In 2024, WBENC continues its inspiring tradition by celebrating the WBE Stars for their remarkable achievements, contributing invaluable leadership, innovation, and influence on the dynamic business landscape. Each handpicked by one of the 14 Regional Partner Organizations (RPOs), these women serve as a wellspring of inspiration for others within their communities. The recognition they receive through the WBE Star Award is a powerful testament to the profound impact they’ve made in their respective business environments.

The 2024 WBE Stars received their accolades at the vibrant WBENC National Conference, a grand event held from March 19-22, 2024, in Denver, Colorado. This conference was a hub of innovation and networking, drawing nearly 5,000 entrepreneurs and business leaders who celebrated the accomplishments of these extraordinary women.

But the celebration doesn’t end there. Throughout 2024, WBENC will continue to spotlight these trailblazing women in various dynamic formats, including an engaging article series and captivating feature articles in WE USA Magazine this summer. Prepare to be inspired!

Meet Paula Edwards, President and CEO of Lexair Electronics Sales Corporation, with the Greater Women’s Business Council (GWBC) Regional Partner Organization. For 26 years, Lexair has been a Tier-1 supplier to Fortune 500 companies and federal, state, and local governments. By delivering unrivaled customer-centric service combined with her over 35 years of experience in telecommunications, IT and aerospace, Paula has grown her business from an in-home start-up to a global enterprise. Lexair is headquartered in Greensboro, NC with international operations expanding to Canada in 2017 and to Europe in 2018.

Lexair is not only women-led, but also employs a team of more than 80% women.

Get inspired by Paula and stay tuned for our 2024 WBENC Stars article series throughout 2024!

Lexair is a global supplier of voice and video communication/collaboration technology, device endpoints and managed services. For 26 years, Lexair has enabled Fortune 500 companies and federal, state, and local governments to strategically plan, purchase, deploy, implement, and manage their voice and video communication/collaboration infrastructure across their organizations. By listening, learning, and investing in their customers, they build supplier-partner relationships that deliver exceptional customer-centric experiences to ensure long-term success for every customer.

As their suppliers are primarily large manufacturers, they focus on identifying opportunities to include diverse suppliers for their support services. These have included travel services, cleaning services and printing services. Lexair has also partnered with other diverse businesses on government contracts which has resulted in mutually beneficial professional relationships.

The 2024 theme is AMPLIFY. What does AMPLIFY mean to you?

“To me, AMPLIFY is about expanding, growing, increasing and strengthening all areas of ourselves and our lives, both professionally and personally.”

Wisdom from WBE Star, Paula Edwards
When and how was your business started?

Lexair Electronics was founded in 1998. It was a difficult time as a previous business attempt had failed and my first marriage wasn’t far behind. Still, with my two small children as motivation, an $100 investment, and a sense of defiance, the journey began. It was a true in-home start-up with a spare bedroom as the “office” and the living/dining room as the “warehouse”. It was terrifying and exhausting, but mostly, it was exhilarating!

What is one way you recommend people to “AMPLIFY” the impact of the WBENC network in the next 2 years?

Get involved! Volunteer for a committee with your RPO, attend webinars, participate in the programming, learn how to leverage your certification, meet the corporate sponsors and network with other WBE’s. By being involved, you will AMPLIFY the benefits of the WBENC experience.

How are you planning to AMPLIFY the mission of the WBENC network during your time as a WBE Star?

As a WBE Star, I will continue to celebrate and advocate for women and for WBE’s! From sharing the benefits of WBENC certification and actively connecting WBE’s with potential opportunities, to mentoring newly certified WBE’s and promoting the talent, ingenuity, and innovative spirit that thrives within the WBENC network, I am eager and excited to expand, grow, increase, and strengthen the WBENC network and to AMPLIFY the mission.

Provide an example of how innovation helped you overcome a challenge, pivot, or adapt your business.

With the introduction of collaboration platforms and softphone in 2009-2010, we identified an opportunity to change how an enterprise could move, add, and change their phone equipment, without involving a technician. We developed a “0-Touch” self-service logistics and reverse logistics solution that, for an enterprise with about 100,000 employees, saved them millions of dollars annually, reduced their delivery times for new devices by ½ and reduced the need for onsite technical labor to almost “0”. As our business revenues suffered from the economic turmoil of 2008, this innovation allowed Lexair to pivot from being solely a hardware supplier to becoming a service provider. We developed this solution to be replicable, adaptable, and scalable. As the demand to migrate to softphone has continued to increase, so has our ability to leverage this service to allow customers to remove their existing hardware and replace it with the desired devices without an onsite technician, or the associated expense. Since the pandemic, the service has expanded to incorporate residential locations as well.

What areas of innovation do you foresee for women entrepreneurs over the next few years?

Technology and AI. Technology is always evolving and now, with the acceleration of AI, it will be vital for women entrepreneurs to become educated about the impacts of this new frontier on not only their business, but also be aware of the impact to their customers. The evolution of technology will also influence how we communicate, expand compliance requirements, and will demand additional capital to address this ever-changing landscape. To remain competitive and relevant, WBE’s will need to prepare, and budget, for these variables now as traditionally, access to capital for WBE’s has been limited. These pathways may also become even more competitive due to the increased demand associated with the accelerated timeline.

What have you learned about yourself as a leader from mentoring or coaching others?

I am genuinely in awe of the people I have mentored. It keeps you grounded when you are exposed to other people’s genius. I try to learn as much as I can about the person, their story, their “what” and mostly, their “why”. As a mentor, I offer ideas, vision, experience, and encouragement, but I do not tell them want they should do. I try to create an environment where mentees can craft a solution and arrive at their own conclusions.

What do you view as benefits of being part of the WBENC network?

I think the biggest benefit is the opportunity to engage with so many dynamic women business owners. Everyone has a unique story and background. Of course, there are many other benefits such as meeting potential new customers, educational programs and the credibility of being a WBENC certified WBE.

How has engaging in the WBENC Network as a Certified WBE helped your company?

Engaging in the WBENC Network as a certified WBE has provided opportunities to meet potential new customers and to expand with existing ones. There are opportunities to interact throughout the ecosystem, both in-person and virtually. As my business primarily supplies and supports large, enterprise customers, our WBENC certification is mandatory if we are to be considered as a woman-owned business. For our defense sector customers, this certification is vital to support their set-aside goals.

What suggestions would you like to share with a newly certified WBE who is looking to get involved in the WBENC community?

Start with your own RPO. The programming and local events offered by each RPO are a great first step to meet other WBE’s and potential customers in your region. Volunteer! There are always opportunities to share your strengths and to give back. This might be by volunteering for an RPO or WBENC committee or to help out with an onsite event. This is another terrific way to meet people and for them to learn about you and your business. Take advantage of the corporate sponsored programming. From how to raise capital, to how to manage employees, to how to leverage your certification, there is programming available for wherever you are in your business journey. Attend the National Conference! You may be thinking, “But I don’t know anyone yet.” I promise, if you go, you will! There are multiple opportunities crafted to ensure you meet WBE’s and corporate sponsor representatives. Be sure to find me and introduce yourself; I can’t wait to meet you!

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