Buying with Impact
I am the CEO and Co-Founder of WEConnect International, a corporate-led nonprofit that helps to empower women business owners to succeed in global markets. I had the great fortune to be invited by Ofra Strauss to speak at the 2013 Jasmine Conference this week in Tel Aviv. Ofra Straus is the Chair of the Strauss Group and Chair of Jasmine, an association dedicated to the promotion of businesses owned by Arab and Jewish women.
The theme of the 2013 Jasmine Conference was women in supply chains. I shared the story of WEConnect International and how we were created three years ago by some of the largest corporations in the world who are committed to sourcing more from women business owners. I also shared how we are working with partners in Asia, Australasia, Europe, Latin America and soon Africa and the Middle East to build an infrastructure to give women greater visibility and credibility in new markets.
There are millions of women-owned businesses globally that meet the WEConnect International women’s business enterprise certification criteria of a company that is at least 51 percent owned, managed, and controlled by one or more women. This definition helps to ensure that the money our corporate members want to spend on women who want to compete for corporate businesses, will actually go to the women. However, due to geographic constraints, certification is not yet available everywhere so we also offer free self-registration for women-owned businesses that meet our criteria.
The pioneering women who have joined the WEConnect International network from over 50 countries will be the first to say that competing for larger contracts is not easy and it takes time.
Gill Thorpe, for example, is the founder of the Sourcing Team, a promotional products company based in Europe. According to Thorpe, “Attending WEConnect International programs and events is a very valuable way to leverage certification. WEConnect International corporate members who participate in the programs are all very positive, helpful, and enthusiastic. One challenge is that while diversity is clearly high on their list of global priorities, most corporations have contracts with large, preferred suppliers and therefore find it difficult to add new, smaller, diverse suppliers.”
While in Tel Aviv, I also participated in a very powerful meeting hosted by the Strauss Group and Bank Hopoalim with the top leadership of the Israeli corporate community. It is clear to me that there is already an awareness and growing commitment by the corporate community of Israel to learn more about the opportunities to benefit from buying more from the women business owners of Israel and beyond.
I am encouraged and inspired by the potential for large and small businesses to grow together to promote inclusion and create jobs and economic opportunity for all.