Over 6,000 Minority Business Enterprises and Corporate Partners Attend National Conference on Supplier Diversity in Atlanta
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supplier diversity executive accepting business card from an attendee at the matchmaker session

On Sunday, October 13, the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) kicked off its annual conference and business opportunity exchange in Atlanta.

With over 12,000 certified minority-owned businesses representing millions of consumers, NMSDC is the largest and most successful non-profit advocating for minority entrepreneurs in the country.

The conference draws over 6,000 minority-business owners and corporate partners from around the nation.

“Economic inclusion is one of the most urgent issues we face to ensure opportunity and prosperity for all Americans,” said Adrienne Trimble, President of NMSDC. “Our numbers prove our success in this area.

In 2018, we executed $400 billion in revenue for minority-owned businesses. Some 1.6 million U.S. jobs were created, resulting in $96 billion in wages earned.

Who: National Minority Supplier Development Council

NMSDC President: Adrienne C. Trimble

What: 2019 Conference and Business Opportunity Exchange

Where: Atlanta, GA Georgia World Congress Center

When: October 13 – 16, 2019

Click here for the full conference schedule

Why: Economic inclusion for all Americans is one of the most critical issues of our time.

About NMSDCNMSDC advances business opportunities for certified minority business enterprises and connects them to corporate members. To meet the growing need for supplier diversity, NMSDC matches its more than 12,000 certified minority-owned businesses to our network of more than 1,450 corporate members who wish to purchase their products, services and solutions. NMSDC, a unique and specialized player in the field of minority business enterprise, is proud of its unwavering commitment to advance Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American suppliers in a globalized corporate supply chain.

How Cooks Are Helping to End World Hunger
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woman wearing a blue apron that says Cooks Who Feed

Everyone has food waste, even if we try to be mindful about our purchases and how much we are preparing. While we may all account for a little here and there, it adds up to a lot of wasted food.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it’s estimated that 30-40 percent of our nation’s food supply is wasted. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization estimates that over 800 million people per year around the world do not have enough to eat. One organization, Cooks Who Feed, is taking on the mission of helping to feed the people who need it most.

“When I realized the facts surrounding food waste and world hunger, I felt I had to do something about it,” explains Seema Sanghavi, founder of the organization Cooks Who Feed. “We help make it easier to get involved in helping to end world hunger. One of our aprons will top the list of many gift buyers this season.”

The Cooks Who Feed organization has teamed up with well-known chefs to create a line of aprons that people can purchase. Every apron purchased provides 100 meals to those in need. The organization has addressed numerous areas of concern by working with charitable organizations around the globe that collect surplus food to provide immediate hunger relief.

The mission is helping to end world hunger, but the company is also addressing the environmental impact of food waste. The organization works with three charities that obtain food surplus and provide it to those in need. The charities they work with are Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, Second Harvest, and Zomato Feeding India. Over a third of Cooks Who Feed profits go to supporting their charity partners.

Beyond the food benefits that the apron sales provide, they also help to support underprivileged women in India. The aprons are all made in a fair-trade facility, giving the women a way to earn a living and rise above poverty so they can feed their families and help others. All of the aprons are environmentally friendly, handcrafted with natural and recycled fabrics. A lot of details have gone into each apron creating a stylish, functional and eco-friendly product that brings sustainable fashion to the kitchen.

Each of the organization’s celebrity chef ambassadors have created their own apron so their fans can purchase an apron designed by the chef. People can choose the one that suits them or the person they are gifting it to. Some of the celebrity chefs that have teamed up with Cooks Who Feed include:

  • Art Smith – Chef Art is an award-winning chef and co-owner of several restaurants, including Blue Door Kitchen & Garden, Art and Soul, and Southern Art and Bourbon Bar. He also spent 10 years being the personal chef of Oprah Winfrey. He’s known for his Southern fried chicken. Every purchase of his specially designed apron also supports Common Threads, which provides disadvantaged children free cooking and nutrition lessons.
  • Christine Cushing – An award-winning chef, Chef Christine is a judge on the hit Food Network program called Wall of Chefs, and won the 2020 Taste Award for “Best Chef” in a TV series for her food, travel documentary series called “Confucius Was a Foodie.” She also has an artisan line of tomato sauces.
  • Romain Avril – Best known for his appearance as a judge on Top Chef Canada All-Stars, Chef Romain has worked at a one and two Michelin star restaurant. He’s a star chef at such restaurants as Colborne Lane, Origin North Bar, and La Société Bistro.
  • Devan Rajkumar – After several years of high-end catering with the Food Dudes, Chef Romain moved into an executive chef role at Luxe Appliance Studio.
  • Gaggan Anand – Known for his progressive Indian cuisine, Chef Gaggan has repeatedly placed on the Restaurants of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. He earned two Michelin stars in the first edition of the Thailand Michelin guide in 2018. He opened the restaurant Gaggan Anand in Bangkok in 2019, and has been profiled in Netflix’s Chef’s Table.

“The greatest lesson in life is taught by our family, simply share our food,” added Chef Art Smith. “By being a part of this great program I’m living that lesson, because every apron purchase shares food with the world. It’s a great feeling to be a part of doing that.”

Cooks Who Feed was founded by Seema Sanghavi. She loves cooking and got the idea for the organization after visiting a nongovernmental organization in India, where women were earning a living by performing safe work. Two years later, she came across information about the food waste problem, and an idea was formed. The mission of the organization is to create a movement, providing 1 million meals per year, which would be made possible by 10,000 apron sales annually.

The Cooks Who Feed aprons come in a variety of colors and styles and start at $55, with free shipping within the U.S. In addition to the celebrity chef aprons, there are others to choose from. The aprons make great gifts for those who enjoy cooking. To get more information about the program or see the selection of aprons, visit the site: https://cookswhofeed.com/.

About Cooks Who Feed

Cooks Who Feed sells a line of fashionable aprons that have been sustainably made and help to feed the world. Working with charities that obtain surplus food, and providing it to the people who need it, the company helps people and the planet. The aprons are handcrafted, eco-friendly, and available online, for retail and for wholesale. To get more information, visit the site: https://cookswhofeed.com/.

Sources:

US Department of Agriculture. Food Waste FAQhttps://www.usda.gov/foodwaste/faqs

World Health Organization. World hunger is still not going down after three years and obesity is still growing.https://www.who.int/news/item/15-07-2019-world-hunger-is-still-not-going-down-after-three-years-and-obesity-is-still-growing-un-report.

WBC2020 RECAP: Brave Is An Unstoppable Community of Women
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collage of pictures featuring three diverse businesswomen

Even a pandemic can’t stop the women of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and their community of supporters.

That was clear by the turnout for NAWBO’s first-ever virtual National Women’s Business Conference (WBC) with the theme of “Brave Is…” in a year that marked the 45th anniversary of NAWBO as well as the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, which gave most women the right to vote.

As Jill Calabrese Bain, managing director, internal and corporate communications for Bank of America (WBC presenting sponsor for the eighth year), says: “Brave is all of the women who came before us and made it possible for us to be here today. Brave is all of you who are paving the way for the next generation of business owners. I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine all the accomplishments that are to come in the next 45 and 100 years.”

A fireside chat followed between Eva Saha, professional emcee and moderator, and Glennon Doyle, author, activist and founder of Together Rising. It was part of six live, interactive conference days filled with keynote speakers like Glennon, breakout sessions, workshops, networking, exhibit hall, awards gala and more.

Glennon, who recently released her latest bestselling book Untamed, shared about how for a long time, she felt like a “dormant cheetah with lipstick on.” “We are hiding from each other the very thing we’re meant to share and carry,” she explains. “It’s the shame about the pain in life that takes us out of the game.”

For Glennon, who opened up about everything from her broken marriage to her struggle with abandoning herself, truth telling in her writing proved life changing. “The only way to successfully parent, partner and love is to fully emerge.”

She went on to speak about what women are being charged with right now—juggling homeschooling, crisis parenting, keeping businesses going and more. “It’s not just hard, it’s impossible,” she says. “We’re so busy asking the world what it wants from us that we don’t stop and take the time to ask ourselves what we want from the world.”

She encouraged women to use this time deliberately and intentionally to create the life they really want for themselves—and to not go back to “normal” after COVID-19.

(Pictured l-r: Dr. Yasmin Davidds, Multicultural Women Executive Leadership Foundation, Rebecca Fyffe, Landmark Pest Management; bottom: Dr. Bertrice Berry, Lecturer & Comedienne)

Another keynote featuring several leading ladies of business was equally inspiring. They discussed obstacles they overcame, failures they learned from, wins that propelled their success and what bravery means to them.

Gail Becker, founder and CEO of CAULIPOWER and 2019 NAWBO Woman Business Owner of the Year, shares, “One thing I think I did right was I wasn’t afraid to admit I didn’t know it all. Part of being a successful entrepreneur is being free to admit this and then hiring around it.”

Amanda Spann, founder of The App Accelerator, built on the concept, saying, “You’re not always qualified to do things, but sometimes you’re just called to do them. When you have new ideas and projects, they’re on your spirit for a reason. Lean into your tribe and community to make these things happen.”

Other tips from these leading ladies, who also included Usha Boddapu, CEO of ESOLVIT, and Dr. Yasmin Davidds, CEO of the Multicultural Women Executive Leadership Foundation, Women’s Institute of Negotiation, were:

  • Bet on yourself.
  • Get out of your comfort zone.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail.
  • Be curious to learn.
  • Know you are enough—and leverage that.

WBC attendees agreed this year’s event was as near in-person as you can get and left them feeling even braver. “The theme this year ‘Brave Is…’ could not better exemplify who we are as women business owners,” says Vikita Poindexter, CEO of Poindexter Consulting Group, LLC and president of NAWBO California. “However, the year 2020, this theme resonated more than we could have ever imagined.”

“To come together and support each other, laugh, cry and share our trials and tribulations in this incredible virtual world was extremely powerful,” she adds. “The conference displayed our rich history, where we are today, what our focus should be going forward and how the next generation is blazing paths as well. It allowed us to be authentic and show our strength and resilience. NAWBONation is the definition of what brave is.”

And that’s not stopping anytime soon.

Winning Women
Click here to read about the four amazing women entrepreneurs who were honored at this year’s virtual awards gala, including our 2020 Woman Business Owner of the Year.

Photo Credit: Karianne Munstedt Portrait

Rihanna Joins ‘Forbes’ List Of America’s Richest Self-Made Women
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Rihanna feature cover on professional women's magazine wonder woman

Forbes has unleashed its list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women and there are plenty of recognizable names.

According to the outlet, the entire ranking of trailblazers are worth a collective $90 billion and have “have started or helped expand companies that do everything from build rockets to create snowboards to make Covid-19 tests.” At the top of the ranking is roofing entrepreneur Diane Hendricks, co-founder of ABC Supply, one of the country’s largest wholesale distributors of roofing, siding and windows. She tops the list for the third year in a row with her empire, which reportedly exceeds $8 billion.

Meanwhile, Rihanna makes her first appearance on the list at the No. 33 spot, courtesy of her cross-genre ventures. In addition to her Fenty Beauty line, the pop titan also has her Savage x Fenty lingerie line, as well as her music ventures, racking up an estimated $600 million for her earnings across the board in 2019.

Among the other celebrity appearances include Kris Jenner, who nabbed her first entry at the No. 92 spot with a net worth of $190 million. Oprah Winfrey returns to this year’s ranking at the No. 9 spot with a net worth of $2.9 billion, while Kim Kardashian took the No. 24 spot with her net worth of $780 million and little sister Kylie Jenner took the No. 29 position with a net worth of $700 million. Lady Gaga and Jenniffer Lopez both snagged the No. 97 spot with their net worth of $150 million.

Continue on to 1043myfm to read the complete article.

STEM Female Founders Can Get Funding Without Giving Up Equity In Their Companies Or Need To Pay The Money Back
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woman in background pointing finger to digitally enhanced image floating across screen

Female founders have more options for funding than many realize. Making those options known is the next step. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) are federal grant opportunities for women who start STEM companies.

We all know that female founders don’t get their fair share of venture capital. According to the Q3 2020 PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor, startups with all female founders receive a low and declining amount:

  • VC capital: 2.6% in 2019 and 1.8% in Q1,2&3 2020

It makes it all the more critical that women know about other funding sources. For women with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) startups, grant dollars from the federal government could be an additional capital source. While the dollars available are lower ($3.6 billion in 2018) than venture capital ($135.8 billion in 2019), your chances of getting funding are nearly five times higher. Best of all, the grants are non-dilutive. That means you do not have to give up any equity in your company. Since it’s a grant, you also don’t have to pay the money back.

Currently, 11 Federal agencies participate in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and five of those agencies also participate in the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. Each agency administers its program. The agencies include the Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and National Science Foundation.

The SBIR and STTR programs mandate those federal agencies with procurement budgets of $100 million or more set aside 3.2% to fund their SBIR programs. Agencies with an R&D budget above $1 billion must also set aside 0.45% of those funds for the STTR program. The pool of money available in 2018 was $3.6 billion.

Just as getting venture capital is a complicated process, so too, is receiving SBIR/STTR grants. The application process is highly competitive. However, if the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) has anything to do with it, it will be easier for you to learn about opportunities like these and evaluate if they are a good fit for you.

NWBC is a federal advisory committee established to serve as an independent source of advice and policy recommendations for the President, the US Congress, and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) on issues of importance to women business owners and entrepreneurs.

The Council recently released America’s Seed Fund: Women’s Inclusion in Small Business Innovation and Small Business Technology Transfer Programs. The report is the first comprehensive analysis of women’s participation in the SBIR/STTR programs as business owners or principal investigators.

“The idea to do this research came out of our annual meeting in 2019,” said Monica Stynchula, chair, NWBC’s Women in STEM subcommittee, and REUNIONCare CEO and founder. An official from the Patent and Trademark Office had a deck of cards with female trailblazers and their different inventions. “We had never seen anything like this. The committee recommended that the Council do a study to find out exactly how many women are accessing the SBIR/STTR opportunities.”

The total number of women-owned small businesses (WOSB) SBIR/STTR Awards decreased to 13% in 2018, down from 14.4 in 2013. Even though the number decreases, the percentage is higher than venture capital (2.7% in 2019 and 2.2% in Q1&2 2020). The Department of Education (29.5%), followed by the Department of Transportation (22.7%) and the National Science Foundation (17.6%), gave out the highest percentage of awards. The Department of Defense ($1.75 billion), followed by the Department of Health and Human Service ($1.08 billion) and Department of Energy ($280 million) have the largest budgets.

To increase the representation of women-owned businesses in the SBIR/STTR programs, NWBC is recommending that:

  • The SBA ensures streamlined and more consistent data collection and reporting on women’s inclusion in these programs. “Data needs to be collected on an annual basis and provide more granular information,” said Stynchula. For example, currently, male/female teams aren’t tracked. It is well documented that diversity leads to greater success.
  • Congress should ensure the agencies have enough resources to do outreach to women and other economically disadvantaged groups. “Some agencies do a better job than others,” said Liz Sara, chairmen of the board at NWBC and founder and president at Best Marketing. “There no one size fits all, but, by sharing successes, each agency can develop a program that works for them and female founders,” said Stynchula. “Finding a champion in an agency is critical to success.”
  • The definition of ‘women-owned business’ should be expanded to allow women and minority-owned firms to accept VC and equity investments. Many of these firms have angel and venture capital investors. I’ll add that because the most successful companies have diverse teams that include both men and women, diversity needs to be considered.
  • Participating agencies should offer the opportunity to do an initial pitch to determine if the company’s idea is a fit for the program. “The process to do these applications takes a significant amount of time and research to do,” said Sara. “If there were a quick pitch phase, it would eliminate women-owned businesses that are outside the scope.”

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.

SBA Helps Woman-Owned Business Receive $140 Million in Federal Contracts
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Necole seated on office desk smiling

Each year, companies graduate from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Business Development 8(a) Program, with the potential and capabilities to grow into successful businesses.

SBA’s 8(a) Program helps firms develop and grow through one-on-one counseling, training workshops, management and technical guidance. It also provides access to government contracting opportunities, allowing the companies to become solid competitors in the federal marketplace. In fiscal year 2018, small businesses received more than $17.6 billion in 8(a) contract dollars.

Enter The ELOCEN Group, which is the first name spelled backwards of the owner, Necole Parker Green, who started the company in her parent’s basement in 2006. The ELOCEN Group is a woman- and minority-owned construction company specializing in construction, consulting and design services for federal and commercial clients.

One of the biggest challenges for Necole was gaining equal respect and access to the same opportunities as her male counterparts in the construction industry. Necole entered the SBA’s 8(a) Program in 2009. While in the program, Necole said, “We’ve been able to regularly exceed targeted goals, consistently increase staffing year over year, and leverage relationships established throughout our engagement with SBA.”

The SBA certifies socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses under its nine-year 8(a) Business Development Program. Individuals who are members of certain minority groups are presumed socially disadvantaged. These groups include African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian Pacific Americans and Subcontinent Asian Americans. Firms owned by Alaska Native Corporations, Indian Tribes, Native Hawaiian Organizations, and Community Development Corporations are also eligible to participate in the program.

Necole has since graduated from the 8(a) Program and believes it was instrumental to her growth. The proof is in the pudding. The ELOCEN Group has received more than $140 million in federal contracts throughout its tenure in the 8(a) Program.

Necole has now established a joint venture agreement with the SBA’s All Small Mentor-Protégé Program and has partnered with large prime contractors on other federal contracts. In 2015, the SBA named The ELOCEN Group DC’s Small Business Person of the Year.

Necole has been an American Express Summit for Success ambassador at their annual events, providing business insight to entrepreneurs on becoming a trusted government contractor, growing to scale and successfully navigating the complexities of working with large firms.

Today, The ELOCEN Group’s core values continue to include operating with uncompromising integrity, showing a commitment to building synergistic “win-win” relationships, offering unparalleled excellence in service through partner collaborations, and melding growth opportunities into demonstrated best practices.

Small businesses interested in the 8(a) Program should contact their local SBA district office to attend an informational session.

More information and an online 8(a) application are available at: sba.gov/8abd/.

Time to be Her Own Boss While Family Operates Three Businesses
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Kelly Amundson sitting behind the wheel of her Pet Butler work vehicle that says We Scoop Poop

Although Kelly Amundson loved her 16-year career as an occupational therapist, she realized in 2019 that the time had come to help husband Marty manage the family farm and his lawn care businesses.

It would allow her to spend more time working towards a common goal alongside her husband and also allowed her to run and operate one of the newest, hottest franchise concepts Pet Butler with their location serving all of South Eastern Minnesota. All this and more time to spend her family in general.

“I learned so much in my career working with teenagers and young adults in the areas of mental health experience and many lessons about teamwork, dealing with whole families and working towards a common goal. It was all invaluable. And now I am using those skills to run my own business, and my husband’s lawn care businesses.”

Husband Marty has worked in lawn care for 19 years, initially starting his own lawn mowing business up years before with Kelly’s brother. The team serviced residential and commercial properties. He began moving into providing fertilization and weed control programs for these local customers and realized there was so much more to a good lawn care business than mowing lawns. When approached by top lawn care franchise Spring-Green Lawn Care, based in Plainfield, Illinois five years ago, Marty decided the time was right to add this proven concept to his already existing Green Edge Lawn Care. At one of Spring-Green’s conventions he was introduced to a new concept the parent company had acquired, Pet Butler.

Pet Butler provides pet waste removal and other pet related services to homes and multi-family communities, also offering a variety of scheduling options. The business model is also set up to add expanding services such as; pet sitting and pet shuttles. The franchise offers large, protected territories that foster scalable growth and strong recurring revenue.

Said Kelly, “Marty has been blessed with the courage to take risks, to start business’, and with the opportunity to hire good staff and delegate work. Now we get to have a hands-on opportunity to start a new business together with Pet Butler, working off of Marty’s experience, corporate’s assistance, and my willingness to take on something out of my comfort zone. This will be a chance to promote more personal growth, and an opportunity to provide jobs for more people as the business grows. This will be another business we can begin as a legacy for our family. We feel our children have a lot of great learning opportunities here at home.”

About Pet Butler

Pet Butler Franchise was acquired in 2017 by Spring-Green Enterprises, the parent company of +43 years old Spring-Green Lawn Care and SGE Marketing Services. They currently have 30 franchisees located in 25 states with long term plans to open 60 more within the next 5 years. Pet Butler provides an opportunity for pet lovers to turn their passion for pets into a business. To learn more about how Pet Butler serves pets and their people, visit www.petbutler.com and connect on Facebook and LinkedIn. To inquire about a franchise call 844-777-8608 or go to www.petbutlerfranchise.com.

 

How One Woman is Reinventing the Wedding Industry
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Amy Grace decorating for an outdoor wedding while looking at the camera

Amy Grace Collins loved her work through Amy Grace Events. She was doing incredible corporate events and weddings for organizations and couples at the most amazing venues in California and Michigan, with the very best in everything—food, flowers, music, photography, videography and more.

But she saw a trend that concerned her with the dream weddings she was helping California brides make a reality: They wanted $60,000 events when they could barely afford $15,000, so they were headed out of Santa Barbara to less expensive destinations, like the dessert of Palm Springs.

“My background is in finance, so I’m acutely aware that the money goes where the trends are,” said Collins, a NAWBO-Central Coast California member, who currently resides with her family in Michigan but works in California as well. “I started looking for an option to keep Santa Barbarians in their local town.”

Part of an international mastermind group of wedding planners, Collins began sharing her thoughts on calls. She learned that a fellow planner in Australia was in the process of implementing pop-up weddings. The concept was that several couples would have their wedding at the same location, on the same day, enjoying the same vendor resources—just in their 3- to 5-hour window and with a small group of friends and family in attendance.

While the concept would take some time to tweak for the American market, Collins knew she was onto something big.

“I reached out last summer to all my vendor friends saying, ‘I have this crazy idea…’ We talked about it and I ran every financial number I could,” says Collins. “There are a lot of models out there that undercut the vendors, so they only do the events on off-days.

“But couples want a Saturday or Sunday wedding for less, so we created these and started working on marketing them in February.”

Then COVID-19 hit. “There were brides booked for March and April who were stuck in contracts and out $60,000,” said Collins, adding that the biggest engagement season is between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day and brides usually start reaching out to wedding planners in the spring…and it’s been silent.

Collins’ thoughts immediately turned to the women who are part of MasterBrides—her other business, which is a free, online community for brides to learn about weddings from an industry veteran. She knew these women didn’t have tens of thousands of dollars to lose. Also, would it even possible for them to plan their weddings in the age of Coronavirus with so many unknowns from state to state, especially in California and Michigan, that tend to be among the strictest? Amy began sharing her research and expertise in blogs like, How Do I Know If I Should Cancel or Postpone My Wedding? and The Phased Strategy to Open America: What Does This Actually Mean for My Wedding? By the response she received from brides, it was clear it was time to pivot and focus on pop-up weddings. Her own industry, on the other hand, wasn’t so thrilled about what she was putting out there, but Amy felt strongly it was the right thing to do.

Today, that honest, timely communication has paid off. Amy is now offering pop-up weddings where she leverages the cost of a $60,000 wedding and distributes it three ways between couples so they can have stunning weddings for a fraction of the price. These are all-inclusive, with 90 percent of the decisions already made. She just helps each couple finalize the personalization aspects to make it their own event.

There are other advantages to this model, too. For one, it’s recommended that the guest list is small with just 40-80 people. In this time of social distancing, that’s the perfect size. Also, it’s environmentally friendly. Whereas before, thousands of dollars on everything from flowers to food would go to waste after one big event, now several couples are taking advantage of the same resources.

“I think this will completely shift the mindset of brides,” Collins says. “To see the couples’ expectations from 2002 when I first started, to 2020 is mind-blowing—it’s the same amount of money with way different expectations. This is really resetting the industry so that couples are having a wedding within their means.”

Collins is equally excited about another outcome: A focus on the ceremony more so than the party. “I have always been frustrated by the lack of reverence given to the ceremony portion of the wedding,” she explains. “To have people now see the importance of the actual ceremony and license and how it affects so much in their life, from health care to taxes to immigration. It’s so much deeper and I think we, as an industry, will be appreciated in such a different way. I look forward to that.”

Advice for Business Resilience from Top Companies
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A collection of signs reading "help", "support", "advice", and "Guidance"

The Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), in collaboration with American Express, recently released the 13th annual ranking of the 50 Fastest-Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies. The companies on this year’s 50 Fastest list span a range of industries, including healthcare, technology, and consulting. From January to December 2019, the 50 Fastest generated a combined $3.8 billion in revenue and collectively employed more than 17,000 people.

“The 50 Fastest Growing Women Owned/Led Companies are a trailblazing group of women who are leading some of the most successful businesses around the globe,” said Jessica Ling, Vice President and General Manager, Marketing Strategy, Content and Experiences at American Express. “I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with some of these business owners and learn more about the creative ways they’ve pivoted to not only keep their businesses running but also to support their employees, customers and communities through these trying times.”

At the annual WPO conference, held virtually on July 22 and 23rd, Jessica spoke with four of the 50 Fastest Awardees for a fireside chat on the topic of resilience and leading in uncertain times. Asma Ishaq, CEO of Modere, Patricia Bible, Founder and CEO of KaTom Restaurant Supply Inc., Jenelle Coy, Founder and Managing Partner of Spero and Sujata Stead, CEO of Cambridge Boxhill Language Assessment, shared their advice for navigating these unprecedented times.

When asked what advice they would give business owners that are looking to grow, especially in today’s climate, each provided key insights and personal anecdotes for growing and remaining resilient through the pandemic.

Asma Ishaq of Modere, ranked third on the list, said that it’s important to double down on existing customers.

Headshot of Asma Ishaq

“This is a time when you can develop a deeply impactful impression on customers. We have done everything we can to show our customers that we’re in this together, and they have gone to great lengths to reciprocate their loyalty,” says Asma.

“It is more efficient and less costly to retain customers than it is to acquire them. We felt a need to prove to our customers that we value their business and well-being.”

When asked the same question, Jenelle Coy of Spero, number seven of the list, said, “Passionate optimism and confidence are must-haves no matter what current circumstances you’re experiencing. Have a Deja vu mindset that you’re starting your business all over again and reevaluate your strategy, staffing and operations from the ground up to compete and thrive in the new normal.”

When asked the same question, Jenelle Coy of Spero, number seven of the list, said,

Headshot of Jenelle Coy of Spero

“Passionate optimism and confidence are must-haves no matter what current circumstances you’re experiencing. Have a Deja vu mindset that you’re starting your business all over again and reevaluate your strategy, staffing and operations from the ground up to compete and thrive in the new normal.”

Patricia Bible provided insights into what KaTom Restaurant Supply Inc., number 10 on the list, is doing to support both staff and customers in this challenging time. “KaTom has taken on the approach of looking internally first,” said Patricia.

Headshot of Patricia Bible

“We look at all our associates as customers first and if they are happy then our customers are happy. We’ve taken extreme measures including additional training for staff to help mitigate the fears that so many are struggling with and to also give them confidence when speaking with their customers. We have found that investing in employees pays tremendous dividends.”

Patricia went on to explain how impactful her staff has been. “With 53 percent of our operating force being millennials, we do a lot of listening as they bring invaluable direction.”

“Firstly, you need to have passion and believe in your business as well as what you stand for and the value you offer to your customers,” said Australia-based Sujata Stead, ranked number 15 on the list.

Headshot of Sujata Stead

Building an organization and turning it into a profitable and sustainable enterprise requires a phenomenal amount of hard work so you need to love what you do – whether it’s your product or service, customers or staff – this will make the journey worthwhile.

“Secondly, it is important to build organizational resilience and agility. We are living in a world that is increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. This means we need to be able to pivot at short notice and have the ability to evolve. As an organization, you have to have passion for what you do, the community you serve and the ecosystem you’re part of.”

The businesses on the 50 Fastest list have demonstrated the true meaning of resiliency during the current climate.

For more information on this year’s 50 Fastest, click here.

Ready for Business
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Christine Keith's Headshot

For some, working in the time of the Coronavirus meant putting the brakes on a fast-paced schedule to follow stay-at-home health orders in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. For others, relocating from the office to working from home meant shifting into overdrive to keep pace with a new normal.

Transportation executive Christine Keith knows what it’s like to live in the fast lane 24/7 while keeping a successful business going and sheltering in place.

Keith is the president of Elite Auto Network Corporation, an auto brokerage firm serving individual clients, public agencies and corporations. Keith’s husband, Todd, founded Elite as a college student in 1987. Keith saw an opportunity to expand Elite’s clientele with a niche market that other auto brokers had overlooked – businesses in need of fleet vehicles. She developed Elite’s commercial division, which handles the fleet vehicle requirements of private, local and state government agencies. Her accounts include Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro), Southern California Gas and the nationwide chain of Davey Tree Expert Company.

Elite Auto Network wasn’t Keith’s first time growing a business through identifying an unfilled market demand. Her father operated a 12-room health clinic in the Boyle Heights community of Los Angeles. Keith frequently accompanied her father to his clinic and later became a physician. The community’s need for affordable healthcare led Keith to expand her family practice into a free clinic. Eventually, the Los Angeles Mission, which had been renting a few of their rooms, offered to lease the entire clinic. Keith agreed and took some time off to learn the operations of her husband’s auto brokerage business. That was 11 years ago.

In March, as schools closed and the quarantine forced most offices to shut their doors, Keith prepared for her staff to work remotely. She readied packets with essential work documents, such as forms and reference guides, for employees to take home. She also issued everyone a desktop computer and had an internet technology professional to secure the system.
“I did all the things we needed to do so we can keep on moving forward remotely,” said Keith.

The mother of two children, ages 13 and 8, now works 12 hours a day and is the primary caretaker for her 93-year-old father. It may be counterintuitive, but Keith says she gets more done each day working from home, now that she has blocks of uninterrupted time.

“I’ve accomplished a lot more because I’m not so distracted with office meetings and people coming in and out asking questions,” said Keith. “So, I’ve been able to focus on things that I’ve wanted to get done.”
Although Keith is one of the lucky ones whose business increased during the pandemic, there are a few key elements that she says put her business in a position to prosper.

The right attitude.

Keith said there are always plenty of things to complain about, but staying grateful is her biggest motivator. She always believed that there were still deals to be made. “I’m a very determined person and it’s just in me to be positive all the way through any situation,” said Keith. “I really believed that our business would flourish and it has.”

Network and education.

When Keith started the commercial fleet division of Elite Auto Network, she didn’t know anything about doing contract work. She certified the business as a Woman Minority Business Enterprise (WMBE), Small Business Enterprise (SBE), Disadvantage Business Enterprise (DBE) and a Local Business Enterprise (LBE). She began going to seminars, conventions, chamber of commerce events, and joined the Southern California Minority Business Development Council. “I said I was going to learn everything I could about contracting and I did,” said Keith.

The first contract she landed was with Davey Tree Expert Company, a large nationwide landscaping company. They have a huge fleet in California and Elite Auto Network provided a lot of their vehicles.

Following-up on bids.

After being awarded a contract with Davey Tree Expert Company, Keith continued submitting bids for work with the State of California and Los Angeles County. If she was not awarded the contract, she immediately followed-up to receive feedback on her proposal. She advises other companies that want to be awarded contracts to do the same.

“Always ask ‘why?’ If you lose a bid, you can’t just walk away, because there’s going to be another opportunity and you have to make sure you don’t make the same mistake again.”

Information gained from lost bids enabled Keith to learn how to prepare proposals, what customers are looking for and what was important to them.

Being prepared.

Keith said it is important for your business to look professional to attract the right clients.

“Your website has to look professional and your business card should match your website and your capabilities statement. All of these things are a reflection of the company you want to portray,” she said.

Keith recommends spending the extra money to work with a graphic designer to create a signature brand. A well-rehearsed elevator pitch is also an essential business tool.

“You have to build that image because that’s how you’re going to attract people to do business with you.”

Attracting, Recruiting and Retaining a Diverse Energy Workforce
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Woman on an energy industry site, looking at her laptop while wearing a hardhat

The energy industry is one of the largest in country, and employs millions of people around the world. In addition, energy is also wide ranging and includes not just oil and gas, but also renewable sectors, like solar, hydrogen, wind and other emerging technologies. Yet, it is also one of the least diverse, according to the American Petroleum Institute (API), who reports that nearly 75 percent of employees are white.

This is especially true in the highest levels of management at the utilities and major oil companies. Alternative industry fairs slightly better with middle management and below, but has the same representation of women and underrepresented groups as traditional oil and gas, where nearly 90 percent of leadership is white.

But these numbers are not news, and the lack of diversity in the energy sector has long been reported. Still, not much progress has been made in terms of the hiring and promotion of women and people of color. Many mature industries find it difficult to adapt to changes in the workforce, often struggling to find the optimal balance between entry level and experienced workers. For the past several years, Energy has had a particularly challenging time attracting new talent. Years ago, companies like ExxonMobil had their pick of the top candidates from the best schools—now these graduates are more likely to work for Silicon Valley tech giants like Apple, Google, and Facebook, or create their own startup. Whenever the largest companies are having a hard time finding talent, you know there is a problem. Perhaps making things even worse, is the Great Crew Change, which refers to the large age gap in the workforce brought on by the upcoming waves of older workers reaching retirement age and the scarcity of workers under the age of 35. Many young people just don’t want to work in the same industries as their parents and grandparents. In addition, energy has seen more than its share of problems dealing with both racism and sexism, both contributing to why young people shy away from jobs in these fields.

So, what is the solution? First, the energy industry has to come to terms with the fact that their lack of available talent is their NUMBER ONE barrier to future growth. Innovation in the areas of emerging technology demands more workers than are currently available. To fill these jobs, we must hire or train to be hired, more women and people of color. Simply put, our current efforts are not sufficient for future needs. The next step is to invest in organizations that are successful in doing this right now. Millions have been spent talking about the lack of diversity, now it’s time to spend money on creating sustainable solutions to fix this problem. That means looking at the ENTIRE talent pipeline. While it’s critical to address the issues of attracting new workers to the field, if we don’t solve the problem of why underrepresented people don’t stay and are not promoted to senior levels, then we really haven’t accomplished much, especially since we don’t have the luxury of failing at this. How much untapped talent is being lost because of systemic discrimination keeping people from reaching their highest potential? What innovations could be discovered if this industry supported EVERYONE at the same level?

Because the fields are wide open, there are tremendous opportunities for women and people of color to advance in the clean energy and renewable sectors. Thanks to the effects of COVID and geopolitical instability around the world, oil and gas will undoubtedly never be the same. Many of the jobs lost are never coming back. A large number of workers will need to pivot to other types of jobs to stay employed. As the needs for the products they produce continues to decrease, others like biomass and hydrogen fuel cell, will rise as they continue to get cheaper and easier to produce. Partnerships between industry, academia and government can play a large role in educating new workers to these fields, but they can’t do it alone. Grass roots efforts via non-profit participation (and funding thereof) are key to helping to promote these opportunities to underrepresented communities. They can also work to ensure there are clear, distinct and attainable paths that exist to not just senior leadership in energy, but entrepreneurship as well. The future of energy is dependent on harnessing this untapped potential.

Risk Intelligence solutions are powered by BWise technology and support companies of all sizes through a wide range of deployment models, from on-premise implementations to out-of-the-box SaaS solutions streamlining single initiatives to complex integrated GRC projects. BWise is proud to be the GRC vendor of choice for many diverse energy and utility companies. This includes regional utilities and energy suppliers, pipeline and distribution business, oil and natural gas exploration, and large, multi-national gas and oil suppliers.

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