Sarah Davis MCIOB MIoD | Bedford, UK
In August 2015, WEConnect International raffled off two free tickets to the 2015 Global WIL Economic Forum in Abu Dhabi among interested certified women’s business enterprises. Sarah Davis – Owner of Skills4Stem Ltd., a UK-based Global Skills and Succession Planning Consultancy with a focus within Science Technology, Engineering and Maths sectors – jumped at the opportunity, and luckily for her, her name was drawn at random for a slot.
Attending the conference has paid off well for Sarah and her team. Excellence Training recently agreed to be an Agent for Skills4Stem in Dubai, and Sarah is hoping to leverage new connections with Naseba, Youshala, and the UAE Ministry of Education, as well.
“We are growing our business in the UAE and I was interested in how the conference could help us network in this region with senior women. It is too early to say, the event was only just over three months ago, but all these new connections I anticipate will make a big difference to our existing business in the UAE.”
The experience in Abu Dhabi was also educational and may have provided Sarah with new models to expand her business even further internationally. For example, Sarah has seen how much Skills4Stem have to offer agents outside the UK and hopes to learn from her contract with Excellence Training so she and her team can start working with agents in China and the U.S. Meanwhile, her talks with the Ministry of Education has shown Sarah that governments outside the UK value a UK innovator’s ideas and want to be connected to SMEs who can add value and innovation.
“I have also had an opportunity to connect with many women from small, medium and large organizations and share ideas, stories, experiences and opportunities. By being myself, being genuine, respectful and listening I have been able to really increase my knowledge of the region and my network in the UAE with women I would have otherwise not have been connected with. Without the free ticket from WEConnect International I would also have probably not been able to justify the time or expense to visit the event. I am very grateful to WEConnect International for this opportunity.”
Operating since March 2014, Skills4Stem use technology and innovation through Gamification and Wearable Technology to collect, analyze and map biological health data, skills and competencies prior to designing and delivering high quality tailored UK, globally accredited training to ensure the highest return on investment for employers, individuals and the economy. Innovators from the start, Skills4Stem were ‘first to market’ in the UK with a Leadership Gamification software product to collect, analyse and map skills for the Built Environment. See the demo online https://videopress.com/v/BWtj3MwI.
It was only months after launching Skills4Stem that Sarah applied for and received her WEConnect International certification as a women’s business enterprise. This year, she is also among the very first certified women’s business enterprises to join the #Buy16in16 campaign to raise consumer awareness of women-owned products and services.
“I have a high growth global business with an appetite to work with more large corporate organizations to embed our innovative ideas, valuable agility and tailored products and I was actively looking for support to make these connections more effectively. I also have a strong sense of supporting and empowering other women-owned organizations and being part of an innovative network meeting other senior women like me making change.
I have met some inspiring other women owned businesses and as a result integrated some into our supply chain. We have met with INTEL, Cummins, Johnson & Johnson, Johnson Controls and many other relevant corporate decision makers, which we hope will eventually bring us new business. We have benefited from some excellent SME executive leadership training sessions and access to a very supportive network of other high growth businesses.”
Madelaine Artavia Sotela | Founder | Costa Rica
Madelaine Artavia Sotela founded Arquenz Architecture in 2002, after graduating as an architectural drafter. Studying architecture had been a challenge, as she needed to support her son, so she started doing architectural drawings at home. Then, a client to whom she had made a model and drawing plans asked if she would build the house that she had drawn. She was surprised, but took the risk of starting her own construction business.
“I had never run a project on my own, but I had the experience of having worked with my father, who was a construction supervisor and taught me much of the work as a child,” says Madelaine. “My passion for my work comes from those childhood memories.”
Madelaine started her business and kept studying architecture with many difficulties along the way. Between work and raising her son, it was not until 2012 that she managed to earn her architect diploma. From that moment, though, her company has grown and she and her team have seized many opportunities. Some of these opportunities have come through WEConnect International.
Madelaine found out about WEConnect International when she met Costa Rica market lead Antonina Sequeira at an event with Banca Mujer. Antonina told Madelaine about all the opportunities that certification offers including access to events which could lead to lucrative business deals. Convinced of the value, Madelaine secured her certification in August 2014 just in time to attend a “Constructing the Americas” event in the U.S.
“I got on a plane for the first time in my life to attend the event, and had to rush to obtain a passport and a U.S. visa. I learned a lot in the forums, and I also made connections with potential suppliers and customers during the conference. The experience was wonderful and unforgettable, and I am very grateful to WEConnect International.”
Just two months later, Madelaine was making connections back in Costa Rica. She met with Luis Bolaños Alfaro, the purchasing manager of a Marriott Hotel in Costa Rica and presented her portfolio. After providing all of her credentials and qualifications and after numerous meetings, Madelaine won a contract with the hotel on March 4, 2015. Today, she is working on three additional contracts for Marriott International – a WEConnect International corporate member.
“This purchase order has had a very positive impact on my business. The Marriott Purchasing Manager recommended me to other Marriott locations in Costa Rica. For Arquenz this means opportunity and recognition in the market. For me this project means taking on a new challenge. Our team will give their best to make the project a success, adding experience and recommendations for future work, but more importantly a great responsibility to demonstrate the great potential we have as women entrepreneurs and thus opening the doors to opportunities for other certified WEConnect International women’s business enterprises.”
Learn more about Arquenz on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ArquitecturaArquenz
Madelaine has inspired WEConnect International’s entire global team. Out of more than 500 certified women’s businesses in nearly 20 countries, her story of success was chosen for WEConnect International’s new video demonstrating the organization’s commitment to connecting women business owners to corporate buyers. Click here to meet “Karla” and learn more about how WEConnect International is helping women build and grow businesses around the world.
Madelaine Artavia Sotela | Fundadora |Costa Rica
Madelaine Artavia Sotela fundó Arquitectura Arquenz en el 2002, después de graduarse en dibujo arquitectónico. Estudiar arquitectura había sido un reto ya que necesitaba mantener a su hijo, por lo que comenzó a hacer dibujos arquitectónicos en casa. Entonces, un cliente al que ella había hecho un modelo y planos le preguntó si podía construirle la casa que le había diseñado. Ella decidió tomar el riesgo e iniciar su propio negocio de construcción.
"Yo nunca había dirigido un proyecto por mi cuenta, pero tenía algo de experiencia porque había trabajado con mi padre, quien era supervisor de construcción y me enseñó mucho sobre el negocio cuando era niña," dice Madelaine. "La pasión por mi trabajo viene de esos recuerdos de la infancia."
Madelaine comenzó su negocio y continuó estudiando arquitectura con muchas dificultades en el camino. Entre el trabajo y el cuidado de su hijo, no fue sino hasta el 2012 que pudo obtener su diploma de arquitecto. Sin embargo, a partir de ese momento, su empresa ha crecido y ella y su equipo han aprovechado muchas oportunidades, algunas de las cuales han llegado a través WEConnect Internacional.
Madelaine escuchó sobre WEConnect Internacional cuando conoció a la directora en Costa Rica Antonina Sequeira durante un evento con Banca Mujer. Antonina habló con Madelaine sobre todas las oportunidades que ofrece la certificación, incluyendo el acceso a los eventos que podrían generar lucrativos negocios. Convencida del valor, Madelaine obtuvo su certificación en agosto 2014, justo a tiempo para asistir al evento "La construcción de las Américas" en los Estados Unidos.
"Me subí a un avión por primera vez en mi vida para asistir al evento y tuve que apresurarme para obtener un pasaporte y una visa para los Estados Unidos. Aprendí mucho en los foros y realicé conexiones con proveedores y clientes potenciales durante la conferencia. La experiencia fue maravillosa e inolvidable, y estoy muy agradecida con WEConnect Internacional."
Apenas dos meses después, Madelaine estaba realizando conexiones de vuelta en Costa Rica. Se reunió con Luis Bolaños Alfaro, gerente de compras de un hotel Marriott en Costa Rica, y le presentó su portafolio. Tras proporcionar todas sus credenciales y experiencia, y después de numerosas reuniones, Madelaine obtuvo un contrato con el hotel el 4 de marzo del 2015 y actualmente está realizando tres proyectos más para Marriott International, miembro corporativo de WEConnect Internacional.
"Esta orden de compra ha tenido un impacto muy positivo en mi negocio. El Jefe de Compras de Marriott me recomendó con otras locaciones de la cadena Marriott en Costa Rica. Para Arquenz esto significa oportunidad y reconocimiento en el mercado. Para mí, este proyecto significa asumir un nuevo reto. Nuestro equipo dará todo lo posible para que el contrato sea un éxito, sumando experiencia y recomendaciones para futuros proyectos pero, lo más importante, una gran responsabilidad de demostrar el gran potencial que tenemos como mujeres empresarias y abriendo así las puertas a oportunidades para otros empresas pertenecientes a mujeres certificadas por WEConnect International.”
Para más información sobre Arquenz, visite: https://www.facebook.com/ArquitecturaArquenz
Madelaine ha inspirado a todo el equipo global de WEConnect Internacional. De las más de 500 empresas de mujeres certificadas en casi 20 países, su historia de éxito fue elegido para el nuevo video de WEConnect internacional que demuestra el compromiso de la organización para vincular a mujeres empresarias con compradores corporativos.
Congratulations to Maggie Berry — WEConnect International Market Lead of the Year 2015
Maggie is the Executive Director for WEConnect International in Europe and joined the team in December 2012 – she has lead responsibility for the management, leadership and development of WEConnect International in Europe. Her role involves developing corporate and public sector support as well as growing and developing the database and network of registered and certified women business owners across the UK and Europe. Previously, Maggie was the Managing Director of womenintechnology.co.uk – an online job board, recruitment and networking forum for women working in the technology profession in the UK. She was involved from Women in Technology's inception in the autumn of 2004, managed all aspects of the website and the networking activities Women in Technology organised and she continues to run the Women in Technology Network on an informal basis. In March 2012 Maggie was honoured by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader and she is currently serving as a Global Agenda Council Member on Employment for the 2012-2014 term. In July 2011 she was listed as one of 15 UK-based TIAW (the International Alliance for Women) World of Difference Award winners and in July 2010 she was included in Management Today's '35 Under 35' list. She is also a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists. In August 2014, Maggie was interviewed by Global Invest Her about entrepreneurship and the future of WEConnect International in Europe.
I would just like to confirm that WEConnect has very much supported my business here in UK. Maggie and her team has actively introduced IBM to women-owned businesses that we have worked closely with to be suppliers to IBM locally and globally. The quality of contacts and events is very high; they provide us with a broader range of products and services than we would normally be able to get to in such a short period of time. WEConnect Europe does just that - Connect fast. It has been a pleasure working with Maggie and her team. I look forward to more joint business success in the future.
WEConnect Europe has been absolutely pivotal in the growth and progression of my organisation. In particular it was an introduction to IBM which made me stand back and look at the product mix I am offering and turn my business model on its head. Through the process of due diligence that IBM performed on maiden-voyage.com it gave me the confidence and impetus to launch a corporate membership initiative which is perfectly presentable to some of the world's largest organisations, to whom WEConnect International has provided direct introductions. It would have taken me years to have had some of the conversations WEConnect Europe has since brokered. That is why I continue to recommend WEConnect Europe to every B2B woman owned business I come across. The team at WEConnect Europe are absolutely brilliant and I really don't know how they manage to do so much to support so many businesses and corporates with such a small team. All true by the way!
Certified Women’s Business Enterprise
The decision SEaB Energy made to invest the time to become a WEConnect certified company, was one of the best decisions in our five years of business! Maggie and her team have introduced us tirelessly to well-selected opportunities with large corporates such as DELL, IBM, and Sodexo. The introductions have allowed us to progress to opportunity identification and presenting to key decision makers very quickly. We have even had referrals to clients of the original company introduced! Several of the opportunities are global and multi-million pound in value. In addition, WEConnect made us visible for awards, and we have won the Enterprising Woman of the Year award.
Certified Women’s Business Enterprise
I am the CEO & founder of Skills4Stem Ltd. We have been a certified WBE for about a year now. WEConnect International in Europe, led by Maggie Berry, has helped me and my business in so many ways. Through WEConnect International in Europe, I have been able to interact and forge strong business relationships with other women-owned businesses. For example, we have been liaising with The Sourcing Company for our marketing needs and have had many early stage discussions with an e-Learning provider; Express Training Courses. These interactions were made possible through leadership programme sessions at RBS as well as other events organised by Maggie.
One of these events that is particularly memorable is the Intel Supply Connections Event that was held in November last year. This event opened our eyes to some of the wearable new technology and as a result of the valuable learnings we obtained that day, we are now working on a feasibility study to integrate wearable technology into the Construction industry partnering with Costain, a FTSE 100 construction company. Maggie has also facilitated conversations for us with Intel outside of the event.
The events that Maggie organises are so different from those I am accustomed to. Maggie’s WEConnect events are innovative, relevant and related to growth and change, unlike many of the other organisations we belong to. Skills4Stem is innovating in the Construction industry pairing skills analysis and technology and Maggie’s WEConnect cross sector events are inspirational, informative and challenging helping us understand how we can learn from other businesses and sectors to improve our business model and product range(s).
Maggie was the reason I joined WEConnect International and her drive and passion has made this organisation very valuable to us. Maggie has opened so many doors for us; she is always ready to help when we need it, and is a great ambassador for what she is trying to achieve in terms of promoting women-owned businesses. She and WEConnect International in Europe have given us value that is way beyond money. We are confident that through a continued joint effort, we will also win some revenue generating business from corporate members – something we will look forward to!
Certified Women’s Business Enterprise
Lise Déziel, Cordé Électrique
Lise Déziel was named a WEConnect International in Canada WBE of the Year on Nov. 13, 2015!
Mme Déziel had been in the field of electrical wiring for 20 years before creating her own enterprise in 2010. Cordé Électrique has grown from 4 employees in 2010, to 45 employees in 2014.
In June 2015, Mme Déziel was invited by the Réseau des Femmes d’affaires du Québec and WEConnect International in Canada to attend the largest American supplier diversity conference for women business owners in Austin, Texas. She hesitated but decided to join in at the last minute. In just a few days at the conference, through the introductions made by WEConnect International, a non-profit that connects women entrepreneurs to market opportunities in global chains. Ms. Déziel met with GM, FCA, Toyota, and others. These multinational corporations encouraged her to seek the certification from WEConnect International in Canada which certifies and trains women owned businesses to do business with large corporations which have supplier diversity and inclusion programs.
Following that trip and the certification, GM invited her to attend their own diversity trade show. She was also invited to attend Great Lakes diversity show. This visibility has created many opportunities to make new contacts.
Usually in this type of industry, contract takes 1-2 years to come to fruition. But since the certification, the life of her enterprise has changed in a good way, and partnership and contract negotiation have been accelerated, and she talking about possible opening of the American market. She is very optimistic about closing significant new contracts in the future based on her certification and working with corporations who promote supplier diversity and inclusion for women owned businesses.
Majda Ficko | Owner and President
Winnipeg | Manitoba | Canada
Majda Ficko was named a WEConnect International in Canada WBE of the Year on Nov. 13, 2015!
Did you know diaper rash is actually a chemical burn that can lead to infection? Did you know that it only takes 26 seconds for your skin to absorb chemicals from your personal care products? Did you know that some of the shampoos and creams for babies on the market today contain chemicals like formaldehyde?
WEConnect International certified woman business owner, award-winning entrepreneur, and mother Majda Ficko knows all to well and has created an all-natural diaper cream that works – Baby Butz.
Majda gave birth to her son, Demitri, nearly 18 years ago. He was born prematurely and was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition called Cornelia de Lange. Against all odds, he is alive today. However, he must use a feeding tube for nourishment and forever be in diapers.
Demitri has been prone to diaper rash his entire life. For several years, Majda tried numerous over-the-counter creams, but none seemed to work. She decided to work with a chemist to create exactly what she needed. She started doing research, approaching doctors, “Tell me what I need.” In the end, Majda and the chemist created an all-natural, safe, alcohol-free, and perfume-free product that really works.
“I didn’t make the product to sell,” says Majda. “I made it for Demitri. I remember how relieved I was, knowing he could sleep through the night, rash and pain free.”
In fact Majda had no plans to manufacture and sell her diaper cream, but Demitri’s doctors kept encouraging her to share the formulation so it could help other babies and children. Majda was convinced, and Baby Butz was born.
Baby Butz has received the gold standard NPN license from Health Canada as a certified natural product, and it has been well received by customers from Manitoba to Hollywood, from Chicago to China. Majda started small by selling the cream in pharmacies. She would leverage one deal into another. Today, Baby Butz is in large retail stores and online.
Along the way, Majda had joined Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba, who in turn encouraged her to apply for a WEConnect International certification. Eager to get her product into international markets, Majda went for it. Once certified, she was able to attend a trade show in Chicago and grab the attention of Walgreens and WEConnect International Corporate Member Walmart.
“The WEConnect International logo catches the eyes of big players. Buyers want to know if you are a diversity supplier, and they want to see that you are certified.”
Majda is excited for the future of her company with plans to expand her product line. Supraderm a barrier and healing cream for adult rashes will be hitting the market soon, and she also recently got licensed her for all-natural sunscreen. Did you know some of the chemicals in sun blocks on store shelves today actually cause sunburns? Keep an eye out for Sunblocz and SunBlocz Baby by Olen Cosmetics.
Sally Ormond | Managing Director
Suffolk | UK
I first became aware of WEConnect International through a certified member I met at a local networking event. She was aware of my business and said that she thought it would be a good fit as my skills were not only suitable to the corporate market, but also fellow WEConnect International women business owners. After looking into the organization I was impressed by the range of events and activities it offered and the number of corporate members.
I soon decided that the only way forward was to become a fully certified member (a painless process), initially deciding to try it out for a 3-year period. Anything like this takes a while to show results, but I am now into my fourth year and have worked with a few WEConnect International women business owners and a couple of corporate contacts.
I started Briar Copywriting back on 2007. I work with companies of all sizes around the world to help them communicate more effectively through the written word, both for external and internal communications. Working in partnership with my clients, I get to know them, their business and their customers and create content that fits their brand, achieves their aims and that creates a cohesive image.
Since becoming part of WEConnect International I have been working with Cisco (award entries and on-going basis on internal communication projects), My Social Intelligence (copyediting work), GIBBS S3 (brochure and website content), RBS (helping Marcella Navarro with an interview document) and The Sourcing Team (mobile web content).
I came into contact with Nikki Walker of Cisco at the first conference I attended and Shelley Rostlund of My Social Intelligence at the 2014 conference. Although I had met both Gill (The Souring Team) and Farida (GIBBS S3) at conferences, it was Maggie Berry who made the initial introduction when they were looking for copywriting help.
As a writer, the main differentiating factor in winning these business contracts was me; the way I work, the way I connect with my clients, the transparency of my work and the way I will do whatever it takes to help them achieve their goals. The ability to focus on your customers’ needs, empathize with them and show them how you are going to make their lives better is paramount if your marketing communications are to be powerful enough to get you noticed.
The introductions from Maggie, as a trusted partner member of WEConnect International’s team, were the first step in making these connections, and working with WEConnect International businesses and corporate members certainly helps exposure to other potential clients. Today, with a raised profile I am working with more large corporates who understand that although I work alone, that gives them the continuity and personal service they want.
WEConnect International has helped me on a business level and a personal one, too. Not the greatest networker in the world (that’s the introverted writer in me), the conferences and events I have attended have given me the confidence to believe that I can work with the big boys and add value to WEConnect International business owners and members.
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.