I was one of the lucky 21 women selected to attend WBENC's National Conference and Student Entrepreneur Program this year! It was a great experience, and I got to learn so much about WBENC and what they offer to women-owned businesses.
The Women's Business Enterprise National Council is the largest certifier of women-owned businesses in the United States. If your business is 51% women-owned, you can become certified! Simple & Sentimental is 100% women-owned, and we plan to become certified within the next year. In addition to certifying businesses, WBENC provides amazing opportunities like networking, events, conferences, education, and more for female founders. Each year they host a National Conference for Women-Owned Enterprises (WBEs), corporates, other businesses, and a few select student entrepreneurs.
This year the conference was hosted in Detroit, Michigan, aka Motor City. Because I was a part of WBENC's Student Entrepreneur Program, we got there two days early to attend events at Detroit Start Up Week and a few other WBENC events. We stayed at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center, also the home of General Motors' headquarters. The hotel was 70 stories tall, and we could see Canada across the river!
The conference was held at the COBO, a 15 minute walk from our hotel. The conference ran Tuesday-Thursday, with a few events on Monday as well. The highlights of attending the conference for me were the networking, the keynote speakers, and the business fair. Each evening there were cocktail parties or dinners where you could mingle with other female founders and representatives of large corporations. The keynote speakers were great, and we even got to see Mandy Harvey speak and sing! The business fair was the event everyone was looking forward to all week. All day on Wednesday, there was a large trade show where you can go and pitch to corporations, make connections, and learn about business opportunities within the WBENC network. Being a certified women-owned business, you have a great opportunity to work with large corporations. They all have a supplier diversity team looking for women-owned businesses to work with, and WBENC is a great place to meet them!
The Student Entrepreneur Program
Being a part of WBENC's Student Entrepreneur Program was an experience I will never forget! It was so cool to get to meet other female founders that are full time students, and to get to hear about their awesome companies. You can read more about the other women from my cohort in WBENC's press release.
As a part of SEP, you get assigned mentors and attend exclusive events at the conference. The mentorship and connections I made through this program were extremely beneficial to my business, and I know I will keep the connections I made for the rest of my business career. If you are a female founder in college, whether it be your undergrad or graduate school, I encourage you to apply! It's worth the time commitment, and you will definitely see fruit come from participating. You become a part of a national network of businesses!
If you are a female founder in college, apply to be in the Student Entrepreneur Program, you won't regret it! If you are a women-owned business, look into the benefits of becoming certified and see if it's right for you. With your certification you also get to use WBENC's "Women-Owned" logo on your products, and women are 80% more likely to purchase a product when they know it's made by another woman. As female founders, we are stronger together, and WBENC is a great way to unite with other lady bosses from across the country! The conference was amazing, and we even got to have some fun too. Needless to say, I can't wait to go back!