October 26, 2016
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Washington, DC. June 29 -- Two thousand women's business enterprises (WBEs) and corporate procurement executives gathered in San Francisco to say "no" to a down economy at the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) Women in Business 2009: The Bridge to Quality National Conference and Business Fair. 

"Women's businesses are working to ignite our nation's economy and our renewed prosperity," declared Linda Denny, President and CEO of WBENC, the leading authority on and advocate for WBEs as suppliers to the nation's top corporations. "We have reached a milestone this year that I am pleased to announce at WIB2009 – 9,000 WBENC-certified WBEs!"

"While the economy is taking a downturn, the women at this conference have made the choice not to participate in a recession," said Tara D. Spann, Director, Diversity Initiatives at Staples. "Instead, they are thinking ahead of the curve and preparing themselves for the needs of their global customers." 

WBENC has fostered the delivery of its gold standard of WBE certification abroad by working closely with WEConnect United Kingdom and WEConnect Canada, and in the future with organizations in India and China, to enable global partnerships among WBENC Corporate Members and other women-owned businesses. Delegations from the U.K., Canada, and India attended the conference. 

In keeping with this theme of globalization, WBENC's Applause Award, which recognizes exceptional accomplishments and inspirational leadership, was given to Virginia Littlejohn, President and CEO of Quantum Leaps, and a lifelong innovator in women's business development; and Elizabeth Vazquez, Executive Director of Quantum Leaps, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to the growth of women-owned businesses in the U.S. and internationally which helped develop WEConnect U.K. and WEConnect Canada. 

Barbara Carbone, Partner, KPMG, was presented with the first William J. Alcorn Leadership Award by Cheryl Stevens, Vice President Supplier Diversity, Energy Future Holdings, and WBENC Board Chair. Carbone has held a variety of roles at WBENC to include Treasurer and Chair of the Finance Committee. The Alcorn Leadership Award was established in 2008 to recognize the leadership of a WBENC member, in honor of Mr. William J. Alcorn, WBENC's first Chairman of the Board of Directors. The Award recipient is selected by the Chairman of the WBENC Board of Directors with input from past chairs and the WBENC executive staff. 

To enhance the speed of contacts that can turn into contracts, WBENC launched "MatchMaker365," an innovative online business-to-business matchmaking, scheduling and tracking tool that provides MatchMaker access between corporate buyers and WBEs 365 days a year. 

Early Pipeline of Women's Business Talent 

The early part of the talent pipeline was celebrated at the Women in Business 2009 Conference. Nine exemplary university or business school students participated in the 2009 Women in Business Student Entrepreneurship program, led by three former program participants. The nine women received corporate mentoring, leadership training, and exposure to workshops throughout the conference. 

"Our students have sold products and services to Fortune 50 companies, and a few have launched businesses achieving gross revenues of more than $1-million prior to reaching the age of 25," said Michelle Johnson, Director, Supplier Diversity, The Home Depot, which underwrites the majority of the program's funding needs with support by other WBENC Corporate Members such as Office Depot. 

The Bridge to Quality

The pursuit of quality was the main driver of content. Symposia, workshops and speakers focused on the marks of quality to include sustainability statements and programs - green initiatives and corporate social responsibility; and core competency credentials, such as Six Sigma training or LEED and ISO certifications. 

"If WBEs want to win corporate contracts in today's brutal marketplace, they are going to have to raise the bar on the meaning of Quality," Denny said. "Excellent products, price, and customer service is expected; however, WBEs can differentiate themselves with the marks of quality to show that they are truly world class." 

With a forward-looking focus, the event targeted WBENC's 250 Corporate Members and the WBENC-certified WBEs by providing a new series of innovative Symposiums and Workshops. The three symposium tracks covered "Environmental Sustainability as a Mark of Quality"; "Manufacturing: Benchmarking to Drive Growth," and "Thriving in a Challenging Economy." Each gave attendees an in-depth look at the what, why, how, when and where needed to obtain the marks of quality. 

Conference speakers included executives from Corporate Co-Chairs Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, Senior Vice President and Chief Tax Officer, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., and Patricia R. Callahan, Executive Vice President, Office of Transition for the Wells Fargo/Wachovia merger. WBE Co-Chairs speaking were Ranjini Poddar, President of Artech Information Systems, L.L.C., and Holli Dorr, President and Founder, Hollister Construction Company. 

About Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC): 
The Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) is the leading advocate for, and authority on, Women's Business Enterprises (WBEs) as suppliers and vendors to the nation's corporations. Founded in 1997, WBENC is also the nation's leading third-party certifier of businesses owned and operated by women, with WBENC certification accepted by more than 1,000 corporations, representing America's most prestigious brands, as well as government entities at the state, local and Federal levels. Throughout the year, WBENC's RPOs provide opportunities for interactions between more than 250 member corporations and 9,000 certified WBEs at business building events and other forums. WBENC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that seeks and accepts donations from corporations, foundations and individuals that support its mission and programs. For more information, please visit www.wbenc.org. 

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