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.
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. They have 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%). They have also hired additional personnel and equipment, and have achieved a significant improvement in brand recognition due to the quality 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.
Mamma Bella has four restaurant locations in some of the most popular malls in Mexico City; provides employee cafeteria services for Accenture and IBM; and is the main supplier for other Eurest employee cafeterias, including Google, Bloomberg, HSBC, Abbot, Nissan, Pfizer, and Unilever. They have also organized corporate events for Manpower, Pfizer, and Eurest. They have 200 employees.
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.
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. She met WEConnect Canada's Betty Wood at a conference shortly thereafter and started the process.
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.
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.