It is with heavy hearts that we share some profoundly sad news with our community today. Last night, we lost one of the shining stars of the WBENC family, Cheryl Snead. Cheryl was not only a successful WBE, business and community leader, and supporter of WBENC and our network, but an incredible soul who inspired and impacted so many around her. Our hearts are breaking over this loss and we will continue to keep Cheryl’s family and friends in our thoughts and prayers.
For those who knew Cheryl, you know she had a dynamic, trailblazing spirit and infectious smile. She had the innate ability to lift-up those around her while maintaining the ambitious and energetic focus of a true leader. While immensely successful, Cheryl was also humble, patient and a passionate advocate for the empowerment of youth, minorities and women.
In true form, Cheryl’s career exemplified her pioneering and inspirational spirit. She was the first African-American woman to graduate from UMass Amherst with a BA in Mechanical Engineering. After honing her engineering and management skills at General Electric and earning her master’s degree from Purdue, Cheryl charted her own path in 1991 by founding Banneker Industries, Inc, now a world-class supply chain management solutions company. For nearly 30 years, Cheryl led Banneker Industries to incredible heights, becoming one of the most successful women-owned businesses in the country. She was even recognized for her accomplishments by President Barack Obama in 2014.
But throughout the years of business growth and success, Cheryl never stopped giving back. When she was named the new Chairwoman for the Women’s Enterprise Forum in 2016, Cheryl said, “As a business owner for the last 25 years, I know the road for a woman-owned business is tough. It’s improved over the years – but improvements are still needed. There is much work to do and I am ready to get to work!”
That generosity and “get-to-work” spirit earned Cheryl numerous awards, for both her business accomplishments and her ongoing civic work. She was named a WBE Star in 2009 and inducted in the Women’s Business Hall of Fame in 2014. At WBENC, she led the Women’s Enterprise Forum and served on our Board of Directors. Last year during the 20th anniversary of WBENC, we honored Cheryl with the inaugural Women of Distinction award, recognizing her deep commitment to WBENC and breaking down barriers for women-owned businesses over the years. Cheryl was also named New England Businesswoman of the Year by Bryant University’s Women Summit and was featured nationally in Inc., MBE, Essence, Black Enterprise and ARMY magazines. She traveled the country extensively as a motivational speaker advocating on behalf of minorities and women.
At WBENC, we will carry on Cheryl’s legacy in all that we do (as she said, there is much work to do!) and continue to recognize her incredible accomplishments as a business leader and community advocate. But above all, we will remember Cheryl as a beloved mentor and tremendous friend. She will truly be missed.