For today’s blog from the Forum, we take a moment to focus on the women in our network who we are calling our “Champion Recruiters.” These are women who have inspired dozens of women business owners to become WBENC-Certified and as such create new avenues of growth for their businesses. One such champion is Billie Bryant Schultz, President & CEO of CESCO Inc., an IT equipment software, solutions and service provider representing over 10 major manufacturers.
Billie never intended to own and run an IT business, but after her late husband became ill, she was elected to take the reins. She found herself in a heavily male-dominated industry, as it remains today. Under Billie’s leadership, the company was able to obtain WBENC Certification in 1998, placing it among the very earliest of WBENC-Certified businesses. She has not only successfully run the company during its most profitable years, and continues to run it today, but having embraced her role as a woman businessowner, she has helped to build and shape the WBENC community of women businessowners both regionally and nationally.
A Trailblazer’s Humble Beginning
Twenty-five years ago in Dallas, Billie and some other women businessowners formed a small group who each got their companies certified and then successfully got the attention of several major corporations. “We were able to show that our businesses were truly women-owned, and we were ready for growth,” Billie states.
But she didn’t stop there. Beyond women owners and major corporations, she went on to pitch WBENC to organizations that supported entrepreneurship and encourage them to look at WBENC as the premier organization to help women grow their businesses.
“I realized early on that we had to find women business owners and carry the message to women. I prepared a Power Point presentation and went anywhere I could go to present and speak about WBENC and how important it was to be certified and how successful WBENC was – a validation of who we were and what we were doing in the marketplace,” Billie passionately recalls.
Billie’s philosophy on recruiting was witnessed by her deep friendship with Susan Bari, the first President of WBENC. Billie explained, “Susan worked to grow the corporate side, and I worked to grow the women businessowner side of WBENC. I had a dream that we would form a ‘pooled power of women.’ Every time I would have a speaking engagement and Susan was there, she would say, ‘Billie, use your pooled power of women and what we can accomplished together,’ and I would always do that with her encouragement.”
So how does Billie recruit? She begins by asking them a question on how they market their company, then asks, “Do you enjoy being with other women? Do you think you would benefit with being with other women who market together or have common needs? I want to introduce you to a wonderful women’s organization – WBENC. The certification acknowledges who you are as a woman owner of your company and provides opportunities so you can market to large corporations and fellow women business owners.” Billie’s enthusiasm is infectious. She states,
“I don’t give up until they say, ‘I want to do that,’ and it generally doesn’t take too much to convince them.”
Building Community and Connections
Billie tells us the story of how she recruited Jennifer Schaumburg, once an employee of Billie’s larger corporate clients and who now runs a company that has been WBENC-Certified since 2015. She and Jennifer were at a meeting for a quarterly review, and they had a moment where they were the only two women in the room. Billie talked about being a woman businessowner and WBENC-Certified, and Jennifer wanted to know more. They continued the conversation over several lunches and became good friends. “The next time I saw her, she was at a WBCS event, where she announced her new certified business, Fuse Solutions,” beams Billie. Fuse Solutions advises corporations on better ways to use (existing and new) technology and automation to improve operations.
“I cannot say enough good things about WBENC and what it has done for me – friendships and in business – I love the organization and want to continue see it grow and celebrate its 25 years because of all of the things that have happened to us and how they played out to be beneficial not only for us but for the other 18,000 Women Business Enterprises (WBEs). Even today, I market WBENC before I even market my own company. Encouragement is an important thing, and I always try to encourage women to join WBENC.”
As you can imagine, Billie’s awards have been numerous over the years and are still coming. Just recently in June 2022, Women’s Enterprise magazine (WeUSA) awarded Billie the “WBE Trail Blazer Award” as part of their Icons and Legends Awards. However, one award that is very dear to her is the WBENC Applause Award, which she received in 2001. This award recognizes exceptional accomplishments in expanding opportunities for Women’s Business Enterprises (WBEs) and breaking down the barriers that impede their progress and growth.
We thank Billie for all she has done for WBENC and all the ways she has helped women find success in business – thank you, Billie, for being a true Champion Recruiter!
About the Featured WBE
Billie Bryant Schultz is CEO of CESCO, Inc., WBENC-Certified since 1998. She was a founding board member of WBENC and the Women’s Business Council – Southwest (WBCS), and continues to be an active board member today. She is currently a Chair Emeritus of the Women’s Enterprise National Forum and was named to the Women of Distinction by WBENC in 2017.