Category Archives: Advocacy

First in Their Field – Women in History

Happy Women’s History Month from the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC)!  To honor women throughout history we have created an infograph sharing “women who did it first”.  Click on the image below to view the complete infograph. What will your legacy be?

A look at women through history.  (Click to view infograph)



Filed under Advocacy, Special Events, Women Business Owner, Women's History Month

Business Tips for Women in Small Business from the Women’s Business Development Center

Happy Women in Small Business Month!  Today’s post is split into two parts – one for women looking to start their business soon and one for those already in business.  Look through both sets of questions and refer back to them as you continue to build your business muscle!

Women Starting A Small Business

It may come as no surprise to you, but being a small business owner can be a difficult and demanding enterprise.  Here at the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) we see many clients when they’re first starting and weighing out the feasibility of their idea. So how do you know if it’s a viable concept?  Does it have lasting power?  Below are 10 questions from to help you assess if you’re ready to start a business:

  1. Why am I starting a business?
  2. What kind of business do I want?
  3. Who is my ideal customer?
  4. What products or services will my business provide?
  5. Am I prepared to spend the time and money needed to get my business started?
  6. What differentiates my business idea and the products or services I will provide from others in the market?
  7. Where will my business be located?
  8. How many employees will I need?
  9. What types of suppliers do I need?
  10. How much money do I need to get started?

To read 10 additional questions from the SBA, please click here.  If you need help answering these questions, look no further than you local business center – find yours by searching here.

Women Already in Small Business

Have you been in business for a few years?  Do you feel like you’re an old pro at marketing your product or service?  Well maybe it’s time to take a new approach to your small business and try something new.  Here are 10 questions to ask yourself about your business and personal life.

When was the last time I…

  1. Attended a networking event?
  2. Attended a workshop?
  3. Updated my business plan?
  4. Hosted a customer appreciation event?
  5. Updated my LinkedIn profile?
  6. Updated my website?
  7. Used my own product/service?
  8. Explored new markets?
  9. Went on vacation?
  10. Hired someone new?

If you answer “I can’t remember” to any of these – it’s time to do it!  Go out, meet new contacts, learn new tricks of the trade, say thank you to your loyal clients and so on!  Don’t let your business stagnate! 

We want to know: What do you do on a regular basis to keep your business current?

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Filed under Advocacy, Business, Business Leaders, Business Start-up, Entrepreneur, Established Business, Small Business, Special Events, Uncategorized, WBDC, Women Business Owner, Women in Business

The State of Women-Owned Businesses

Over the last 15 years there has been a 54% increase in the number of women-owned businesses in the United States, according to the recently released State of Women-Owned Businesses Report commissioned by American Express OPEN.  Included in the attached infograph are statistics on Chicago and Illinois women-owned businesses, as related to the rest of the country.  To read the entire report, click here.  For more information on starting your own business and being a part of the 8.3 million women-owned enterprises in the United States, click here.  Click the image below to see the full infograph.

Women's Business Development Center Infograph

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Filed under Advocacy, Business, Entrepreneur, Established Business, WBDC, Women Business Owner, Women in Business

Hedy Ratner- Addressing Women’s Issues from Here to South Africa

Recently, Hedy Ratner sat down with Womenetics for their “Global Women’s Initiative: The Ripple Effect” to discuss women’s roles in business globally and locally.  As co-president of the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC), Hedy works diligently every day to bring more opportunities to minority and women-owned businesses.  In these videos Hedy touches on topics ranging from the global position of women to what she does to balance work and personal life  Take a moment and be sure to write down important points touched on throughout the videos to help enrich your life and “feed your soul.”

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Filed under Advocacy, Business, Entrepreneur, Established Business, Uncategorized, WBDC, WBDC News, Women Business Owner

New Chicago Programs Create Opportunities for Minority and Women-Owned Businesses

This week Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel announced two plans, effective immediately, to help to create a level playing field for small minority- and women-owned businesses.  These plans are designed to increase opportunities for both groups in the public and private sector as well as to ensure that City of Chicago inclusion goals are being met.

According to a  City of Chicago press release, the first program, the Small Business Initiative, is a race and gender neutral opportunity, for small businesses to compete for construction projects totaling no more than $3 million. “Small businesses, which often don’t go up against the big guys, will have fencing, roofing and other construction work set aside for them.  In 2012, that work could add up to $40 million,” said Emanuel.

The second program, known as the Diversity Credit Program, was developed to increase the use of minority- and women-owned businesses on contracts issued in the private sector.   For every $3 of private sector contracts, $1 in credit will be issued to the contractor, which can be used to provide up to 5 percent of a subsequent city contract.  This will encourage the City’s largest construction contractors to work with minority- and women-owned businesses in not just the public, but the private sector as well.

“It’s not enough that we’re committed in City government to supporting our small businesses and women- and minority-owned businesses,” says Jamie Rhee, chief procurement officer for the City of Chicago.  “We must involve the private sector, the non-profit community, and the City of Chicago.  Everyone’s support and involvement is crucial to our success.”

To receive the credit, companies will be required to sign a sworn affidavit and allow the City to audit their books to verify the hiring of minority- and women-owned businesses, according to a Chicago Tribune report on the program.

These programs, coupled with the recent announcement that Chicago will join the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses initiative, will undoubtedly ensure the health of local small businesses going forward.

Kristin Travis is Program Assistant at the WBDC.

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Filed under Advocacy, Established Business, Procurement, Women Business Owner

Women’s Equality Day – August 26

Tomorrow, Friday, August 26, women across the United States will celebrate Women’s Equality Day and the 91st anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. Bella Abzug first introduced legislation in Congress for Women’s Equality Day in 1971, and every president since has published a proclamation designating August 26 as Women’s Equality Day.

In Chicago, women will gather at Daley Plaza at noon for a rally, performances and a keynote address from Justice Joy V. Cunningham of the Illinois Appellate Court. Click here for more information on the event.

As co-founder and co-president of the Women’s Business Development Center I am proud to lead an organization that is committed to advocating and working for an equal society where women and minority-owned businesses have equal chances to succeed. The celebration of Women’s Equality Day means that when women organize and collaborate passionately and strategically for their rights and for equality, that we can change the world. There is so much that must be done locally, nationally and internationally to bring women into leadership, to fight discrimination and oppression, to eliminate violence and abuse, and to educate and inform the citizens of the world about women’s equality.

I would love to hear what Women’s Equality Day means to you. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Hedy M. Ratner is co-founder and co-president of the Women’s Business Development Center.

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WBDC Hosts Small Business Discussion with U.S. Treasurer

Pictured from left: Emilia DiMenco, WBDC Chief Operating Officer; Hedy M. Ratner, WBDC Co-President; Judith Roussel, IL District Director, SBA; Rosie Rios, U.S. Treasurer.

Last week, the WBDC had the honor of hosting a roundtable discussion with U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios.  Treasurer Rios and other White House Business Council members will host these roundtables in at least 100 communities across the country by year-end, with the purpose of listening to local businesses and getting feedback on how the Administration can best support their growth.   The WBDC is committed to advocacy on behalf of women and minority business owners in both the public and private sectors, and we applaud the administration’s efforts to hear from business owners and incorporate their views and concerns into the development of programs and policies.

Treasurer Rios shared her passion for supporting small businesses and women in business.  She’s also led several initiatives which have highlighted the role of women in the economic recovery of the past few years, and she participates in the White House Council on Women and Girls.  While she was the only woman confirmed in the Treasury Department in 2009, there are now five Senate confirmed women in the Treasury.

It was our great pleasure to introduce Treasurer Rios to 20 successful Chicago-area women business owners, all whom are clients of the WBDC.  Business owners represented a variety of industries including construction, IT, child care, printing, management consulting and food.  Many shared that while they have found innovative ways to continue growing, access to capital remains difficult.  Small business owners also need better and increased communication about government contracting opportunities, mentor-protégé programs and the new SBA Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Contracting program.  Government contracting will be a major emphasis at the upcoming SBA Illinois Small Business Week event on June 30, 2011.

For more information, read Treasurer Rios’s post on the U.S. Treasury blog or view photos from the roundtable on the WBDC’s Facebook page.

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Filed under Advocacy, Established Business, Special Events, Women Business Owner

WBDC Celebrates Women’s History Month


March is Women’s History Month, and March 8th is International Women’s Day. We at the WBDC have lots to celebrate-the amazing progress women have made politically and economically and, of course, our 25th anniversary of serving over 65,000 women in the Chicago Metropolitan area.

25 years ago, less than 10% of U.S. businesses were women-owned.  That dismal statistic was the impetus for Carol Dougal and I to launch the Women’s Business Development Center in 1986 to help women start and expand their businesses.  It was a revolutionary concept back then, but we believed that women – many of them – wanted to be their own boss.

Today, Chicago is home to virtually thousands of women-owned businesses.  Nationwide, more than 10 million businesses are owned by women, employing more than 12 million people and generating almost $2 trillion in sales.

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‘Tis the Season to Support Your Local Small Businesses

Christmas gift with tree in background

Most of my super-organized, plan-ahead friends have already completed their holiday shopping.  They were up at 3:00 a.m. on Black Friday and took advantage of the online deals during Cyber Monday and the following days.  I’m still making my list and checking it twice.  And while I love a great deal (I’m currently subscribed to at least five group buying deal sites such as Groupon), I’m hoping that holiday shoppers this year will realize that there’s more to a good deal than just a rock-bottom price.

I’m talking about thinking about where the money goes for all your holiday purchases.  Yes, I know that many of us are still recovering from the economy (I’ll definitely be giving some homemade gifts this year), but I still have a list of people to buy for, and like all consumers, I have a choice of where to spend my money.

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Making Every Day Earth Day

The Women’s Business Development Center applauds Mayor Daley and the City of Chicago for advancing awareness about environmentally-friendly changes taking place in offices around the City. This is a pivotal opportunity that will pay big dividends by permanently lowering business operating expenses.

Running a green office is also a great marketing tool to attract green-minded clients and get employees on board to create a global green economy. Join fellow Chicagoans who are taking the Green Office Challenge in honor of Earth Day 2010.  Make every day Earth Day by following some of these suggestions.  Find even more ideas on the Chicago Green Office Challenge website.

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Filed under Advocacy, Business Start-up, Established Business