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How I went from WBENC "fan" to all out "enthusiast!"

                                                                A personal story.

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 Tai, Charles w/ WBENC Directors: Keisha & Miranda
I am not a woman business owner. I am one male employee working for one great woman-owned company.
Going out and realizing your dream of business ownership is no small feat. As 90% of those reading this blog can attest, regardless of your gender, you will face a lot of challenges. Capitalization, reaching your customers, branding, competing with the Goliaths, or just feeling all alone—these are some of the minefields that may determine if your enterprise grows or folds.
The stats for failure are daunting.  And who wants to be a stat?
I hope my experiences at WBENC will offer you these helpful tips and insights on your road to success.

Your woman-owned business is important. Your efforts are not small potatoes. The economic impact you are a part of accounts for about $3 trillion. Woman-owned businesses create and maintain over 23 million jobs. That’s 16 percent of all U.S. jobs. These jobs not only sustain the individual worker, but contribute to the economic security of their families and the economic vitality of their communities and the nation. The challenge is how best to connect with a platform that will recognize, assist, and appreciate who you are and what you do.

Discovering WBENC/WPEO (Women Business Enterprise National Council and Women Presidents’ Educational Organization) and the wonderful people who staff this organization helped to lift our company ship and continues to keep it sailing ahead. Moving and growing with WBENC can help you get successfully to shore, too.

Under the leadership of Ms. Marsha Firestone, Ph.D (Founder and President) WBENC/WPEO of NY provides us with peer advisory, access to business opportunities, education, recognition, community, and much more.
Regional Director Ms. Keisha Blake, along with her team of Jessica F., Leandra* J, Miranda C., Rachel W., Raesa W., Susan J., and Linda S. have always been there for us.

*Special note of thanks to WBENC's Ms. Leandra J. Assistant to Ms. Marsha Firestone
“Leandra, I will never forget how you helped me through my first gigantic one-on-one interview with a very large buyer. It was a busy event. Right before I went into this interview, you caught the panic on my face. Thank you for that reassuring hug. I shone that afternoon! I sure needed that one!”

WBENC EVENTS

WBENC events are valuable tools and vary in size and purpose—all designed to help the female business owner. From intimate roundtable lunches with corporate buyers to larger meetings with hundreds of buyers and other women entrepreneurs, these venues are inclusive and supportive.

My first networking WBENC event was a real breakthrough for me. New York City. Middle of summer. I had no clue what to expect. The place was packed. I didn’t know anyone except for a few faces I recognized from the WBENC website. I imagined there would be a bunch of talk in some sort of foreign business language. I would be that awkward outsider standing alone. The butterflies were not flying in formation. And where are my business cards? I needed a glass of water, or something. Then someone from the WBENC team smiled at me and introduced me to others at my table. I said hello and they smiled and said hello back. That really helped me break the ice. Everyone turned out to be authentically warm and friendly. And I was not the only man there with sweating palms, either.

That afternoon, I listened to some great speakers from WBENC and the corporate world as they explained the ropes—like how to capitalize on being a part of WBENC and how to navigate the WBENC process.

Navigating toward success at your next WBENC event

Here are a few tips:

1. When attending an event—no need to stand in awkward silence. Just say hello.

2. Not everyone talks about business, their company, or about themselves. Many people will introduce themselves, ask you about what you do, and patiently listen.

3. When involved in a conversation, it’s OK to take a breath. Just remember to smile. And don’t be afraid to excuse yourself when it’s time to move on. For example: “Well, it was nice meeting you and we should both probably mingle a little more… thanks again for chatting!” and then let them go.

4. Make learning your goal. The main purpose of any WBENC networking event, large or small, is to learn as much as you can from the invited speakers as well as the other attendees.

5. Connect comfortably with as many potential buyers as you can during the function but keep it light and friendly. For example: “Hi my name is _____. Here’s my card. May I have yours?

6. When asked, learn to provide a simple, short, and concise explanation of what you do. Keep in mind that most people you meet will not be able to remember everything you tell them about your company. First impressions are vital. Then focus on follow-up later.

7. Follow up with any prospect 24 to 48 hours after the event—tops. Write a personal email message saying that it was great meeting them at the event and include a brief outline of who you are. In your email, it’s also okay to say that you will call them at such and such a time to see if they might have any questions.

8. Remember—you are not alone. Networking events force you out of your comfort zone. My first event was intimidating but much of my fear was in my imagination.

9. Don’t try to make a million connections in one day. Focus on quality, not quantity. And don’t feel defeated if you didn’t get everything you expected from any one encounter. A few awkward encounters are human and natural. Praise yourself for stepping out.

10. Ask questions. Visit the WBENC website. Attend the events whenever and as often as you can. Keep your face out there. WBENC is networking at its best!

More on this can be found on WBENC's community pages.

SO WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

Get WBENC certified, if you aren’t already.
Getting certified as a WBENC business is simple and straightforward.
1. Is your business 51 percent owned, managed, and operated by one or more women who are U.S. citizens or permanent legal residents?
2. Does your documentation reflect this?
3. Can you schedule a site visit for WBENC to interview with the female owner(s)?
4. Have you read WBENC’s Standards and Procedures?

That’s it. It’s really that simple. And you’ll be able to enjoy all the advantages and opportunities that being a WBENC member can offer your woman-owned business.

Take it from this WBENC/WPEO enthusiast—you’re going to love it. And they will love you, too!
 
 
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Topics: woman owned business wbenc