Category Archives: Special Events

Gear Up for Growth – WBDC’s Child Care Business Expo Boosts Business in Chicago

Did you join the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) for our 15th Anniversary Child Care Business Expo on June 1st?  If you missed it, here’s a rundown of the inspirational and educational day:

Over 500 attendees…

Child Care Business Expo

visited 55 Exhibitors ranging from Illinois Action for Children to Dominick’s…

Exhibitors CCBE 2013

 and heard from 5 Deserving Award Winners.

Watch the video playlist below to meet:

– Arabel Alva Rosales, AAR & Associates, LTD., Child Care Champion Award Winner

– Lindsay Cochrane, representing Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Friend of Child Care Award Winner

– Peg Dunne Pavelec, Little Inspirations, Fast Track Award Winner

– Teresa Gomez, Wonderland Day Care Center & Wonderland Home Day Care, Unsung Hero Award Winner

Dr. Latrice Walker, Pre-Fit, Hedy M. Ratner & S. Carol Dougal Legacy Award Winner

Child Care Business Expo Legacy Award

2 Shift Into High Gear Afternoon Workshops taught entrepreneurs effective marketing and business finance.

CCBE Afternoon Workshop

2 Stellar Expo Chairs – Patty Kryscha, Southwest Airlines & Kimberlee Burt, A Child’s Space welcomed guests.

Expo Co Chairs

2 Dynamic Honorary Co-Chairs

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle & Illinois Lt. Governor Sheila Simon (not pictured)

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle opening the Exhibit Hall with WBDC co-president Hedy Ratner (w/ scissors)

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle opening the Exhibit Hall with WBDC co-president Hedy Ratner (w/ scissors) and Expo Co-Chair Kimberlee Burt (far right).

One powerful Luncheon panel shared their insights into the future of Illinois child care.

Luncheon Panel

(L-R): Kate Cozzani, Monique Draper, Janice Lopez and Arabel Alva Rosales

Did you experience the Expo with us?  Do you have any questions that didn’t get answered at one of the workshops? Ask them below!

To see more pictures from the event, check out the WBDC Facebook page.

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Filed under Uncategorized, Business Start-up, Child Care, Special Events, Marketing, Business, WBDC, Small Business

Celebrating Women Business Successes in Minnesota

The Women’s Business Development Center-Minnesota (WBDC-MN) is celebrating its 10th Anniversary in 2013.  To commemorate this milestone, as well as Women Business Enterprises (WBEs) and WBDC-MN corporate partners, and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) National Conference & Business Fair coming to Minneapolis this June, the WBDC-MN held its 7th Annual Celebration of Success.

Attendees were honored to hear from MN Senators Franken and Klobucher as they addressed the crowd via video.  Both spoke of the great things the WBDC-MN is doing for women business owners and the work that is still ahead. See the videos below:

 

The Celebration of Success was held earlier this year and honored truly deserving individuals and companies that support the growth of women’s business ownership.  Awardees included:

WBDC MN Pic of Award Winners

The WBDC-MN honored the achievements and success of local women entrepreneurs and supporters of women’s economic development, including (from left) Lisa Holter, shareholder, Fredrikson & Byron, P.A., Advocacy Award; Lynne Alexander, chairman and CEO, The Bureau of Engraving, Inc., WBE of the Year Award; Kelly Wold Smith, owner/president, Futura Marketing Inc., Giving Back Award; and Molly Larsen, supplier diversity senior manager, Best Buy, who accepted the Corporate Partner of the Year Award on behalf of the corporation.

  • WBE of the Year Award to Lynne Alexander, chairman and CEO, The Bureau of Engraving, Inc for her company’s success in leveraging its WBE status to secure business, and for outstanding contributions to the community and WBDC-MN.
  • Corporate Partner of the Year Award to Best Buy, for its outstanding commitment to supplier diversity and the utilization of women-owned businesses in its supply chain. Best Buy’s supplier diversity senior manager Molly Larsen, who accepted the award on behalf of the corporation, spoke of the evening and the award:

“Our program is relatively new so it is great for our team to be recognized for all the hard work we done over the past three years. The snowy weather didn’t keep folks away! The turnout, the food and the venue were fantastic.”

  • Giving Back Award to Kelly Wold Smith, owner/president, Futura Marketing Inc., for extraordinary contributions to the success of the WBDC-MN, its certified WBEs and the women’s business community.   Kelly says of the award:

“It is a milestone for me to have made it to a place where I can help others –I am so honored to be in a position where I can be honored for my contributions to a wonderful organization like the WBDC.”

  • Advocacy Award to Lisa Holter, shareholder, Fredrikson & Byron, P.A., for strong commitment to women’s economic development and long-standing, generous support of the WBDC-MN.

The WBENC Regional Host Committee, featuring top WBE companies from throughout the WBDC’s nine state Midwestern region, was also introduced through the video below, created by Lili Hall, Host Committee member and president/CEO of KNOCK Inc.!  Learn more about the Host Committee here: http://www.wbenc.org/wbencconf/conf-host-committe.php.

Will we see you at the WBENC National Conference & Business Fair in Minneapolis June 25-27th? Best Buy’s Molly Larsen will be there and is looking forward to the conference, “I am always inspired by the dedication, talent, determination and creativity of the WBEs. They inspire me to continue to improve the program at Best Buy and find opportunities to purchase from them.”  Plus, Futura Marketing’s Kelly Wold Smith will “absolutely” be there, and suggests if you’re planning on attending to see “the lakes – I live in the western suburbs and personally I don’t think a summer trip to the Twin Cities is complete without a boat cruise on Lake Minnetonka!”

Click here to see more pictures from the celebratory evening.

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Filed under Special Events, WBDC- Minnesota, Women Business Owner, Women in Business, Women's History Month

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)

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

8 Holiday Retail Business Tips from the Women’s Business Development Center

With holidays just around the corner, small business owners are prepping their businesses for what is hoped to be a prosperous season.  The Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) has no shortage of retail clients and to help them, and you, we’ve put together a list of 8 tips to heat up cool weather sales!

1. Email marketing – if you don’t do it already, start now!  Great template based tools like Mailchimp and Constant Contact are available at little to no cost.  Emailing is still the number one way to reach your clients online and create loyalty with your customers.  Have a plan for the holidays, schedule emails right up until Christmas, and even after that for any sales you might have!

2. Stay active – in the community that is.  Small Business Saturday is a nationwide event showcasing small business owners on November 24th.  It’s the Saturday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so be sure to encourage customers to save their spending for shopping local on Saturday. Make sure you’re active and take advantage of all the free business marketing tools you can find here.

3. Deck the halls- or at least the showroom.  Make sure your shop has a seasonal feel as it tends to make consumers more in the spirit of giving (read spending).  Think twinkle lights and cheerful music!

4. Prepare the troops – refresh your employees on procedures.  Giving your staff a run through of policies and procedures prior to the holiday rush is a good idea so they can handle any situation that comes their way.  Things to think about:

– discounts being offered

– how to deal with theft

– what to do with returns

– gift card sales

These are just a few of the basics that are often forgotten during the rest of the year.  A well informed staff makes a successful season and happy customers!

5. Party – reasonably and retail-ly.  If you haven’t already, hold a holiday open house.  Get neighboring businesses to participate through giveaways or staying open late with you; it’s a win-win for all. Make it special and offer exclusive deals.  If you’ve already had your open house, make sure your employees feel special by way of a holiday party just for them.

6. Give back. Rally the team and volunteer at one of the local shelters, food drives or other organizations that need assistance during the winter months.  Not only are you making a difference, you’re also showing the community that you are a socially responsible business.

7. Keep it social. As a B2C (business to consumer) business, you should already have a business Facebook page up and running.  If you don’t, here’s a free webinar recording from the WBDC on how to do right.  If you are active, don’t forget to post pictures of new merchandise, have a social media exclusive sale and engage your clients as much as possible!  And be sure to double check your reviews on sites like Yelp.com – nothing like a poor review to turn away potential customers.

8. Don’t forget about the men!  Although women are the purchasing decision makers for most households in the United States, don’t forget about their counterparts: husbands, boyfriends and sons.  Get your message out that you can help them find that perfect gift and offer a worry free shopping experience! This is particularly successful when you have a high number of return clients.  Nothing is better than unwrapping the perfect gift and not finding a gift card.

Try at least one or two of these ideas if you’re not already. Did we leave anything out? What do you do to make your business most successful during the holidays?

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Filed under Business, Entrepreneur, Marketing, Retail, Small Business Saturday, Special Events, Uncategorized, WBDC, Webinar, Women Business Owner, Women in Business

Small Business Saturday in Chicago’s Hyde Park

Below is an article written by the Women’s Business Development Center’s Kristin Travis reflecting on her experience with Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday, held on the Saturday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, was created by American Express in 2010 with the mission of bringing communities together to promote local commerce.  I celebrated last year’s event, on November 26, 2011, in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood.  Hyde Park is near and dear to my heart; I lived there for a while after moving back to Illinois following a 5-year leave.  Hyde Park, as you may know, has a very vibrant small business community, filled with a cornucopia of gift shops, restaurants, book stores and many other wonderful places to shop.

One night, while taking a final sip of stale coffee – a last ditch effort to keep my senses alert after hours of studying – I heard a phrase in the background that perked my ears, “Small Business Saturday!”   A commercial on CNN explained the event, causing me to perform a silent cheer in my seat.  I was overjoyed to hear that this event was beginning to gain a national presence.

So there I was at 8 a.m., on a cool, damp November 26, with a larger, fresher cup of coffee in hand, patiently waiting for the day’s events to begin.  Chant, a Hyde Park Thai food bistro conveniently positioned on the bustling 53rd Street, was the setting for breakfast with Santa and a lively press conference featuring several home-grown elected officials.  In attendance were Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama; Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle; Senator Kwame Raoul; State Representative Barbara Flynn Currie; 4th Ward Alderman Will Burns; Mike Davis and Wallace Goode of the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce and a host of volunteers organized by the Chamber and Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP).

Despite the dismal weather, 53rd Street was abuzz with lights and the sound of honking horns in support of this community action.  Laughter glittered across the familiar faces that spoke at the press conference podium as fond memories were shared about life growing up in this close-knit neighborhood.   As the conference came to a close, Jarrett took a moment to reflect on the life of the late Maggie Daley, wife of the former Mayor Richard M. Daley and a great Chicagoan who championed for our youth and community.  It was in that spirit of community that Jarrett encouraged the audience to go out and support the local economy.

Now, just one year later, I am once again a proud resident of Hyde Park.  I relish in the fact that my fellow neighbors and I take so much pride in our local small businesses.  We know that it is shops like What the Traveler Saw, Wesley’s Shoe Corral, Kimbark Beverage Shoppe, Café 53, Hyde Park Produce and a host of other small and family-owned businesses that drive our community and communities like ours all across America.

Join me this November 24th, between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, on Small Business Saturday and support the local businesses in your neighborhood that work hard to keep America going strong.  Please click here to learn more about Small Business Saturday and to participate in events in your local community.

Kristin Travis Picture (PTAC Associate)

Kristin J. Travis is the Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) Associate at the WBDC. See pictures from her experience here.

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Filed under American Express, Business, Entrepreneur, Established Business, Small Business, Small Business Saturday, Special Events, WBDC, WIPP

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

Encore Business Owners Share Business Tips

(L-R) Judith Roussel, IL District Director; SBA, Merrie Dee, AARP Illinois President; Hedy Ratner, WBDC co-founder & co-president; and Marianne O’Brien Markowitz Regional Administrator
U.S. Small Business Administration, Midwest Region

The speakers and audience may have been 50-plus, but their age wasn’t the issue. Starting a business was.

Nearly 50 mature women and men gathered at the WBDC on Tuesday evening, October 2, during the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) “National Encore Entrepreneur Mentor Day.” Marianne Markowitz, SBA regional administrator, and Judith Roussel, SBA Illinois district director, welcomed the group, then turned the program over to the celebrated speaker and media pioneer Merri Dee, now a business owner in her own right as well as president of the executive council of Illinois-AARP. Dee led a lively panel discussion featuring “encore” entrepreneurs on the rewards of starting a business after age 50.

The speakers were Donna Smith Bellinger, owner of Group Endeavors; Ben Hollis, former host of WTTW’s “Wild Chicago” and now an independent video producer who started Ben Hollis Worldwide; Joanne Cleaver, a former business journalist who launched a public affairs company Wilson-Taylor Associates; and Alan Jacobs, a former entrepreneur-of-sorts who volunteers at SCORE.

Their life experiences were as varied and diverse as they were, which is what made their words of wisdom all the more salient.

Merri Dee

“All you need are three things: passion, purpose – and a paycheck!”

Donna Bellinger

“The resource that helped me the most was my database of contacts. I started my business without a dime, but I had my database.”

Alan Jacobs

“I was a serial entrepreneur – a manufacturer’s rep who never had a regular job or paycheck. I understand exactly what it takes to succeed as a business owner. In my opinion, entrepreneurs who fail weren’t prepared.”

Ben Hollis

“I encourage people to embrace and live the wild life. Harness your passion, your wildness….I used to undervalue everything I did. I was just a funny guy. The limitations we place on ourselves get in the way. By listening to other people, I was able to reassess my own value. Pay attention to the things you do best. It’s what other people appreciate in you.”

Joanne Cleaver

“I restarted my career several times. I decided to base my latest transition on my skills. As a certified media trainer and coach, I now apply my skills to a different set of clients. I’ve transitioned from being self-employed to being a job-creator with a contract staff of specialists. My biggest challenge? In realizing my value. The biggest obstacle? Myself.”

With part of the evening’s focus on celebrating mentorship, the speakers shared advice on how to be a good mentor and mentee. Cleaver, for example, said joining professional organizations helped her develop peer mentors who mentored each other. Bellinger suggested looking for mentors who are honest and direct and who “have achieved what you struggled to achieve.” Don’t overlook the younger generation, she advised. You can learn from each other.

The WBDC will survey seminar attendees to determine whether a special affinity group for women business owners age 50-plus, and regular networking and educational sessions, are of interest.

Contributed by guest blogger Chris Ruys of Chris Ruys Communications.

For more pictures from the event, please click here.

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Filed under AARP, Business, Business Mentoring, Business Start-up, Entrepreneur, Established Business, SBA, Special Events, WBDC, WBDC News

Lisa Price – An Inspiring Guide to Entrepreneurial Success

Below is an article from Saundra Underwood, founder of Lady Alexandra Skincare Systems.  Ms. Underwood writes from a personal perspective of what Lisa Price, keynote speaker at the 26th Annual Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference Hall of Fame Luncheon, has meant to her.  Not only has Ms. Price served as an inspiration, but also as a guide to entrepreneurial success.

I love reading autobiographies and biographies to learn about the history of famous and not so famous people.  Reading them gives me more than just the details of their lives.  I get a glimpse into their minds, the times they lived in and the places they visited.  They also give me hope and inspiration especially when they begin their books with very little and end with all of their dreams realized.

I read Lisa Price’s book, Success Never Smelled So Sweet, as soon as it came off the presses.  Though I had been following her story for years by reading articles in Essence and Black Enterprise Magazine little did I know that I’d one day be writing a blog about her and Carol’s Daughter, her company.  The book is rich in details and very introspective.  She shared and bared her soul.  I remember her speaking frankly about the frustrations of going from job to job and not truly fitting in at some places of employment.  I understand more about myself and my quest to do what is best for me.  I too  am a maker and creator of natural skincare products.  I’ve gone from one job to another not quite feeling comfortable in many positions; feeling as if something is not quite right.  What’s not quite right for most entrepreneurs is the feeling of neglecting the entrepreneurial spirit.

That entrepreneurial spirit can never be denied, pushed aside or crushed.  It will rise up when you least expect it.  It will come again and again until it is nurtured and given enough attention to be a force to be reckoned with.  Many have put into words exactly what it is but the best way to define it is by action.

In her book Ms. Price became alive and active when she was making and creating magic with scents, flowers and potions. She became alive with the research of the effects of scent on the mood and mindset.  The feedback from customers drove her forward.    Something that struck me from Lisa’s book was that her family members worked for and with her for years without drawing a salary.  I remember thinking what an amazing family.

While reading Success Never Smelled So Sweet I would often compare my story to Lisa’s.  I figured if my actions lined up with hers then one day I’d become the owner of a multimillion dollar enterprise.  I have passions and dreams, the drive to create and customers who love my products just as she does..   The one thing I didn’t have was family support only because I live three states away from my family.  But what I did have was a network of friends who have come to my aid whenever I needed their expertise or just support.  I still plug along but know that with time and effort the entrepreneurial spirit will guide me.

– Saundra Underwood

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Filed under Business Mentoring, Business Start-up, Entrepreneur, Special Events, Uncategorized, WBDC, Women Business Owner, Women in Business

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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Filed under Business, Business Leaders, Entrepreneur, Established Business, Procurement, Special Events, Uncategorized, WBDC, WBE, Women in Business

Plugging in with @thetechweek’s @ArabellaTV

It was a lack of innovation that led Arabella Santiago to become an innovator.  Stemming from a stint as a newspaper intern, followed by a successful run as a web editor for a west coast paper, Arabella realized print media was becoming a thing of the past, unwilling to listen to its customers.

That was Arabella in 2004 at 23 years old; now at 31 she has found her passion for reporting and drive for discovering unseen possibilities mix well with highlighting the talents of entrepreneurs.  When I asked Arabella about why she packed her things and made the trek from Silicon Valley to Chicago she said, “Chicago is the burgeoning tech hub.  You can feel the sense of opportunity and ambition.  There’s something here in Chicago, and I’m intrigued by it and I know it’s already happening.”

Arabella talks of entrepreneurs with a sense of awe, almost unaware that she herself is one, having created StartUp Live, a website filled with a collection of videos based on the start-up culture.  When it comes to the culture of start-ups, Arabella has a great grasp on what makes small business owners tick: “The journey of the business owner fascinates me.  As long as they don’t give up, they always succeed.  Even though there are many failures along the way, they go hand in hand with the successes. The perseverance goes a long way.”

Arabella has been part of TechWeek from the beginning.  Originally hired by one of the founders for the inaugural event in San Francisco, she stepped into the role of executive director for the Chicago event late last year.   There’s something for everyone during the conference, with 101 workshops on development or connecting with people offline.  Even if you’re not in the tech industry you can find out how to start small and work your way up.  Small business owners take note – if you’re looking for a web designer, an SEO genius or simply someone to make it all make sense, take a moment to stop in!

I turned the conversation towards the women of TechWeek, of which there are plenty to pick from.  “It’s important for people to realize that technology will help you do business better.  Women are harnessing the power of social media for their small businesses; now we can see the female programmers and developers that aren’t often in the spotlight.”  When asked which one woman inspired her, Arabella answered first with Hillary Clinton, quickly followed by her close friend and mentor, Yumi Kim, a New York fashion designer who took her business from “barely getting by” to “booming” through the power of e-commerce.

“Chicago is going to be the heart of TechWeek as it continues to grow.  It is and will continue to be the marquee event.  Chicago needs a new industry.  Manufacturing is tough and there’s room for technology.”

Reported by the Women’s Business Development Center’s (WBDC) Bethany Hartley.

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