Jimena Florez | CEO & Co-Foudner
Bogota | Colombia
In May 2015, 29-year-old female entrepreneur Jimena Florez traveled from Colombia to Washington, DC, as part of the U.S. Department of State’s Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Americas program. Little did she know President Obama would publically recognize her work as a social entrepreneur and applaud her efforts to promote healthy living.
It is difficult to believe that it was only four years ago that Jimena founded Crispy Fruits, offering a line of freeze-dried fruit snacks using produce from local farmers. Until recently, customers could only find Jimena’s exotic, fitness, and power mixes in specialty shops and select cafeterias. However, with the support of WEConnect International, her customer base has expanded into new territory.
One of the very first female entrepreneurs to earn certification in Colombia, Jimena attended this year’s inaugural WEConnect International Latin American Regional Forum. There she met a representative from a major hotel chain, and now she has a contract that will put Crispy Fruits in Bogota hotel rooms.
Jimena is encouraged by her early success and is already developing new products. She and her team are working with local cacao farmers to make baked goods that will not only provide more protein and iron, but will also burn calories. While she strengthens her customer base in Colombia, she also has plans to expand to the U.S. and Australian markets.
March 3, 2015
Today, as my company DIDCO turns 17, I wish to share with WEConnect International a story that makes me happy and proud.
Some years ago, when I was a marketing manager at GNP, I was informed that the project I was working on would be cancelled, leaving me with two options:
1. Relocate into another business unit, or
2. Accept a severance payment, which would mean the end of my dream of reaching the corporate marketing direction.
I returned to my office and my phone was ringing. It was the marketing manager of the other GNP business line. She asked me to recommend her a supplier for a corporate image implementation project for a new group insurance company. I immediately answered: “I can do it!” An hour later I was meeting with my first client. That was March 3, 1998.
Throughout these 17 years I’ve faced some failures, but mostly significant accomplishments and successes. Among my 320 customers I’ve had the fortune of meeting WEConnect International, which has given me the enormous opportunity to grow my business and also to meet great friends.
Precisely today, on our 17th anniversary, I received a great gift that I want to share with you: my first contract with a corporation fully committed with WEConnect International: The JW Marriott Hotel, through Belen Alonso.
Lilia Avendaño Montelongo,
WEConnect International Certified Women Business Enterprises Make Enterprising Women Magazine’s Class of 2015
In January 2015, Enterprising Women Magazine announced its class of 2015 – its prestigious awards program that recognizes top women entrepreneurs around the world. This year, seven entrepreneurs certified by WEConnect International made the list:
• Sue Bennett, Bennett Design Associates, Inc., Uxbridge, Ontario, Canada
• Maria Teresa Cepeda Casasus, Imaging Supplies de Mexico SA, Mexico City, Mexico
• Julia Fournier, HCMWorks, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
• Mandy Gilbert, Creative Niche Inc., Toronto, Ontario, Canada
• Gabriela Leon Gutierrez, Gresmex, Naucalpan City, Mexico
• Barbara Issett, IQ Business Events, Inc., Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
• Sandra Sassow, SEaB Energy Limited, Southhampton, United Kingdom
• Vandana Mehrotra, Meteonic Innovation Pvt Ltd., Bangalore, India (honorobale mention)
Additionally, Executive Director of WEConnect International in the Caribbean Yaneek Page will be awarded for her success in building her business Future Services International in Kingston, Jamaica.
The award honorees’ businesses have widely varying revenues and provide suppliers with a number of products and services, including biotechnology, human resources, manufacturing, and waste management. They will be recognized at the 13th Annual Enterprising Women of the Year Awards & Conference, March 29-31, 2015 at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA.
WEConnect International is no longer affiliated with the organization formerly operating as WEConnect Canada, now WBE Canada.
Lorena Garcini, CEO and Co-Owner
Mexico City | Mexico
Mamma Bella, founded in 1995 and led by Lorena Garcini, offers restaurant, employee cafeteria, and catering services, servicing 35 thousand guests monthly. In 2013, Garcini sought certification as a women’s business enterprise because she thought it would bring new business, unique networking opportunities, and support her company’s growth.
She was right!
As a result of their certification, Mamma Bella is now providing employee cafeteria services at two IBM facilities and corporate catering for Accenture. It has also organized some corporate events for Manpower, and have started working with Eurest and Pfizer. This has translated in a net monthly increase in revenue of $30,000 USD (6%). Mamma Bella has also hired additional personnel and equipment, and have achieved a significant improvement in brand recognition due to the caliber of their customers.
“I had previous experience with women organizations and I have been pleasantly surprised with all that I’ve received from WEConnect International,” says Garcini. “I’ve been invited to very important events where I’ve had the opportunity to connect with global corporate buyers. They have helped me grow my product offer, and I’ve received very meaningful mentoring.”
Garcini has ambitious plans for the future as well. She aims to connect with more WEConnect International corporate members and expand the products and services Mamma Bella offers.
“We are looking into expanding our cafeteria line within corporations and our restaurant locations in Mexico City. We are also looking into creating bakery and dressing lines for large retail chains, such as Walmart. I hope our case helps motivate other fellow businesswomen. Faith, work and effort can, in fact, help us reach our dreams!” she adds.
According to Garcini, Mamma Bella stands out with “the quality of our products, the care we take in selecting the ingredients and preparing them, paired with a personalized and timely service aimed to satisfy each customer’s needs at a fair price.”
Christy Cook, CEO and Founder
Toronto | Canada
Just months after being certified as a women's business enterprise through WEConnect International, CEO and Founder of Teach My Toddler Inc. Christy Cook can expect to see Walmart put her educational learning toys in 2,000 U.S. stores in spring 2015. The Toronto businesswoman's products will be among the very first to be sold with the new "Women Owned" logo developed by WEConnect International and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council with support from Walmart.
"For us, landing in Walmart U.S.A. is a huge accomplishment," said Cook, "and WEConnect International's certification process was critical to accessing this opportunity."
WEConnect International has been operating in Canada for nearly five years and has certified over 150 companies. Its groundbreaking Seal of Certification Process, recognized by major regional and global corporations such as Walmart, assesses companies' compliance with the universal standards for a women's business enterprise.
"Teach My Toddler Inc. is one of our newest certified businesses in the country, and we are thrilled to see Cook already participating in Walmart's supplier diversity program," said Astrid Pregel, Executive Director of WEConnect International in Canada.
Cook is a Toronto native who founded Teach My Toddler Inc. in 2007. Teach My provides parents, grandparents and caregivers with all-in-one learning kits and sets for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Requiring no screens, Teach My kits have everything necessary to teach little ones the basics. From ABC to 123 and everything in between, award-winning Teach My kits give children a head start, encourage one-on-one interaction and create a love for learning.
On September 30, 2014 at a ceremony in Montreal, Teach My was named WEConnect International in Canada's Women's Business Enterprise of the Year.
WEConnect International is no longer affiliated with the organization formerly operating as WEConnect Canada, now WBE Canada.
Read more about Cook in The Financial Post.
Grupo Kuri S.A., Tortillas La Malinche
La Malinche | Jardines de Cascajal | Paso Ancho | San Jose, San Jose | Costa Rica
Grupo Kuri is a company, based in San José, Costa Rica, that produces flour tortillas.
The company became fimilar with WEConnect International at a welcome breakfast organized by Antonina Sequeira and Carolina Giraldo to meet women-owned businesses in Costa Rica. Two weeks after meeting with WEConnect International representatives, the company became certified.
Certification Leads to Contracts!
Grupo Kuri hopes to sell its unique products both nationally and internationally thanks to WEConnect International and the IDB in providing the opportunity to participate in LacFlavors in Granada, Nicaragua.
Grupo Kuri values the business training, networking and marketing opportunities as well as the assistance offered by WEConnect representatives in the Costa Rican office.
As a result of becoming certified, Grupo Kuri is now doing business with Johana Morris de Morrjonssa (Tropics Nature). The company has expanded, and expects to continue to grow, as it innovates and brings new products to the market, such as canastas horneadas tostadas, tortillas horneadas, and other gourmet snacks. As a small family business, access to the large WEConnect International network has been a big advantage. Grupo Kuri looks foward to continue to innovate its products and expand to new markets.
25mts norte de Cemaco Pavas | 75 mts este casa 19 | San Jose, Pavas | Costa Rica
Certification Leads to Contracts
Bright Solutions, located in San José, Costa Rica, provides publicity and marketing services. After becoming interested in the value of the WEConnect International network of member corporations, and looking to gain new contacts with potential clients, Bright Solutions gained WEConnect International certification.
As a result of becoming a WEConnect International certified business, Bright Solutions has experienced increased sales and revenue because of contracts with Pfizer, Walmart, and Morrjons, as well as WEConnect International certified women's business enterprises. In the future, the company looks to diversify and continue be motivated by increased sales and a growing network.
Mirabelle Mi, Founder
6-601, #1515 Zhangyang Road | Pudong, Shanghai 200120 | +86 21 5049 0660
2-1201, No. 88 Jianguo Road | Chaoyang, Beijing 100004 | +86 8795 3090-811/809
EyezChina Consulting is a registered, full service market entry consulting firm. EyezChina specializes in assisting foreign small and medium-size enterprises enter and adapt to the Chinese marketplace. EyezChina aims to help clients develop their business by analyzing China's market and combining local expertise with a global perspective. The firm is itself a potential capital investor, and leverages its broad network of financial institutions to invest in clients directly, or connect clients with prime investors.
Why WEConnect International Certification?
EyezChina obtained WEConnect International certification in late summer of 2012. EyezChina was prompted to become certified by the supply chain manager at IBM, who encouraged that they engage with WEConnect International in order to highlight the company's female senior leadership and management team. Along with showcasing the company in terms of supplier diversity, EyezChina hoped that WEConnect International certification would aid in showcasing the consulting firm's expertise and growth-oriented outlook.
While EyezChina is not yet doing business with any new corporations as a result of certification, the company expects to be in talks with WEConnect International member corporations in the near future. The company is especially interested and optimistic about connecting with Accenture, among numerous others.
Building Business Connections
EyezChina has achieved considerable value from the WEConnect International network, through both the online e-network and by attending WEConnect International hosted events, and has gained various new partners and cultivated business relations. In April of 2013, representatives from EyezChina attended the WEConnect International China and New Zealand Consulate Hosted Panel. Among many other contacts, EyezChina founder, Mirabelle Mi, met a woman owner of an airline service company. After the panel, the two women stayed in touch, and are now looking to work together on a business endeavor in the airline industry.
As EyezChina is a relatively young company, expanding brand recognition is vital for the firm in reaching its goal of attracting high-level global clients. Mirabelle Mi asserted that as corporations begin looking to diversify their supply chain, recognizing that EyezChina is a WEConnect International certified enterprise will be a distinguishing asset. According to Mirabelle, WEConnect International certification does not only convey that the company is women-owned, but assures buyers of the company's quality and capacity of expanding and supplying to a broad range of global corporations.
About Libre Tea
Wendy was inspired to start her company when she was travelling through China and saw everyone drinking their tea on the go. When she saw a bus driver in the chaos of his day, calmly drinking tea out of a giant pickle jar while stopped briefly at an intersection, she was inspired to create "Tea Moments"– moments to stop and connect with ourselves in our busy days so we remember where we are and who we are.
She knew that as people in the West drank more tea, a unique product would be needed to create Tea Moments on the go. She created a portable container for loose leaf tea with a removable tea filter. The one that she designed wasn't something that she had seen. The first product review pronounced the containers as "sleek and stylish" as well as functionally unique. The glass interior gives tea a fresh taste every time and the durable poly exterior made it practical and BPA free.
WEConnect International Network
Libre Tea became certified in May 2011 in order to connect with other women business owners in the United States. When she came to the WBENC Annual Conference in Las Vegas in June 2011, she saw how active the group was in the U.S. and was excited to be part of the global network. She made several connections at the conference and was a little overwhelmed with all the potential. Wendy was very inspired to be among new women entrepreneurs and business in the states is a little more "up and at em" and it was good to get their perspective first hand.
A big role that the network played in building capacity for Libre Tea was preparing Wendy to sell her product to large companies. Although she is very familiar with marketing, sales pitches were very intimidating. By practicing her pitch several times, and receiving feedback from other Certified WBEs, Wendy became more comfortable with sales presentations. In addition, preparing for the WBENC conference gave Wendy a big lesson in pitching her product and helped to ensure her presentation was professional, polished and ready to go.
As an entrepreneur, it's easy to feel isolated and WEConnect helps. In the WEConnect International Peer to Peer mentoring group, I was paired with a woman in the UK. She has given me invaluable advice as I expand my business. I was also looking for a tea supplier in China and have connected with them through the network.
It's exciting times for people to come together internationally via WEConnect International. The network can be helpful on a local or global level. One piece of advice is to support the connections that you get and be persistent with follow up.
Libre Tea is now available at Nordstrom!
The WEConnect network also helped her expand her network within a big client, Nordstrom. Her products are now listed with their café/espresso bars and, through a regional event with a U.S. regional partner organization; she was able to meet another contact at Nordstrom. Since all 122 stores buy separately, this new contact will help introduce her to regional and branch managers to start encouraging them to order. Libre Tea is looking forward to doing business with a Certified WBE from Arizona and will reach out to Macy's, spa owners, and promotional product companies for partnerships!
Christina Forth Matthews
About AOG International
AOG International is an International Freight forwarder specializing in Time critical freight service. AOG International has been in business for 9 years and is one of the fastest growing logistics providers in the industry. It is their goal to provide a level of customer service beyond expectation and to become an extension of the business' they work with. Christina attributes the rapid growth of our company to their "people first" core value. We are headquartered in Leduc, Alberta, Canada with offices in the United States and China, along with the best in-class strategic alliances and partnerships worldwide.
WEConnect International Certification Stands Out
AOG International became certified two years ago when a friend from Baker Hughes in Houston suggested she look into it. After becoming certified, she included the certificate in her sales package and was told by one of her buyers, that if pricing is competitive and service is good, the certification will tip the scales in being added as a vendor.
The WEConnect Canada training offerings also helped the company develop a professional sales presentation with an improved capability statement and helped her link up to a partner in the United Kingdom.
26% Revenue Growth in 1 Year!
As a result of new business with Agrium and Shell, the company experienced 26 % growth in revenues in one year and went from 12 to 22 employees. They are seeking a new building space to accommodate the growth. In addition, AOG International will expand their U.S. presence in Houston and start a new brokerage division.
WEConnect International is no longer affiliated with the organization formerly operating as WEConnect Canada, now WBE Canada.
Digital Salad provides creative film solutions that capture the essence of a company and its products at affordable costs.
Kate and her two other partners have over 50 years experience working with and delivering to demanding agencies, companies and artists. Their involvement in commercials for top flight companies such as Shell, Ford, RBS and Coca Cola, and having worked closely with a number of the world's most influential directors/producers listing Stephen Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick, Michael Mann and David Fincher amongst them, has equipped Kate and her partners to communicate with executives and CEO's looking for solutions, in a proactive manner.
Digital Salad has had a great first year as a WEConnect International Certified WBE. Kate's producer Julie, who runs the USA side of the company, suggested becoming certified. Kate is very selective about associations but says that becoming WEConnect certified "was a great decision for us both in terms of our company development and my building personal relationships."
Maximizing the Benefits
After certifying the company, Kate made a conscious decision to attend as many of the 'Meet the Corporate Events' as possible for two reasons:
• The events provide an introduction to large organisations that are typically very difficult to approach.
• The forum provides a fast and easy way to get visibility amongst other WEConnect women-owned companies.
As a WBE, Kate's active participation with WEConnect takes time and effort but it's the one organisation that is paying dividends for the company.
Tips and Strategies
1. It is important to build relationships that are not necessarily direct routes into the part of a company you are targeting. Kate sat next to Marianne Schoenig at the WEConnect/Accenture Meet the Corporate event last July. Kate and Marianne discussed WEConnect's work with the Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA) in India and Kate's sheer love of India and its people. From small steps, Digital Salad took a few of Marianne's clips and put together a test film which became a whole project and a joint Accenture/WEConnect project delivered.
2. Take advantage of opportunities for visibility. Despite suffering stage fright, Kate delivered a four-minute pitch at the 'Dragons Den' event at the WEConnect Europe conference in September 2011. Despite suffering stage fright Kate delivered a pitch at the 'Dragons Den', an event at the WEConnect Europe conference in September 2011, which involved a four-minute presentation. She had met one of our global corporate members (one of the Dragons), at a WEConnect Meet the Corporate Member Event the day before, but it was the opportunity to show one of their films at the Dragons Den pitch that truly demonstrated the value add-on her company delivers.
After the WEConnect Europe conference in September, Digital Salad won contracts for promotional films with other WBEs.
After sitting next to Marianne Schoenig at a WEConnect/Accenture Meet the Corporate event, Digital Salad won a joint project with Accenture and WEConnect International to showcase their work with SEWA Gitanjali and Accenture's Skills to Success campaign. "Kate has been phenomenal all through this – absolutely epitomising the innovativeness, agility and responsiveness of women-owned businesses at their best." - Marianne SchoenigDenise Matthews approached Kate at the conference and, after a long lead in, Digital Salad is now putting a film together for the Dyspraxia Foundation. They were able to help the foundation on where to really focus the story and how to tell it. "Kate and the team have been hugely supportive to the foundation and shown great empathy, building good relationships both with the foundation and volunteer teams." - Denise MatthewsAnother connection from the WEConnect Europe Conference, Madeleine White, Head of Marketing, Whizz Education, contacted Digital Salad for a film to be showcased at BETT with a very quick turn-around. BETT is the world's leading event for educational technology where education professionals can evaluate and purchase a comprehensive range of ICT products and services. In a month, Digital Salad delivered a treatment, won the job and completed the film. "The film has gone down a storm. It has made a significant difference to us – and I would so like to thank you for your hard work indefatigable energy and creative vision in delivering it'. - Madeleine WhiteDigital Salad is also working with Accenture and WEConnect on a promotional video based on sound bites she collected at the WEConnect Corporate member roundtable the day after the WEConnect Europe Conference.
Kate's success at leveraging the network shows that WEConnect can be beneficial to a small woman-owned company, not just businesses that are well established with large turnovers. The projects Digital Salad has delivered are the start of something larger and Kate expects to see even greater rewards in the future.
NovoJuris Services India Pvt Ltd
32, Osborne Road,
Near Lakeside Hospital (This is close to Ulsoor Lake)
Ulsoor,Bangalore 560 042
Sharda Balaji is the founder of NovoJuris, legal counselors, with a special focus on start-ups and SMEs in the technology domain. NovoJuris counts over 300 small and medium business and over 10 investment firms as their customers over the last 3 years. NovoJuris is ranked among India's top 10 active legal counselors in private equity http://www.ventureintelligence.in/leaguelaw-pe.htm.
The first six months in the WEConnect Network
Novojuris was certified in January 2012 and in that time frame Sharda has participated in local WEConnect India events and one trade mission to the United States.
Sharda joined the WEConnect network with a very open mind. She was aware that US companies have goals for doing business with women that is new in India. She also recognized that the vision on WEConnect transcended US and Indian borders. "Wouldn't it be nice if women business owners were emboldened to think large...to think of scaling and scalability?"
Maximizing the network globally and locally
The Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) Conference in Orlando in June 2012 provided an opportunity for Sharda to present the value proposition for Novojuris. She did not know what to expect but quickly realized that her company could add value to the WBENC certified WBEs who wanted to make connections and expand into India. She developed a relationship with a WBE doing business with AT&T in India who became a client. Novojuris is now helping them find partners and set up operations in India. The impacts in terms of revenues are minimal now but the opportunities are there for future growth.
"Through WEConnect I have been connected with Deutsche Bank to provide information about my company. The next step is demonstrating my capabilities but to have the opportunity is incredibly amazing."
What's your WEConnection?
What WEConnect International is doing in India is the first project of its kind. Doing business with the multi-national corporations is productive and creating a platform for Indian women to connect with their fellow business owners is groundbreaking. "Emboldening women business owners to think big, to think about cross border transactions – that is exciting. Whatever happens with my business is incidental to that larger vision."
Moxie Mojo Hotline
Toll-free: 1-888-404-6694 (moxi)
Moxie Trades supplies safety footwear, apparel, and accessories just for women. Moxie Trades CEO and Founder Marissa McTasneyis the model for all the products and she had the idea after her second maternity leave and she decided to pursue a passion. She took a program for women in construction to learn how to build a house and after analyzing the safety-wear market, launched her company.
Before Moxie Trades, women's safety wear was designed for men, with the only difference being they sized down. Marissa took a snapshot of common sense stats, which showed that women were 25% of the workforce but nothing was being designed for them. Moxie Trades addressed this need with footwear designed for women along with apparel and accessories that are cute and stylish.
The first four months of being connected with WEConnect has been amazing, if not easy. Marissa was introduced to WEConnect Canada through her mentor, Anne Day, Founder of Company of Women. While she has known Anne for 6 years and was connected with the program, the turning point in deciding to get certified came when an existing client, Chrysler, asked if she was certified. This was her first business need to become certified and then Marissa began to notice a shift toward diversity and inclusion among clients and potential clients. When Grainger asked her to register as a supplier on their supplier database, there it was – supplier diversity. She learned about the WBENC Conference and Expo in Orlando, Florida in June 2012. It was a short lead time at that point because her catalogue was not ready but Marissa decided to come anyway and take advantage of the opportunity.
The conference resulted in three great leads with Target, Arbill, and Grainger. Work with Arbill and Grainger is 90% there and Grainger represents a very substantial piece of work that could change her business. Although Marissa did not have Moxie's catalogue prepared, she had done her market research and only talked to those companies that had opportunities to sell her product. Moxie Trades was a great find for Grainger because 90% of Grainger's purchasing is in products, not services. This is good news for product-based companies that can target Grainger and good news for service companies who now know they will be dealing with more competition for fewer opportunities with that company.
WBE to WBE Connections
After deciding to become certified, Marissa's confidence in the program grew and she met other women, like Rae Lindsay of Mom's Best Gourmet Foods Canada, who said they were sure that certification grew and changed their businesses. That positivity was evident in the WEConnect International day of programming before the WBENC Conference in June. Connections between the women business owners created a great vibe and she found her peers were really free with the ideas and asking, "Have you thought about this?" At the conference Marissa was considering adding another tier to her business units so she approached well-established businesses from across North America and asked them for advice. Even after the conference, those connections with other WBEs are resulting in referrals and additional points of contact. In fact, Marissa's model is based on partnerships where the other party has a vested interest in the success of her business and vice versa. WEConnect can help her find and vet these connections while also providing opportunities for WBEs who can partner with her. It's win-win.
Patience and Persistence
Marissa certainly came out of the gate running, having made connections with major corporations and opportunities to sell product less than six months after becoming certified. Her preparation in advance of becoming certified, however, was crucial to her success. Moxie Trades was in business six years before joining the WEConnect network and Marissa spent five of those years developing the team, the infrastructure, designing product, and building capacity. "The key is fulfillment. When I go to a meeting now, I just have to show up. My catalogue, price list, and return policy are all developed. The companies involved with WEConnect are blue chip companies and you have to know how to fulfill it if they ask. It's easy to sell an idea; it's hard to bring it to life to fulfill it."
Expectations and Impacts
With the infrastructure of her company in place and several game-changing pieces of business imminent, Marissa looks forward to growing the business while recognizing that the systems and processes she has in place now may need to change with her business as she realizes her goal of selling millions of dollars in product to the United States market, and expands to Australia and Europe in 2014. She expects that the WEConnect network will reduce her time to market from 5 years to 2 years as she expands.
What's your WEConnection?
"If you make the supplier diversity person look good, she will jump through hoops for you." This was Marissa's experience with Grainger's supplier diversity representative, Nancy Connor. Nancy met with Marissa in advance of her meeting with the product manager to make sure she was prepared and ready to go. Marissa brought a great product and also prepped Nancy for a one-on-one meeting on the ins and out of footwear. She could help Nancy with her category buyer by being polished, professional, and ready to go and make it easier for Nancy to be measured on the success of supplier diversity in that category. Having her systems and processes in place gave Nancy and consequently, the buyer confidence that she could handle their business. It is important to remember that even if the supplier diversity person is not a buyer, they are an advocate for WBEs who are navigating corporate supply chains. On the basis of their initial meeting, Nancy scheduled a meeting with the category buyer before Marissa was out of the parking lot.
"My sales representative was skeptical, then amazed. He had been calling on Grainger for three years and after one meeting in Orlando and a follow meeting with Nancy, she was able to put me in front of the right people. Now we are looking at huge opportunity that could significantly change our business... I would have gotten to these opportunities anyway, because I am persistent, but WEConnect really sped up the process."
Duinkerken Foods Inc.
57 Watts Ave
Prince Edward Island
Canada C1E 2B7
Duinkerken Foods Inc. manufactures exceptional gluten-free food products that offer the same delicious taste, texture, and consistency as wheat based products.
From the Seed of Innovation - to Wal-Mart the Largest Retailer in the World!
When company president Brenda vanDuinkerken was diagnosed with celiac disease in 1994, she had no idea what celiac disease was. When her doctor told her she would be on a life time gluten free diet she was not concerned, she was relieved to finally have an answer to her poor health. Brenda never imagined she would be a trailblazer in gluten-free food innovation and development. After years of struggling to stay on the diet and feeling deprived of good tasting food, she decided to take on the huge challenge - to make gluten free food taste delicious. Duinkerken Foods was launched in 2003.
Building the Duinkerken Brand through WEConnect
Brenda vanDuinkerken invested a substantial amount of personal savings to make the gluten free diet more enjoyable for her and others. When the product development process was completed, there was limited cash to build the brand or to do any type of marketing campaign. Brenda looked to WEConnect International to provide a marketing edge.
In 2009, Duinkerken Foods became one of the first women owned businesses in Canada to become certified through WEConnect. A few months after certification Brenda was invited to Washington, DC by WEConnect International CEO Elizabeth Vazquez to attend the first International Women's Business Summit held at the World Bank. While in Washington she also had an opportunity to attend a supplier diversity trade show at the Canadian Embassy.
At this trade show, Brenda met two amazing women from Walmart – Jackie Spedding and Tonya Smith. They sampled her gluten-free products and loved them, beginning a business relationship that would reap rewards.
Tips and Strategies: Participation, Patience, Persistence, and Preparation.
1.) Attend programs and events to keep your relationships warm. By participating in the conferences and events it reinforces to others that you believe in what you are doing and that you are committed to building relationships through the organizations. Brenda attended WEConnect and WBENC meetings/conferences and kept building relationships in Canada and USA. By seeing corporate representatives like Jackie and Tonia time-and-time-again, she became familiar to these important contacts. At the 2011 Women's Business Enterprise National Council conference in Las Vegas, Brenda re-connected with Jackie Spedding who introduced her to another WEConnect corporate representative, Full Circle Exchange, an aggregator and distributor to Walmart.
2.) Be patient and persistent. Brenda knew her products were top quality and had great taste. She needed to keep her brand in front of potential buyers, build relationships, and follow up with new contacts when they were presented.
3.) Be prepared for the opportunity to present itself. After meeting John Priddy of Full Circle Exchange (FCE) in June, Brenda immediately sent samples to FCE. They liked what she had to offer and just three months later, they connected her with an opportunity to present to with one of their clients, walmart.com.
What's your WEConnection?
Although the company had been selling products to Walmart Super Stores in Canada, Duinkerken wanted to expand the relationship. Brenda met with walmart.com buyers on September 6, 2011 in Brisbane, CA. They listed her products immediately and also committed to the complete product line for all Walmart stores in Canada. This meeting opened the door to a wonderful opportunity. Today Duinkerken products are sold in all Walmart stores throughout Canada and will soon be available on walmart.com in the USA.
As a result of this WEConnection, Duinkerken Foods anticipates increased revenues of 25%. They will hire for 12 new positions - 6 fulltime and 6 part-time. The business is expecting an overall growth of 12%
The most notable immediate impact is the ability to secure financing. Prior to becoming WEConnect certified, the company's biggest challenge and major barrier to growing the business was financing. Since Duinkerken products became listed on walmart.com those barriers have vanished.
Having Walmart - the largest retailer in the world - carry our products is a magnificent way to build the Duinkerken brand.
"WEConnect International provides women entrepreneurs with the marketing edge they require to accelerate business growth. My goal is to grow the business internationally; I recognize the quality and innovation that I created. I only offer products that I enjoy... I offer taste! Duinkerken will be a leader in the gluten-free market and through WEConnect we have the contacts to make it possible. My success definitely would not have happened without WEConnect and I am very grateful."
-Brenda van Duinkerken, Duinkerken Foods
You can purchase the products on walmart.com at http://www.duinkerkenfoods.com/?lang=e&page=e-comm
The Sourcing Team Ltd
8 The Parade
The Sourcing Team is a promotional products company with processes, systems, expertise, and financial stability usually found in larger companies. Bespoke work is the company's specialty and they win business with major clients because of their solid infrastructure and reputation. Robust accreditations and an ability to demonstrate ethical, sustainable, environmental and diversity working practices ensure they are respected as professional as well as creative throughout the industry. This enables them to win major accounts even though they are not one of the largest in their sector. The next step is developing those accounts globally.
The Sourcing Team pursued certification with WEConnect International with the idea that certification would provide a quick route to getting to the right contact for new business with global corporate clients. The benefits were, in fact, much richer than Gill anticipated.
At WEConnect International's signature "Meet the Member" events, Gill was able to meet representatives from the following companies:
• Marriott Hotel
• JP Morgan
These events provided the following benefits to her and her company:
• Awareness - An understanding of the organisations own processes and global procurement needs
• Visibility - A chance to meet key people and make an introduction to her own company
• Information Sharing- Opportunity to complete a supplier questionnaire/ registration to complete and return (in some cases)
• Relationship Building - Introduction to relevant key contacts to follow up in her own supply area
• Competitive edge - Most importantly, insight into the world of the corporate buyer and understanding how The Sourcing Team can provide value to assist their corporate contacts in their roles
Challenges and Opportunities
Coming to the WEConnect programs and events is a very valuable way to leverage certification. WEConnect members who participate in the programs are all very positive, helpful and enthusiastic.
One challenge is that while it is clear that diversity is high on the global priorities, most corporates are in contracts with a preferred roster of supplier(s) and therefore finding it difficult to add additional diversity suppliers. After becoming aware of the challenges, WBEs can begin to share information on their companies, increase visibility among corporate members and build relationships both with diversity and inclusion professionals and with people in the company's particular product area.
Tips and Strategies
Attend all events to increase awareness of and exposure to other WBEs and corporate members. Workshops provide priceless information on topics relevant to building and running a growth oriented business. One workshop in particular run by Sarah Coleman, gave Gill insights into next steps for her business.
Along with attending the events, WBEs should register with WEConnect corporate members, ensure they have the correct contact information to enable follow up in order to learn the timeline and plan for contract renewal.
This follow up will build first line contacts and help those buyers meet their objectives. According to Gill, "This is not a guarantee to business but an amazing help through the door – thereafter it's down to your skills, abilities and offering!"
WEConnect Conference in Europe September 2011
After attending the WEConnect Europe Conference, The Sourcing Team immediately followed up to make contact with key buyers following the event. As a promotional products company, they created a custom mailing pack for two reasons 1)so that recipients would relate the mailing back to WEConnect and keep The Sourcing Team at top of mind as opportunities arose and 2) to highlight the company's core capability in promotional products. Supported by market research, the company personalised items with the buyers name adding a small tagline – "We connected through WEConnect".
Recipients gave great feedback and helped open doors to the appropriate buyers.
Contacts, Contracts, and Impacts
Since becoming certified, The Sourcing Team is now on the supplier list for AT&T and received their first order from Accenture. Thanks to Pfizer, the company was introduced to their print management company – who have subsequently added The Sourcing Team to their approved supplier list. The Pfizer representative was a great advocate in contacting the current supplier and making a connection with Gill and her team for Tier 2 work. This is a priceless connection because the Tier 1 supplier works with 7-8 other major companies and the results could be exponential. In addition, following discussions with IBM it transpired they use the same print company as Pfizer which may offer additional opportunities via this supplier.
1. Empathy for the Buyer
Through the WEConnect meet the buyer schedule it has shown how incredibly busy the WEConnect corporate members are, often with small buying teams with huge workloads. Their dedication is critical in this process but, it is just as important for the certified WBEs to think about how they can help the corporates solve problems in order to work together.
2. Different customers require a different approach
The connections made will result in greater revenue in the future but primarily, WEConnect has allowed the company to focus on growing large and global customers, and search not just for immediate contracts but to become part of a preferred supplier list over.
3. Moving toward global
We have additional connections in Canada, India, Jamaica and the United States through our affiliation with WEConnect.
What's your WEConnection?
One WBE has become a good client and this years' experience through WEConnect has been very valuable, causing The Sourcing Team to reconsider their own Diversity and Inclusion Program. In addition, amending their own supplier agreements to encourage their supply partners to be more inclusive.
The Sourcing Team participates in the P2MP mentorship scheme – which is supported by Pepsico and Cisco and pairs WEConnect certified businesses with Canadian certified WBEs. The pairs take part in webinars sponsored by major corporations and then they come together to discuss their learning's. Gill and her co director also attended the WBENC & WEConnect Conference in Florida and made global connections for business opportunities, and collaboration with other women owned businesses around the world. The major reason for attending the WBENC Conference was not to network with corporations but with other US/Canadian based WBEs; they met 3 companies who are potential partners from Canadian based companies. This is important as The Sourcing Team feel they would be more competitive with a global reach. Collaboration with these companies is key to have that reach. Says Gill about collaborating, "The American market is very different and we can give them the best expertise from the European."
"I believe you get back what you put in and we have truly embraced WEConnect ; being creative, supportive, proactive and definitely, persistent! We would like to thank all at WEConnect International, those who have given us the opportunity to do business and thank in particular to the dedication of the corporates who have made the efforts to connect us. In particular Marianne Schoenig from Accenture, Paul King from IBM, Neil Gowling from AT&T, Philip De Vliegher & Bart van den Hoven from Marriott, Kerry O'Leary from Pfizer, Niki Walker & Alison Heath from Cisco, Debra Karas from McCain Foods USA, Marcela Navarro from RBS, Debra Quade from Kellogg's and of course, Shirley Cooper and Louisa Moger for taking good care of all the European WBE's! We are delighted to be receiving some very exciting enquiries which we hope will generate some excellent business."