Helping Women’s Business Enterprises Grow
The Women’s Business Council – Southwest (WBCS) was formed in 1995 as the North Texas Women’s Business Council in Dallas. Incorporated as a not-for-profit organization, the mission of the Council was to provide and increase mutually beneficial procurement opportunities for women-owned businesses in corporate, government and institutional arenas, focusing on the north Texas area. The Council continues to carry out that same mission today with over 1,000 certified Women’s Business Enterprises (WBEs) and close to 90 corporate members. They serve a four-state region which includes central and north Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
Prior to the Council’s formation, active members of the Dallas/Ft. Worth Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), along with key corporations in the Dallas Metroplex recognized the critical need for an organization that could provide third-party certification for WBEs similar to the longstanding process available for ethnic minority-owned businesses through the National Minority Supplier Development Council. With commitment and funding from 19 strong corporations, in addition to support from other minority- and women-owned business organizations, the North Texas Women’s Business Council was introduced.
Corporate and WBE members of the new organization’s board soon realized the immediate need to expand their certification program into a national certification standard for WBEs that would be accepted by all corporations across the United States. With the Dallas council and corporations leading the way, strong women’s business organizations from Chicago, Ohio and New Orleans joined the campaign. The result of the effort made by key corporate supporters and the four organizations was the formation of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).
WBENC, as it is commonly referred, now has 14 partnering organizations serving specific regions nationwide. The formation of the national council extended the North Texas council’s coverage area to include all of north and central Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
With active board participation on the national level and rapid membership growth, the North Texas council realized it was time for a new branding effort that could better communicate what the organization was all about. In 2000, the North Texas Women’s Business Council became the Women’s Business Council – Southwest.
The Done Deals program, trademarked by the WBCS, was created in 1998 to highlight and track business being done between members (e.g., Corporate to WBE and WBE to WBE). The program is a vital tool for the WBCS to measure how it is achieving its mission of growing certified women-owned businesses. After 13 years, the WBCS is proud to have 39 of its corporate members reporting more than $489 million in spend with WBE members. This was a 44% increase since 2010.
The program also provides WBEs the opportunity to showcase specific “Done Deals” they have had with other members. “It’s a great way for our WBEs to promote their business and provides a nice reference of who they are doing business with,” says Nancy Readel, WBCS vice president.
In 2004, the WBCS formed the ACE program, consisting of WBEs and corporate members in the architectural, construction and engineering industries. The program is geared toward helping women business owners overcome any prejudice and successfully compete in these male-dominated fields. A significant portion of the WBCS WBE members are in the architecture, construction and engineering industries, making this a very important program to its members.
Lillie Knox was a vital part of the history and current success of the WBCS and the WBENC organization. Lillie passed away on November 10, 2003. In 2005, the Lillie Knox Investing for Growth Award was created by WBCS to honor Lillie for her support of WBEs through her commitment, spirit, passion and determination.
Each September, at the annual Harvesting Partnerships luncheon, an award of up to $5,000 is awarded in Lillie’s memory. These cash awards are based on donations from WBCS members. The recipients are certified-WBE members of WBCS who have identified a critical need in their business that, if met, will support the growth and development of their business. The cash award may fully (or partially) fund this need and may include, but is not limited to, equipment purchase, technical development or upgrade, consulting services, strategic planning, Website development, planning or education.
In 2011, donations totaled over $20,000 and cash awards were presented to four WBE members.
The WBCS serves central and north Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. They provide certification, programs and outreach events in those territories outside of the DFW area that benefit their members. They opened their first satellite office in Austin in May of 2011 and plan to open additional satellite offices in the coming years in order to better serve the entire region.