Category Archives: Business Leaders

Five Sure-fire Business Building Tips from Top Women Entrepreneurs

What does it take to not only survive but thrive as a business owner? Who better to ask than the two entrepreneurs who will be honored at the WBDC’s 27th Annual Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference on September 26th!

Carolyn Gable, CEO of New Age Transportation, Distribution & Warehousing Inc., will receive the Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year award, and Lili Hall, president and CEO of KNOCK, inc., will receive the Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year – WBE Success award. Here, they give us a taste of the business-building tips they’ll share at the 27th Annual Hall of Fame Awards Luncheon.

  1. Be positive and believe! A business owner’s biggest challenge — to stay positive –starts “on the day you have your first thought about business ownership,” according to Carolyn.

    Carolyn Gable

    “It’s easy to stay positive when the phones are ringing off the hook, but expect many ebbs and flows along the way,” she continues. “Being a business owner means taking on the huge responsibility of always ‘knowing’ that things will work out.”

  2. Never take anything for granted. Lili, who self-financed the launch of her ad agency during the 2006 recession, admits she wasn’t always sure the business would survive. Today, after having lived through two recessions, she believes that maintaining an attitude of appreciation helped get her through the toughest times. “I’ve learned that having patience, perseverance and the right attitude always prevail,” she affirms.
  3. Let go of your ego, and don’t be ruled by emotions. Carolyn recalls angrily walking away from a lucrative piece of business because the client was reluctant to pay her what she believed to be was a fair commission. As she climbed into her car to leave the meeting, she realized that she hadn’t handled the situation properly. “Silly to ever let your ego or emotions rule in those situations,” she states.
  4. Hire the best employees you can afford.

    Lili Hall

    Lili suggests surrounding yourself with a collaborative team of people who are entrepreneurial in spirit and who are as passionate about the business as you are. You want employees who “are open to smart, new ways of doing things,” she says.

  5. Never ever give up. “Just when you least expect it, your next big account or big sale is on its ways to you,” Carolyn affirms. “Your next miracle is just a phone call or an email away!”

Ready for your own miracle? Then don’t miss the WBDC’s 27th Annual Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference, Women’s Business & Buyers Mart. Online registration is closed, but you can register at the door!  See you there!

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Breakfast Panelists #EWC27 Part 2 – Emilia DiMenco & Debra Jennings-Johnson, Plus Moderator Terry Savage

If you’re in the market for some great business words of wisdom and inspiration, then you won’t want to miss the 27th Annual Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference on Thursday, September 26, at McCormick Place.

Emilia DiMenco

Emilia DiMenco

Joining WBDC co-founders Hedy Ratner and Carol Dougal on stage at the popular Forum Breakfast will be three women with a passion for helping women business owners succeed. They’re oh-so-ready, willing and eager to share their tips on what it takes to make it in the business world.

Emilia DiMenco, the WBDC’s dynamic new president and CEO, and Debra Jennings-Johnson, supplier diversity director at BP America Inc. and the WBDC’s long-time board president, will participate in what is certain to be a dynamic conversation, moderated by best-selling author Terry Savage.

When you bump into Emilia, Debra or Terry at the Conference, make sure you have these personal tidbits to launch a conversation that can build your business connections!

Debra Jennings-Johnson

Debra Jennings-Johnson

  • Emilia loves to travel abroad. As a graduation present, Emilia will take her soon-to-be-an-engineer son on a trip to Africa. Last year, she took a three-week trip to China.
  • Debra, who collects antiques and art, was inspired to have a career in business because of two role models: her successful aunts.
  • When she’s not traveling to major speaking engagements or writing another book on finance, Terry relaxes at her second home in Wisconsin where she boats and rides one of two show horses.
Terry Savage

Terry Savage

So what the does future hold for this evolving organization and women’s business ownership in general?  To find out, don’t miss EWC and as always, stay tuned to the WBDC’s Twitter and Facebook accounts! One thing’s for sure:  the WBDC will continue its commitment to fighting the challenges that continue to exist everywhere for women- and minority-owned businesses.

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Social Media for the Professional Woman

Networking is key to building a successful business.  Not only should you attend networking events within your local business region, but also pay attention to online networking.  One of the top business networking sites today is LinkedIn, and with refreshed profiles, updated business pages and highly interactive groups, it’s here to stay.  Here is how you can efficiently and effectively maneuver through LinkedIn.

Profile Picture1. Update Your Picture!  Yes, this point is part vanity, part practical, mostly practical.  Make sure your profile picture is recognizable as you today – not ten years ago. A great picture shouldn’t be a glamour shot of what you look like touched up, unless you walk around with a makeup team on a daily basis.  Make it inviting, warm and add a hint of marketing by matching your attire with your brand colors or strategically post a logo in the background.

Connecting Picture2. Connect! It may seem like common sense, but you have to connect with people on LinkedIn to make it work for you.  When you send out invitations, keep it to people you have actually met or that you share a connection with.  In your invitation, explain why you’re connecting, unless you contact them on a regular basis, and then it’s okay to send a standard invite.  Be sure to check out who’s inviting you to connect; take a look at their profile, connections and groups.  Remember, once they’re a connection they can see your full profile and interactions.

LinkedIn Picture3. Join (and ENGAGE in) Groups: Explore all LinkedIn has to offer by joining groups relevant to you.  Search for your alma mater or one of your offline networking groups to join.  Active groups provide great information and events that can help you boost your business.  If you’re a woman business owner in the Midwest, consider joining the WBDC’s LinkedIn Group, Inspired Women, to engage with other professional women looking for advice, input and inspiration.

Resume Image4. Use It, or Lose It!  Make sure to update your not only your picture, but also your profile.  It’s a living resume, so keep it current.  You never know who’s looking for the skills and experience you have to offer.  Keep things interesting by making your headline relevant and engaging, with trigger words.  Learn more about headlines, and other parts of your LinkedIn strategies, in this free webinar recording.

LinkedIn Picture25. It’s About Business!  If you have a business, you should have a business page.  LinkedIn has come a long way in cultivating the business pages to better serve companies.  They now have header images, status updates, video advertising, product promotions and more for followers to interact with.

Spend 10 minutes a day implementing some of these tips, whether it be commenting in a group or updating your profile, and see what comes of it!  You never know what you’re missing out on until you try new strategies.

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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 www.SBA.gov 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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The Women’s Business Development Center Invites You to the 26th Annual Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference in Chicago, IL!

The WBDC staff invites you to attend the 26th Annual Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference, Women’s Business & Buyers Mart on September 20, 2012 at Chicago’s McCormick Place-West!  View the video below for your invitation!

Register now to spend a full day connecting with key buyers, supplier diversity staff and/0r purchasing decision makers from both the corporate and government sectors!

Learn more about the events taking place on September 20th by clicking here.

Take a look at the Women’s Forum Breakfast Speaker Announcement here!

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Women’s Business Development Center Announces Panelists for Women’s Forum Breakfast at Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference in Chicago

The Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) is pleased to announce the panelists for the Women’s Forum Breakfast at the 26th Annual Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference (EWC) taking place September 20, 2012 at Chicago’s McCormick Place – West.  Register now to take advantage of the early bird rates!

Sue Bhatia, Chief Executive Officer
Rose International, Inc.

Ranked 13th on Fast Company’s list of the Top 25 Women Business Builders in North America, Bhatia founded Rose International in the spring of 1993.  Under her leadership, Rose emerged as a force in the IT and Business Services arena, and is a leader in providing innovative end-to-end technology services to both commercial organizations and government agencies from branch offices, Centralized Recruiting Centers and development centers in 21 U.S. cities and India.  With 6,000+ associates and steady revenue growth, Rose International is recognized as one of the country’s fastest-growing and most successful companies, and the largest woman-owned business in St. Louis, MO.

Christie Hefner, Former CEO, Playboy Enterprises, Inc.
Executive Chairman, Canyon Ranch Enterprises

Christie Hefner serves as Executive Chairman of Canyon Ranch Enterprises, a new company leveraging the brand and knowledge of Canyon Ranch via media and business partnerships.  From 1988-2008 she served as Chairman and CEO of Playboy Enterprises, Inc. overseeing global expansion of Playboy’s legendary brand to a wide array of new platforms and markets, transforming a domestic publishing-based business into a global multi-media and lifestyle company.  She was the longest serving female CEO ever of a public company, and she was named one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in the World by Forbes magazine for three consecutive years.

Laura Ricketts, Director of Chicago Cubs Major League Baseball
Chairman of the Board, Chicago Cubs

Laura Ricketts is a Director and part owner of the Chicago Cubs Major League Baseball club as well as Chairman of the Board for Chicago Cubs Charities.  Much of her work with the Cubs is focused on community relations, government relations and philanthropy.  Ricketts is involved with several organizations in the Chicago area community and beyond, currently including serving as the Co-Chair of the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT Leadership Council, and serving on the National Leadership Council for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a national non-profit organization that litigates, educates and engages in public policy work on behalf of LGBT civil rights.

Richelle Shaw, Chief Executive Officer
RTS Publishing, LLC

As the only female African-American public utility owner in the nation, Richelle Shaw’s story of entrepreneurial success is one of true tenacity, hardship and hard work.  A featured expert and leading authority on building successful million dollar businesses, Richelle’s expertise comes from building her first business to $36 million, losing it after the 9/11 World Trade Center tragedies, then, successfully rebuilding the company in five months.  Since 2007, Richelle has been committed to helping entrepreneurs avoid the mistakes she made in her business, and has successfully mentored over 12,000 men and women, in 98 different industries, through her international coaching programs, and currently serves as the featured Money Expert on FOX5 local affiliate, The MORE Show.

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Entrepreneurial Growth Powered by Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program

Insights on the inaugural Chicago program from three cohort members as told to the Women’s Business Development Center’s (WBDC) Bethany Hartley

 

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses is a $500 million national investment to help small businesses in the United States create jobs and economic growth by providing entrepreneurs with a practical business education, access to capital and business support services.” – Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Greater Chicago Fact Sheet.

With sixteen years in business, Total Event Resources has established itself as a WBE certified, award winning meeting and event production agency providing services throughout the nation.  Kathy Miller, president of Total Event Resources, heard about the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at the WBDC 25th Anniversary Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference.

 “It was at the September WBDC conference that I was introduced to the 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative through Mayor Emanuel’s speech, then watching the video and finally walking the trade show floor where I believe the stars aligned.  A woman that was in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses booth promoting the program stopped me as I was walking through the trade show to ask me if I knew anything about this program, to which my reply was, ‘Yes, as a matter of fact, I just heard the Mayor talk about it and saw the video, it sounds intriguing.’”

Kathy explains highlights of the program in detail:

“We meet as our full class, and we have a small group within that class.  It is extremely interactive and engaging – this is not a lecture hall where we sit and take notes.  We are fully engaged in rolling up our sleeves and working together and sometimes independently on our business. No two sessions have been the same, there have been some amazing business professionals that have been brought to us in the form of a panel discussion and the involvement of Goldman Sachs, the City Colleges of Chicago, Babson College, the Mayor’s Office, the 10,000 Small Businesses Partners and the local business community.”

In February 2009, Navjot Bajwa started Ocean Mist Inc., a certified WBE/MBE/DBE trucking company operating throughout the Chicagoland area. The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program has been most beneficial in preparations for the future of her company.

“This program is preparing me to take my company to the next level and giving me skills, tools, resources and strategies for that.  It has all the tools you need to grow your business.”

Navjot has taken away financial guidance and much more to use beyond the classroom.

“We are participants in the program with the same dreams and challenges.  Everybody is very helpful and concerned and I found a supportive group of friends through this program.  The best thing I like about the sessions is you never get bored or tired and every session gives you so much confidence!”

Joanna Sobran is president of MXOTech, a six year old WBE certified company that focuses on offering expertise in both application development and network system design and management.  Joanna provided insight into the 10,000 Small Businesses initial session in our January AWB article and has continued to share her experience so far.  Like Kathy and Navjot, Joanna also has taken away important financial guidance:

“Understanding the financials better has been instrumental to ask the right questions of myself and my team.  This has already changed many aspects of our business and given us focus on services that are more profitable.”

Words of advice for those thinking about applying:

“The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program is an amazing opportunity to help a small and even mid-size business owner realize focus and vision for their business.  Whether you have been in business for a long time and need a face lift or are just starting out, this is a terrific program.  You will learn about sales, marketing, finance, being ‘bankable’ and possessing true leadership skills.  Best of all, you will met many amazing entrepreneurs where you can share your stories and exchange ideas to help you grow.”

Kathy echoes Joanna’s advice on applying to the program:

Apply, don’t procrastinate, it is one of the best business decisions I have ever made!  Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses has made a huge investment in the future of small businesses and the 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative is an incredible program.”

If you’re looking for this type of intensive, interactive and practical business education, we encourage you to apply for the next Chicago cohort of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.  Applications are being accepted now.


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Six Spring Cleaning Steps to Make Your Business Blossom!

Spring is in full swing, and businesses are bustling with the anticipation of new ventures!  Around every corner it seems new hires are being trained by recently promoted managers.  In the spirit of spring we bring you six spring cleaning suggestions to make your business blossom!

  1. Snip the deadheads. You don’t have to be a master gardener to know that cutting out the old, lifeless pieces leaves room for new growth.  Apply this to your business, in all aspects.  Externally, google your business name.  What pops up?  Are there business profiles out there about your company that have been left unattended or were created without your knowledge?  Take care of them!  Whether it’s getting the listing removed or claiming it, make sure the information out there about you and your business is current, accurate and relevant.
  2. Wash the windows. If potential clients looked in your business’ windows, what would they see? What do you want them to see?  You want them to see a thriving and productive office, one that’s putting the best foot forward and working for them.  Take a look at your employees and make sure they’re happy, productive and engaged in your business.  If that’s not the case, think about what you can do to change this.  Talk to your employees, find out what the problems are and how they can be fixed.
  3. Update the upholstery. Do you find yourself wearing a “uniform” without even realizing?  Maybe you’re a black slacks and white blouse kind of woman or maybe it’s your favorite drab dress in five different colors.  Whatever the case, it’s time to update.  Whether we want to admit it or not, women in the workplace notice fashion and certain ensembles convey specific messages.  Take time to assess if your wardrobe, and that of your employees, accurately conveys the professionalism you want your business to portray.
  4. From clean house to greenhouse. Evaluate the materials being used throughout your office.  Paper, pens, staplers, brochures, promotional materials- what could you get rid off?  Hopefully you are already tracking the effectiveness of your materials internally and externally so it’s easier for you to gauge what is truly valuable.  Try implementing at least one new cost cutting method when it comes to operations, maybe recycling your print paper for internal operations.
  5. Check the forecast. As any farmer knows, checking the coming weather is crucial to planting the seed.  Just as the farmer, you, as a business owner must look ahead to coming trends and stay in front of them.  Launching a campaign, putting on an event or updating your business image are just a few things that require exceptional planning, and looking at the forecast can help you execute at just the right moment!
  6. Enjoy yourself! After working hard to build your business and keep it thriving make sure to take time for yourself.  Take a vacation, read a book or go for a massage.  Whatever you need to relax, do it.  Cleaning up your business can be a challenge, but in the long run it’ll be worth it.

    Martha Stewart, Queen of Cleaning, speaking at the Entrepreneurial Woman's Conference

How do you plan on cleaning up your business this spring?  What new and great things are on the horizon for you and your employees?  Have you ever tried any of the above suggestions?  Maybe it’s time to clean house!

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5 Tips for Attending Trade Shows & Government Fairs

On April 25th, the WBDC-Minnesota office will be working with the U. S. Small Business Administration Minnesota District Office and the Minnesota Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) to support a Government Procurement Fair.  Below are tips to make any procurement fair a success for you!  If you’re interested in registering for the free government procurement fair in Minnesota, click here.

    1. Do your homework.  Study the list of exhibitors
      from the trade show/fair brochure, identify prospects and create a targeted hit list.

      • The contacts that are most important to you should be your first stop.  People in the booths are more alert and patient in the morning.  In fact, if you can arrive early to meet with those key contacts, you may beat traffic.
    2. Budget sufficient time and resources. Trade shows/fairs often have many components, including workshops and matchmaker meetings, so be sure to block half a day or the entire day, and possibly bring your sales force.
      • Make sure to take note of already scheduled appointments – do not skip an appointment!  If you must miss your appointment, provide adequate notice to your contact to ensure they can fill the spot and maintain a good relationship.
      • Also include time for new opportunities when budgeting your time.  You never know what’s out there for you and your business until you explore!
    3. Bring lots of business cards.
      • Always overestimate the number of business cards you need.
      • Ensure your card includes all the essential information including: name, title, company, website, work number, business address, and if this information doesn’t explain what your company does, be sure a one line description somewhere on the card.
      • Before you hand your card over, put the date of the fair on it to give a point of reference to the recipient.
    4. Look and act professional.
      • Taking the time to do your homework will give you an edge, as knowing what different agencies do can help you act more professional.  Being able to ask smart questions, as opposed to “What do you buy?” is essential.  You should already know what the agency buys before approaching the table.
      • Dress in a manner that distinguishes you while still being professional.
    5. Don’t forget to follow up with your new contacts and act on items you promised.
      • By taking quick action and touching base with new contacts you show that you have initiative and take seriously what you discussed.  Keep in mind the people working at the fair see hundreds of individuals in one day – make sure they see you again a few days later in their inbox or voicemail.

What else do you find useful when attending procurement fairs?  What about business expos and conferences?  Take a look at our article on how to have effective outreach during those as well!

Contributing Author: Natasha Fedorova, Program Director, WBDC-Minnesota

Source:  Bradt, Judy “2010 OSDBU Tips Want More Government Contracts in 2010?” 2010 PDF file

For more tips on how to make the most productive use of your visit to a Procurement Fair, please visit http://www.summitinsight.com/blogviewd.asp?id=93.

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The WBDC Fuels the Fire Behind Women’s History Month: Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment

This year’s theme for Women’s History Month is Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment. 

While we often celebrate Women’s History Month with images of women like Susan B. Anthony and Amelia Earhart staring proudly into the camera, remembering great women and events that moved women forward in business, society and politics should also recognize improvements made in the nearer past.

At the WBDC we celebrate a history of 26 years of empowering and educating women business owners, who are breaking through barriers and making their own history.  Take a moment to look back at letters from WBDC Co-Presidents Carol Dougal and Hedy Ratner over the last few years.  Additionally, the WBDC is proud to share a visual timeline of our organization’s past through our newly renovated Facebook Timeline.

2011 Letter “We became standard-bearers in a movement, empowering women through business ownership.”

2009 Letter “As fierce advocates of women’s economic and business development, now, more than ever, it is vital to showcase and grow the incredible accomplishments of women business owners whose impact on the economy has been seismic.”

2007 Letter “We are mindful, however, that reputation does not lead to success; success leads to reputation.  And a good reputation leads to great responsibility.  We are where we are because we have remained as faithful to our mission in 2008 as we were in 1986, the year we began.  While our mission may calibrate as times change, the core remains the empowerment of women through successful business ownership.”

2006 Letter “We came from longtime careers and volunteer hours advocating for women’s health, education and employment parity.  And based on our frontline experience, we knew one thing: Women’s empowerment depended upon economic independence.  We figured one surefire way to get there was through business ownership.

We had no shortage of clients.  The women who entered our doors were single, married, widowed, divorced, with kids or childless.  What they had in common was ambition, drive and a desperate need for business skills, role models, encouragement and support.”

2004 Letter “In 2003, over 34% of all businesses in the Chicago metropolitan area are women-owned, and women of color own one in five of these businesses.  Naturally, there are an estimated 6.2 million women-owned businesses generating $1.15 trillion in sales and employing 9.2 million workers.

Within this context, the Women’s Business Development Center continues as a national leader and innovator in economic development and empowerment of women.  We remain steadfast in our dedication to generating economic opportunities and an enhanced quality of life for women and their families.”

Historical Women - WBDC's Co-Presidents Hedy Ratner & Carol Dougal

Share these empowering quotes with others and let it be reiterated that every month is Women’s History Month!

*We are also excited to share a great opportunity to speak with Secretary Hilda Solis and Deputy Administrator Marie Johns this Wed, 3/28 at 230P EST to discuss women small business owners!  Please click here to register for this event.

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