Pamela Prince-Eason is the current President and CEO of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and has brought a new-found sense of purpose to the organization. As the organization celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2012, MBEConnect Profiles conducted an interview with her to reflect on the accomplishments of the organization and look to what lies ahead.
April marked your one year anniversary as President and CEO of WBENC. What changes have you seen WBENC experience in that year?
I am proud to say that we have seen three major accomplishments this past year. First, we are deepening our role as a key partner to corporations and government entities in developing their women’s business enterprise programs. I spend a good deal of time meeting with our Corporate and Government Members in person, to hear more about their business goals and how access to WBENC’s deep pool of certified WBEs can help them meet the needs of their customers and constituents.
At Walmart, we are working closely to support the company’s plans to substantially increase its purchases from woman-owned suppliers. This effort is part of a larger strategy to support Walmart women internally as colleagues as well as utilize more women suppliers. I am proud to support this transformation at Walmart on an advisory basis. We are also partnering with Shell Oil Company to enhance their access to credentialed WBEs to advance their work in areas such as energy exploration and development that require highly technical and engineering expertise. And at Toyota, which has committed to increase its spending target for WBEs to better align with other companies in the automotive and non-automotive industries, WBENC has been helping it to define and develop its WBE initiative.
Second, in concert with the Board of Directors and many working committees, we have mapped out key parts of our strategic plan, the WBENC Roadmap to 2020, to drive innovative partnerships among our Corporate and Government Members and WBEs. This in turn will enhance their products and services towards fueling the economy and creating jobs. We have seen a really exciting engagement on the part of our entire community to contribute to this and make it the best that it can be.
The third key accomplishment has been WBENC’s appointment by the SBA as a certifying organization for its Federal Contracting Program for Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSB). Thanks to the focused work of our RPOs, board members and WBENC certification staff, we were able to bring the program to life with great speed and effectiveness. We were notified in July and started to certify WBEs with WOSB certification in September.
WBENC is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. What does this milestone mean to WBENC?
I am proud to say that at this milestone anniversary, we are deepening our role as the leading authority on and advocate for women’s business enterprises as suppliers to the nation’s top corporations and government entities.
Fifteen years ago we couldn’t have anticipated the billions of dollars being spent today with women businesses. And we could not have foreseen the commitment they have made to drive women’s
business growth. Today WBENC is in the position to enable growth among our Corporate and Government Members through innovative partnerships with WBEs. We, as an organization, are also
encouraging WBEs to pursue business with other WBEs.
What is the Roadmap to 2020 and how does it impact WBENC, its certified WBEs and its corporate members?
The WBENC Roadmap to 2020 is a comprehensive strategy to direct our organization forward. It will define how we deliver our COR values of Certification, Resources and Opportunities – with Recognition and Technology.
We have built that strategy to engage all members of the WBENC family – Corporate and Government Members, WBEs and RPOs – and to identify how each can participate in specific and meaningful ways.
Corporations – and increasingly government agencies – can use certification to enhance their brands before business and consumer audiences. They can tap into the potential for WBEs to create flexible, innovative solutions to their clients’ needs. WBEs can create more partnerships and alliances with other WBEs. WBENC, our Members and our RPOs can provide the education and mentorship to help WBEs enhance capacity. This is an extremely important point and gets to the heart of how WBEs can scale up sufficiently to increase revenues and add jobs.
The annual list of Top Corporations for Women’s Business Enterprises contained a record 29 companies this year. What innovations and trends led to this record number?
They have built best practices that mentor, cultivate, and enable women’s business success. They have provided women’s businesses better access to the corporate marketplace, and in many cases they have supported WBEs in becoming larger and better equipped to serve their clients.
This year, our Top Corporations Awards ceremony focused not on the award itself, but rather on the tremendous strategies and accomplishments that the award reflected. We presented an interactive
panel discussion with their senior executives to delve into the most important issues they are facing today in advancing WBEs as suppliers.
The discussions focused on topics such as how Top Corporations:
- Drive the principles and commitment to doing business with WBEs from the senior most levels of the company throughout the organization. This includes ensuring accountability in the integration
of WBEs into the supply chain.
- Build Capacity in WBEs, which can include educational and mentoring programs.
- Expand Opportunities for WBEs, and Multi-Tier program
We will be leveraging these insights by embedding them in our programming for the 2012 National Conference & Business Fair. We will also capture them for web enabled content so that the WBENC
community can access it in the future.
Last year, WBENC was selected as a third party certification agency for the WOSB certification. Describe what this means for WBEs? For WBENC?
This has been a tremendous opportunity for WBEs to broaden their scope and distinguish themselves among a broader population of potential clients. Interestingly, I think this has also challenged WBEs to create new ways to deepen their capacity and broaden their capabilities so that they can become more competitive.
What this means for WBENC is that we – and our RPOs – have the opportunity to provide more training and education on doing business with Government Agencies. We have also been involved
in conferences and business fairs attended by government agencies. The response from the government sector has been overwhelmingly positive. From the SEC to the Air Force, we have created alliances with government agencies impacting women across the country.
The 14 WBE Stars were honored at the Summit & Salute to WBEs in March. What does it take to become a WBE Star?
In conjunction with our RPOs, WBENC selects our WBE Stars for their outstanding business acumen, innovative business growth, leadership in the business community, and their role in mentoring other WBEs and young women. In sum, the 14 WBE Stars represent the passion and energy that makes the WBE sector a key engine of growth for our economy.
The WBENC 2012 Conference & Business Fair will take place in Orlando in June. What exciting things are in store for this conference?
We have many things in store – from our outstanding keynote speakers to our robust workshop tracks to the largest business fair of its kind in the nation. All are directed at engaging all our participants in the beneficial experiences in the event; and all are aimed at ensuring that they leave the event with new knowledge, determination and contacts that will lead to business growth.
We are proud to offer one of the best attended conferences that not only brings people together for informal networking, but also provides results oriented venues for business development – such as
our Business Fair and MatchMaker sessions with Corporate and Government Members and WBEs.