Category Archives: WBDC News

Government Shutdown and Your Small Business- 5 Things You Need to Know

  1. There are several functions of the U.S. Small Business Administration that will be affected by the recent government shutdown. Click here for SBA’s Plan for Operating in the Event of Lapse of Appropriations packet.  Business functions such as applications for business loans guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will be halted until the agency returns to its normal operations. The agency will, however, still administer disaster loans for businesses, such as those affected by droughts or Hurricane Sandy.  Existing loan guarantees will remain in effect.  For a complete listing of loans you can and can’t get, please click here.
  2. Contractors can find a listing of the contingency plans of the Federal agencies with which they do business on the White House’s websiteThis includes agencies such as the General Services Administration (GSA), Department of Defense (DoD) and the SBA. You can find a list of full and partial agency shutdowns here.
  3.  Many Federal call centers and help desks will be closed at this time, but some will remain open. The Federal Service Desk – a call center designed to respond to questions regarding your System for Award Management (SAM) registration will remain open.  Additionally, SAM will remain operational; registrations can be updated, managed and processed throughout this time.
  4. Several Federal government websites will not be updated until funds are appropriated to their respective agencies.  Others, however, will currently remain operational, for example, Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps), the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), Security and Exchange Commission (SEC).
  5. Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) and Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) like the PTAC/SBDC at the Women’s Business Development Center are here to provide information as it becomes available regarding how your business may be affected.  Please do not hesitate to contact your local PTAC or SBDC.  If your business is located in Illinois, please click here to schedule an appointment with our PTAC/SBDC at the Women’s Business Development Center.  If your business is located outside of Illinois please click here to find a PTAC in your area or here to locate an SBDC in your area.
Kristin Travis Pic

Kristin Travis


by: Kristin Travis, IL PTAC Associate


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Filed under Business, Procurement, SBA, Small Business, Uncategorized, WBDC News

WBDC 4th Annual Technology Makeover Contest Winner – Rebecca Fyffe, ABC Humane Wildlife

We are all familiar with pigeons, especially those of located in the metro Chicago area.  And we all tend to have the same feelings about them – “gross, get rid of them.”  One Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) is making that happen: ABC Humane Wildlife. The company is led by Rebecca Fyffe who serves as the president and submitted the winning Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) Technology Makeover Competition.

2013 marked the first year the WBDC Technology Makeover Competition was offered on a national scale and only to Women Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) Certified WBEs.  The WBDC received applications from California to Florida and found there continues to be a need for updated technology within businesses of all sizes.

Rebecca’s organization has big plans for the software and hardware they won:

“The WBDC’s Technology Makeover is the best thing that could ever happen to my company. It would allow me to make a powerful and instant change that I estimate would increase my leads by 40 percent or more immediately! Within 90 days of having new hardware (server and workstations) ready to run our custom software, we would have the program in place just in time for the peak breeding season for most of Illinois’ animals as well as peak nest building season for bees.”

tech makeover

From L-R: Mark Key, CDW; Rebecca Fyffe, ABC Humane Wildlife; Carol Dougal, WBDC

ABC Humane Wildlife was announced as the winner of the Competition at WBENC’s 2013 National Conference & Business Fair in Minneapolis in June.  As a part of the prize package, Rebecca received hardware, software and marketing services from AT&T, CDW, Market M and Microsoft, as well as tickets to the WBDC’s 2013 Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference and WBENC’s 2014 National Conference.

For more information on ABC Humane Wildlife, please click here.

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Filed under Business, Technology, Uncategorized, WBDC News, WBDC- Minnesota, WBE, Women Business Owner, Women in Business

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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Filed under Business, Business Leaders, Business Start-up, Entrepreneur, Established Business, Marketing, Social Media, Technology, WBDC, WBDC News

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

Teaming for Contracts and Growing Your Business with the Federal Government

From (L-R): Denise Rodriguez-Lopez, American Express OPEN Advisor on Teaming; Freida Curry, PTAC Director, WBDC; Alexandra Ytuarte, American Express OPEN, Senior Manager, Customer Advocacy

American Express OPEN Victory in Procurement has done a fantastic job of creating a robust environment through its LinkedIn group, with discussion from group members, over 50% of who are either chief operating officers or business owners.  Denise Rodriguez-Lopez, American Express OPEN Advisor on Teaming, who recently spoke at the Women’s Business Development Center’s (WBDC) Victory in Procurement Marketing to the Federal Government event, provides insight.

Ms. Rodriguez-Lopez’s responses in the group, along with feedback from an attendee of the Chicago event, will give you a jumping off point in navigating government contracting and tell you what the Victory in Procurement program can offer your business.

Q: What do you look for in a successful teaming relationship?

Ms. Rodriguez-Lopez:

“When you are looking at a potential teaming partner, there are a lot of questions you need to answer:  Are they reliable? Do they have experience? Do they have a positive industry reputation? Are they solid financially? You need to be comfortable and trust who you team with. Once you have vetted them, think about what the “team” will offer [you]:  do their services/products complement yours and is there a demand for what the team may offer? Also remember that teaming does not necessarily have to be with folks you don’t know.  Don’t overlook former employers and businesses within your circle.”

Q: Are there any particular websites that are used to identify companies in search of teaming partners?

Ms. Rodriguez-Lopez:

“Federal Procurement Data System; USA Spending GSA E-Library; central Contractor Registration System*; trade associations for certain certifications, such as the 8(a) Association etc…”

Join the American Express OPEN Victory in Procurement LinkedIn group here:

Joanne Cleaver attended the May 3rd American Express OPEN Victory in Procurement Marketing to the Federal Government workshop. Below is her response when asked what she learned  from attending the May event as well as what attendees can learn from the Victory in Procurement Marketing to the Federal Government workshop in St.Louis on October 3rd?

“My key take away from the May OPEN [Marketing to the Federal Government] event was how to tailor my pitch to specific upcoming contracting opportunities. Denise Rodriguez-Lopez was an engaging and informative presenter, with well organized material and thorough answers to all our questions.

Based on what I learned, along with the ongoing coaching from the WBDC’s well informed staff, I have developed a ‘government pursuit plan’ that focuses on identifying the highest-potential opportunities, marketing my firm’s strategic communication services directly to small business advocates and hopefully to purchasing managers and customizing our materials to be most effective.  As a result of all this, I have been invited to respond to a proposal for a substantial subcontracting opportunity with another woman-owned business.”

-Joanne Cleaver, Wilson-Taylor Associates, Inc.  Develops and delivers effective strategic messages.  For more information about Ms. Cleaver’s business visit:

Register for the St. Louis American Express OPEN Victory in Procurement Marketing to the Federal Government here:

*Editors Note: As of July 29, 2012 ORCA and no longer exist. It is now If you have a prior CCR or ORCA account, it is possible to move data into, once you have registered.

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Filed under American Express, Business, Established Business, Procurement, Small Business, St. Louis Small Business, St. Louis Women Business, Uncategorized, WBDC, WBDC News, Women Business Owner

Building a Better Business with Mentoring

The WBDC has been counseling, educating and assisting potential business owners and established business owners since 1986. Now we are expanding our services to include a mentoring program.  “Women helping women” is a common theme here at the WBDC.  Not only is “Women” part of our name (Women’s Business Development Center), but our staff is 96% female.

Let’s take a look at some facts about women entrepreneurs:

  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, “male entrepreneurs in the United States outnumber their female counterparts 3.5 to 1.”
  • 2010 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Study that showed that “less than half the women surveyed (47.7%) believe they are capable of starting and running a business (compared to 62.1% of men.)”

These statistics are the reason women’s business centers continue to be relevant and necessary, and why the WBDC is launching a business mentoring service.  If we can close that gap by even a tenth of a percent by directing potential entrepreneurs/start-ups, and even established business owners, towards competent, qualified mentors, then we have successfully brought businesses into fruition and spurred economic development.

Need more reasons to get involved in a business mentoring relationship?

From a recent Forbes article:

Here are some of the key reasons to become a mentor, from the viewpoints of several different female mentors:

  • Better understand the business: “My mentee helped me see issues in the company that I didn’t know existed.”
  • Better understand how people perceive you: “I was able to see the perception others held of me, through the eyes of my mentee.”
  • Create a larger network: “By helping others I’ve also created a network of allies I can rely upon when I need help.”
  • Help solve issues: “I’ve been able to step out of my own shoes and help my mentees see things from other perspectives. This, in turn, has helped me in resolving issues within my own department.”
  • Personal satisfaction: “I have been able to watch and actively help younger women succeed in our industry – and it’s such a wonderful feeling to help another person succeed!”

Learn more at the WBDC’s mentee and mentor webinars on September 7th and September 11th, respectively.

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Filed under Business, Business Mentoring, Business Start-up, Entrepreneur, Established Business, Small Business, Uncategorized, WBDC, WBDC News, Webinar, Women Business Owner, Women in Business

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.


Filed under Business, Business Leaders, Certification, Entrepreneur, Small Business, Uncategorized, WBDC, WBDC News, Women in Business

14th Annual Child Care Business Expo: A Day of Celebration and Education!

This year the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) generated awareness and promoted the development of businesses during the 14th Annual Child Care Business Expo: Shining a Light on the Business Side of Child Care.

Throughout the day attendees were inspired, awarded and educated by speakers including Child Care Business Expo honorary chairs Illinois Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Child Care Business Expo chair Arabel Alva Rosales and child care financial expert Tom Copeland.

Take a look at the video below to see highlights from the June 2nd event.  For more pictures, please go to:

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Filed under Uncategorized, Established Business, Child Care, Special Events, WBDC News, Business, WBDC, Small Business, Tom Copeland

Your Business Website: The Open Sea or A Muddled Puddle?

Whether it’s reworking your current site or starting from scratch, building a website isn’t as difficult as it used to be.  It’s a challenge making a concise and effective website, but the initial investment will directly correlate with your return.  As the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) continues to redevelop our website, we are learning a great deal about ourselves and what are clients are looking for.  Take a look at these 5 tips to creating a better website for you, your business and your visitors.

  1. Make it easy: While the content you have may be amazing, it’s completely irrelevant if no one can find it.  Try the “grandma test” to know whether or not your site is easy to navigate. All your content should be available in two clicks or less.  Make it easy to digest by keeping the language simple and direct.  Often times, companies think they need to use a broad vocabulary filled with technical terms only insiders are familiar with.  This may not be the best idea as you never know what parts of your website may pop up for different searches and possibly open doors to new clients. Finally, make it easy to share.  When people can easily share an event or a story from your website, they are freely marketing your business.
  2. Keep it current:  Nothing is worse than a website with outdated content.  If your business is based on trends that change on a regular basis, be prepared to reflect that on your website.  While flashy buttons, zingy one liners and the like were trendy for television commercials and snail mail flyers, they just don’t translate to websites. Try to see your website as a window into your store; what do you want people looking through the window to see?  Certainly not 1970s shag carpeting, or in the internet world – clipart!
  3. Keep a clear voice throughout: The voice of your website refers to the tone in which your content is written.  This doesn’t mean all the content should be written by one person, but the manner of writing should be similar and reflect your business.  If you’re a toy distributor, you may have more whimsical wording, whereas a financial consultant maintains a professional tone.  On the other side, be comfortable with what your website looks like and how it works.  Stay true to your business and brand. On a more basic level, make sure there is continuity throughout with formatting – one font and standard colors for linking, headers, etc.
  4. Put the client first:  Often times business owners want to get ALL the information they know about their business and industry out on the website, making it a huge cluster of content.  This can be a mistake if the content is not well organized (see tip #1).  Make your website a great tease with more to offer once a relationship is developed. Keep it simple, and think like your client.
  5. Listen to the pros:  Whether you’re building your site on your own or having someone do it for you, make sure you take the advice of those who have done it before you.  If you’re using a developer/design team, take advantage of their expertise and lessons learned from other websites they’ve created.   If you’re building the site yourself, be sure to educate yourself on current site trends to have the most logical layout for your site.  It’s okay to look around at other sites and pull ideas from them, that’s the beauty of the internet: it’s open source!

What are some of your favorite sites?  Why is that?  Anything you think the WBDC should have on our site we don’t have already?  Let us know!


Filed under Business, Marketing, Small Business, Technology, Uncategorized, WBDC, WBDC News

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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