From May 8-10, 2023, 56 WBEs descended upon downtown Minneapolis for the first in-person, on-site cohort of the WeIGNITE Executive Education Program, brought to you by Wells Fargo and powered by the Entrepreneurial Operating System®. Fantastic meeting spaces in the Wells Fargo 550 Tower set the stage for 2.5 days of learning, networking, and growing.

Thanks to the certified EOS Implementers® and EOS Worldwide, WBEs were provided with step-by-step instructions and a variety of tools and resources to help organize and lead their businesses. The Entrepreneurial Operating System®, as described in the book Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman, focuses on Six Key Components™ that are critical to take a business to the next level.

The cohort of WBEs represented 12 Regional Partner Organizations and included a wide variety of industries, including construction, retail, food and beverage, marketing, human resources and many more. With a wide range of industries and backgrounds, each WBE entered the program with a desire to scale their businesses for future growth and had been in business at least three years.

Overall, the intensive days together were a huge success. WBEs invested in themselves and their businesses by learning how to work on their businesses rather than in them. Breakoutgroups provided opportunities for questions and deeper conversations about how to utilize EOS® tools to rethink internal operations and business development. The Six Key Components™ – Vision, People, Data, Issues, Process, and Traction – gave the WBEs specific things to focus on to make concrete improvements.


“Growth hacking comes down to excellent operations,” shared Zoë Levin, owner of Bim Bam Boo. “This EOS® intensive gave me wildly valuable context and tools for scaling and growing our business. I would recommend it to other women business owners who are ready to think big.”

The cohort’s programming also included a networking reception and fireside chat with Wells Fargo Chief Procurement Officer Barb Kubicki-Hicks.

Noreen Cahalane, owner of Merz, shared that “spending a few days with powerful women is so refreshing and empowering.”

The final day featured a succession planning workshop with Debbie Davis from The Transition Strategists (also a WBE!). The workshop aimed to communicate the importance of considering the entire lifespan of a business and creating a strategy now to ensure desired future outcomes.

Debbie shared, “It is never too early to begin your transition journey… the longer the runway, the more options you have!”

LeeAnn Rasachak, CEO of WomenVenture, a Twin Cities nonprofit organization empowering women to achieve economic success through small business ownership, concluded the program with a powerful and inspiring keynote. She reminded the cohort about the power of community and maintaining a “village” to help them along their entrepreneurial journey.

Future WeIGNITE program planning is already in the works, allowing even more WBEs the opportunity to elevate their business management and growth. To learn more about upcoming programs, subscribe to the WBENC newsletter.


Sarah Leach Smith
Programs Manager

As Manager, Programs at WBENC, Sarah Leach Smith is the strategic lead for WeIGNITE and supports other executive education programs at WBENC.

Sarah joined WBENC in January 2023 after a decade at museums and botanical gardens. Having served in many roles, ranging from frontline customer service and event management to courting major donors for capital projects and leading teams, Sarah has had the privilege of seeing these organizations at every level and has become passionate about setting up women for success on every step of their career journey.

Sarah was born and raised in Durham, North Carolina, and lives there with her husband, Andrew, and their elderly pitbull mix, Jane. She earned her MS in Public Horticulture Administration as a Longwood Gardens Fellow at the University of Delaware, a BS in Horticulture from NC State University, and a BA in Journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill. She has also completed Duke University’s Nonprofit Management Certificate program. Sarah is an avid gardener (they do not own a lawnmower!), a yoga teacher-in-training, and a connoisseur of apple fritters (eating, not making).