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How Successful Women Entrepreneurs Land Corporate Contracts

How Successful Women Entrepreneurs Land Corporate Contracts

The Women's Business Enterprise National Council's new president believes that certification can help women-owned businesses become important links in the global supply chain

Karen E. Klein | Business Week

As it embarks on its second decade, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, has chosen a new president and released results of a survey showing that female consumers will go out of the way to patronize corporations that do business with women entrepreneurs. WBENC runs a process that certifies companies as principally owned, operated, and controlled by women. A WBENC certification allows many female entrepreneurs to bid for contracts through large corporate supplier diversity programs.

Read the survey in its entirety here.

The group’s new president, Linda Denny, recently spoke about her plans for the organization. Edited excerpts of their conversation follow:

The organization was founded in 1997 and you’ve been with the group since 2003, after a career as an insurance executive. What do you see as the future of women-owned business?

I think the future will be extremely bright. Part of that is due to our mission, which is to level the playing field and open the doors of opportunity for women business owners by getting them corporate contracts. That’s a mission that I think is probably never going to quite go away. But what’s exciting is that with supply chains becoming global, we have the challenge of helping our corporations and our women-owned small businesses find their places in that international supply chain.

How much progress have you seen for women in business over the last few years?

Oh, I’ve seen huge progress. Not just in the sheer numbers of women-owned businesses but also in the size of women’s businesses. They are really growing up. We are always going to have women owning small, home-based businesses, and one- or two-person businesses, but when we look at the companies seeking WBENC certification, we see that they are growing a lot.

Why do you think that is?

There are many reasons, I think, that we see women-owned companies getting larger and better established financially. Some of it is that groups like ours are teaching women how to manage their companies and providing a lot of educational opportunities. And we’re also seeing large corporations establish business development programs and mentoring programs where they are helping their smaller, minority- or women-owned subcontractors.

What are the advantages of getting a WBENC certification?

If a woman becomes certified through WBENC, she gets listed in our database. Larger corporations use that database to seek suppliers and enhance their purchasing and supplier diversity programs. But the small-business owners also have to understand how to use their certification as a marketing tool. What certification helps them do is open the door and allows them to compete for certain kinds of contracts that they might not have had the ability to compete for before. They still have to win the contract the old-fashioned way, of course, by providing the best value.

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