Throughout 2023, WBENC is recognizing and celebrating WBEs who have demonstrated remarkable resilience and capacity to reinvent themselves. The 2023 WBE Stars are being honored for perseverance and excellence through reinvention and innovation, despite the unprecedented challenges of recent years.
Meet Ellen Engel, Founder of Elevate USA Inc. Even before the pandemic-driven trend of remote and hybrid working, her business was moving toward instructor-led virtual and online training. This early adaptation allowed them to seamlessly continue services for all existing clients during the pandemic, while also allocating resources for expansion and innovation.
Witness Ellen’s resilience and stay tuned for our 2023 WBENC Stars article series throughout 2023!
Each year, WBENC presents 14 women business owners with the prestigious Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) Star Award, the nation’s premier recognition for excellence among certified women-owned businesses, honoring female owners for their leadership skills, business success, and ability to serve as an inspiration to others.
Meet Ellen Engel, Founder of Elevate USA Inc.
Elevate is a global training company that connects businesses and non-profits with the tools, knowledge, and opportunities they need to retain their best employees. Through the use of advanced assessment technology and access to the industry’s leading subject matter experts, they provide professional development tools that help create a more productive and engaged workforce. Elevate is on a mission to elevate employee engagement by transforming the employee experience and culture.
In response to the pandemic-induced shifts in the workforce landscape over the past three years, the business has strategically reoriented its focal point. This realignment is aimed at effectively addressing prevalent challenges such as quiet quitting and the great resignation, through the implementation of a more agile, employee-centric approach tailored to the preferences of younger generations. Additionally, the expansion of training offerings into the realm of health and human services is underway to accommodate evolving workplace dynamics, wherein employees wield greater bargaining power than in recent times.
Disrupting the Employment Landscape
Ellen is pleased to unveil “Life U,” an innovative “graduation to employment” pipeline initiative. This program is meticulously designed to cultivate enduring and mutually beneficial relationships between new hires and their employers. Open to high school seniors to recent college graduates, participants undergo a comprehensive year-long regimen of training and mentorship. This equips them with the requisite skills and mindset to navigate the disrupted workforce landscape of 2022, emerging as industrious, forward-thinking, and resourceful contributors to their respective teams.
Bridging the Gap Between WBEs and Government
As the proprietor of Elevate USA, an entity predominantly engaged in business transactions with the U.S. Government, Ellen adeptly navigates the intricacies of a dynamic political landscape. Possessing a wealth of expertise in governmental affairs, she has dedicated recent years to educating fellow female leaders and WBEs on the nuances of conducting business with federal, state, and local authorities.
In tandem with this, Ellen has embarked on a path of infusing her company’s leadership team with a fresh, forward-thinking generation, driving growth and innovation. Her focus has shifted towards providing invaluable support to the WBENC community and aspiring women entrepreneurs. Drawing from over four decades of business acumen, she imparts knowledge on various fronts, including the intricacies of government dealings, capitalizing on opportunities stemming from evolving political dynamics, and navigating the industry as a woman.
Ellen, what does resiliency mean to you? How do you practice resiliency as a woman leading a business?
“Resiliency has become a quality I’ve embraced when it comes to making my dreams a reality. Being resilient means that despite any adverse situation, I appear stronger and more determined than before; it is about personal growth ad development. This trait is what drives me to push through any aftermath and potential difficulties in order to succeed. As the leader, I practice resiliency by proactively addressing opportunities that not only come with challenges but also provide exciting learning experiences–this enable me to progress as an individual as well as an entrepreneur. Women have made great strides to create equality in the workplace, but there is still more work to be done; I am proud that I can use resiliency to drive meaningful change in both my industry and as an example for other female leaders.”
When and how was your business started?
Elevate USA Inc. was founded in 2007 by Ellen Engel. Under Ellen’s leadership, Elevate has grown the training company from a single trainer to over fifty trainers working across the country and internationally, offering over 250 off-the-shelf and tailored training topics, custom training, assessments, and 7,500+ self-paced online learning modules. Training programs are delivered in person or virtually.
What is a challenge or opportunity your business faced because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, and how did you face it?
As the owner of a company that does the bulk of its business with the US Government, I have had to adapt to a shifting political landscape. The expiration of the latest budget has put the federal government onto a footing of short-term funding and continuing resolutions that upset the long-term predictability usually enjoyed by government contracts. I am an expert at dealing with the government and have spent the last several years teaching other women leaders and women-owned businesses how to do business with federal, state, and local governments.
Provide an example of how innovation helped you overcome a challenge, pivot, or adapt to a crisis.
Even before the pandemic-driven trend of remote and hybrid working, my business was moving toward instructor-led virtual and online training. This decision was driven by the impulse to make our training more accessible for people who can’t normally attend onsite facilitation (shift workers, people in remote areas). Elevate started transitioning to virtual learning early and because of this, it put my business ahead of the curve for a seamless pivot that let me preserve the services we offer to 100% of our existing clients with minimal interruptions. In addition, it freed up more resources to expand our reach and develop new ideas.
What have you learned about yourself as a leader from mentoring or coaching others?
My experience of mentoring and coaching other female entrepreneurs has been both informative and inspiring, while teaching me a tremendous amount about myself as a leader over the years. I have spent the last several years teaching other women leaders and women-owned businesses what I’ve learned from 40+ years in business, plus teaching others how to do business with the government and how to navigate government contracts as a woman.
What do you view as benefits of being part of the WBENC network? How has your company grown and changed since its inception and since becoming certified?
There are two major benefits of being part of the WBENC network: (1) contact with other WBENC certified businesses and their leaders. We share and help each other, do business with each other, and support one another. And (2) the ability to garner contracts for women-owned businesses both in government and private industry.
What guiding words would you like to share with a newly certified WBE who is looking to get involved in the WBENC community?
I tell every new certified WBE to get involved. Learn how to leverage your certification by talking to other successful WBE’s, go to WBENC sponsored events and attend the annual conference.
What areas of innovation do you foresee for women entrepreneurs over the next few years?
Women’s entrepreneurship is certainly poised for rapid growth and will create immediate ripple effects for nations on an unprecedented scale. Over the next few years we can expect to see more innovative areas for women leaders to tap into as they increasingly continue their rise in the business space. Women entrepreneurs will progressively make strides in new and evolving industries, open doors of opportunity to further diversify businesses from all sectors through empowering women at a grassroots level and lead advances in social impact initiatives that foster global change.
Elevate is a global training company connecting businesses and non-profits with the tools, knowledge and opportunities necessary to retain their best employees. With use of advanced assessment technology and the industry’s leading subject matter experts providing you with the professional development tools to develop a more productive and engaged workforce. Elevate is on a mission to raise employee engagement by transforming the employee experience and culture. Elevate USA Inc. was founded in 2007 by Ellen Engel. Under Ellen’s leadership, Elevate has grown the training company from a single trainer to over fifty trainers working across the country and internationally, offering over 250 off the shelf and tailored training topics, custom training, assessments, and 7,500+ self-paced online learning modules. Training programs are delivered in person or virtually.