategic role for highly successful and dedicated WBEs as advisors to WBENC, supporting the growth and success of all WBEs. WBENC is honored to showcase the Women of Distinction as they celebrate 20 years of success.
Throughout the year we will be sharing personal stories from the Women of Distinction about their journeys with the WBENC network. Today, we have a guest post from Sue Bhatia, Founder/Chair of Rose International on how WBENC has impacted her career – and why she never misses a WBENC conference.
“Empowered Women Create Healthier Lives and Stronger Communities”
By Sue Bhatia, Founder/Chair of Rose International
There are over 9 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. currently. In the next five years, over half of all small business jobs will be created from women-owned businesses. It's an exciting time to be a part of the WBENC community! I think we are definitely up to the challenge of being the new business leaders.
There's no doubt in my mind: empowered women create healthier lives and stronger communities. As female entrepreneurs, we bring collaboration, family-oriented work culture, grit to overcome anything, and an ability to integrate "heart and head" in everything we do. As business owners, we can correlate our business to being our very own child. The same nurturing that we are so naturally gifted with, we apply towards our business; it's a labor of love much like motherhood! I feel it's all about the journey and not the destination. WBENC makes this whole journey enjoyable and fulfilling!
Being part of the WBENC network has impacted my life tremendously. There have been many moments that have helped widen my horizons. I had the opportunity to represent WBENC internationally in global conferences, through some of the early stages when WEConnect International was just being conceived. During one such opportunity, I accompanied WBENC and the SBA to the International Women's Business conference in Istanbul being held with the United Nations Small and Medium Enterprises conference. Arriving in Istanbul at night, I checked into my hotel and had a restful sleep despite knowing an exciting event was about to take place. The next morning, I walked out into a restaurant for a 6:30 a.m. breakfast meeting, looked out the windows, and saw the deepest color of turquoise waters that took my breath away.
While waiting for the others to join, I sipped on a hot cup of English breakfast tea marveling at the beautiful coastline. The warmth of the tea and surrounding beauty filled me with a deep sense of gratitude. I found out later that I was surveying the famous Bosphorus strait, but that wouldn't be the only thing that would take my breath away in Istanbul. I was meeting with Susan Bari, Joan Kerr and a few other WBENC members to review the format of our upcoming panel discussion. The panelists were a few female entrepreneurs from the U.S. and me. The audience members were from rest of the world, belonging to organizations dedicated to furthering women-owned businesses in their own countries. They were amazed to hear about the 8(a) program that SBA offers, the WBENC organization, and the very real commitment from U.S. corporations. They were inspired and impressed, but it was clear that the women's business landscape was different in their countries. Even though I was a presenter, I learned a valuable lesson. Even though WBEs in other countries are equally capable and smart, their access to markets is more limited compared to what we have here. We are fortunate to have the resources here in the United States!
There is a lot of struggle for women starting and growing their businesses. As an immigrant, I can acutely appreciate how valuable these resources are. Our opportunity is great because we have organizations such as WBENC, NMSDC, SBA and SCORE that are dedicated to providing the necessary assistance and education to all women. The whole experience enriched my life with a brand new perspective of the entrepreneurial journey, of women entrepreneurs and of opportunities that we have in the U.S. We must never take them for granted.
I have enjoyed witnessing the tremendous growth of WBENC from its inception. The women that comprise our network are passionate, highly capable and persevere while creating and growing their businesses. The growth of many WBEs has accompanied a maturing of the overall caliber of WBENC as an organization. It does take a village for this to happen. Women-owned businesses are growing into larger, more robust businesses. This has been a joy to watch! The relentless pursuit of bettering the lives of women business owners and corporations benefiting from the innovation has been priceless. I have been part of the "Zenith" group and also served on the WBENC Board of Directors. Some of the speakers over the years have been of the highest caliber: Christie Hefner, Oprah Winfrey, Taryn Rose and Octavia Spencer are just some of the speakers that the WBENC network has been able to bring to inspire us all. I have seen the most positive group energy here at WBENC. The energy we have brings the best out of each of us. This energy is easily witnessed at WBENC's annual conference in June. I have seen women bringing their young daughters because it's summer break. This is a valuable learning experience for these young girls who can be our leaders of tomorrow! Growing up around some of these great women can help shape these girls into grounded, strong business women of the future.
For the last 20 years, I have not missed a single conference, except once when my 85 year-old father was ill. I keep going back year after year for the very same reasons: the positive energy and connections that help me grow my company. This is the only conference where you can celebrate being a woman among many others; the only place where I see fashion as it should be, unapologetically feminine! I also have been privileged to see and meet female role models who have walked a similar path before me. Their toughened spirit and resolve encourages me to go on, no matter how tough things get.
The resilience of WBEs best describes the uniqueness of WBENC. This truly is a celebration of being a woman and belonging to a movement of a cultural phenomenon. Thank you WBENC for truly bringing the best out of all of us.
About Sue Bhatia
Himanshu (Sue) Bhatia is the Founder/Chair of St. Louis-based Rose International, a leader in providing innovative end-to-end Workforce and Technology Solutions to both commercial organizations and government agencies from offices and development centers in 20+ U.S. cities and India. Sue was named one of Fast Company's "Top 25 Women Business Builders in North America," as well as receiving an "Enterprising Women of the Year Award" from Enterprising Women Magazine. She has also been honored to receive the U.S. Small Business Administration's National Entrepreneurial Success Award, and the Missouri Small Business Person of the Year award. Earlier this year, she was named a WBENC Woman of Distinction.
Learn more at www.suebhatia.com