Before we turn the page to 2022 and the exciting WBENC 25th Anniversary year to come, we want to take a moment to acknowledge how much was accomplished in 2021. Despite continued challenges and uncertainty, the WBENC network persevered, and, in so many ways, thrived.
In 2021, women-owned and diverse-owned businesses needed our support more than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic has further expanded the disparity between women-owned businesses, particularly those owned by women of color, and other businesses. As women shouldered the weight of the health crisis for their families and loved ones, their businesses and careers were often relegated to the back seat.
As the world looked to put 2020 behind us, 2021 started out with a stark reality that our country remains severely divided, and that, amid increased allyship for people of color, there is still much more work to be done to advance racial and social justice.
“Screen fatigue” was real, with families and friends desperately wanting to gather in person and do those crazy things we used to do when greeting each other – hug! Vaccine trials and vaccine accessibility provided some light at the end of the tunnel, with increased reassurance that our loved ones were less at risk.
While we know that families and businesses continue to struggle, we are in awe of how resilient, positive and driven everyone has been this year. We applaud each of you, our strong and supportive WBENC network, for believing that things can and will get better, and encouraging others to believe the same.
Although there is always more work to be done, we are as driven as ever by our motto to Join Forces. Succeed Together. Cheers to you and yours this holiday season! We truly cannot wait to celebrate more of your accomplishments and our WBENC 25th Anniversary in 2022.
2021 Year in Review
We can’t possibly list everything that was achieved and took place within the WBENC network but here are a few highlights! Check back for our 2021 Annual Report later in 2022 to see a full recap, and, as always, subscribe for updates on our programs and announcements.
- The WBENC world-class certification standard, led by our network of 14 Regional Partner Organizations, unlocked even more benefits for WBEs to connect with Fortune 500 Corporate & Government Members in meaningful ways, and provide opportunities and resources to spur growth.
- Our virtual executive education programs grew yet again, with thousands of WBEs nationwide participating to reinvest in their business and their futures.
- The WBENC Executive Education Program sponsored by Wells Fargo, rebranded as WeIGNITE, powered by EOS®, the Entrepreneurial Operating System®
- WeTHRIVE continued to meet WBEs where they are in business and help propel them forward
- WeTHRIVE Digital launched with the first three sessions, with a focus on digital marketing and transformation
- A hybrid Energy Executive Program resulted in 165 WBE-WBE connections for mutual business
- To celebrate National Women’s Small Business Month in October and throughout the fall giving season, our large-scale #BuyWomenOwned campaign focused on “Make One Switch” to replace, not add, at least one (and more if they can) of an everyday item. Women Owned shopping was guided by the popular Women Owned Gift Guide, a magazine-style curated guide full of gifts from WBENC-Certified WBEs, and the Women Owned Directory.
- Our Industry Spotlight Series, led by our Industry Advisory Boards in Healthcare, Energy and other industries, featured potential WBE suppliers and highlighted opportunities for WBEs to work with the companies.
- The WBENC Allyship program and the Women & Pride Peer Group gathered WBEs and Corporate Members to tackle cultivating inclusion that promotes innovation, opens doors, and creates partnerships that fuel the economy. Two more Allyship sessions are January and December 2022.
- Women Owned in Retail hosted a dynamic series to accelerate WBE preparation and involvement with big retail, culminating with an extra special Women Owned Wednesday showcase.
- Through the NextGen outreach program and 2021 Collegiate Women of Color Grant, WBEs honed virtual pitch skills, gained meaningful exposure in video showcases, pitched their business to senior corporate leaders and decision makers, and competed for funds to invest in their business. The Student Entrepreneurship Program rebranded as the WBENC Collegiate Accelerator.
- The Women of Color program expanded in a major way in 2021, with thousands of WBEs and advocates participating in sessions focused on The Art of Influence, Banking on Relationships, overcoming objections, mergers & acquisitions and strategic planning. Women & Pride and the Women of Color Incubator also launched in 2021.
- Throughout the year, we continued to tell your stories and feature inspiring WBEs on WBENC.org and our podcast Women Who Own It. More opportunities exist as we head into 2022 – share your stories with us!
None of this would be possible without our nearly 18,000 strong and growing WBEs, with 3,600+ new certification applications in 2021. We also added 80+ new Corporate & Government Members this year, as more and more companies invest in the business value of supplier diversity by developing robust programs and increasing national investment in women-owned businesses.
The momentum is sure to continue into 2022 as we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of WBENC. We can’t wait to celebrate and honor the WBENC Network with you!