As any small business knows, getting in the door of international clients can be the biggest challenge.
“Certainly the competition can be fierce, so you need to stand out, differentiate your business,” says Mary Anderson, President of WBE Canada.
One way to distinguish your company is to be certified as a Women Business Enterprise (WBE), as many large corporations today are looking to diversify their supply chains and make procurement policies more inclusive. In fact, a lot of large players in sectors like automotive have set aside specific percentages of their procurement spend to do just that.
And it’s fair to say that tapping into the likes of a GM, could help your small business grow, says Anderson.
WBE Canada certifies majority-owned, managed, and controlled women’s businesses in Canada and helps find opportunities for these businesses to meet buyers and get access to bids as part of supplier diversity programs. Primarily B2B, they also provide training, mentoring and networking events which connect women-owned businesses with the procurement processes of some of the country’s top organizations.
Once these connections are made, it’s up to the WBEs to win contracts on their own merit.
“We look for well-established women-owned companies in growth mode; those with solid revenue growth and good management teams that are looking to expand their model by accessing larger companies to become a supplier,” says Anderson. As the first woman president of the Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters (I.E. Canada), Anderson knows a thing or two about expanding a business internationally.
“Sometimes just getting in a room with these large corporations can be the biggest challenge for smaller companies looking to grow. Introducing WBEs to the right buyer or procurement officer can make all the difference.”
To that effect, WBE Canada has been conducting a series of events called Breakfast with Brands, which feature informal networking and roundtables discussions. The next event will take place in Austin, Texas in order to introduce WBEs to corporations within industry clusters. This event is the day in advance of the annual WBENC National Convention in Austin, Texas June 23, 24 and 25th. WBEs can hear from the likes of CAMSC, CTDI, General Motors, Kellogg, Lear, Nissan, United Rentals and TD Bank.
Breakfast with Brands is a ‘speed dating’ for businesses, explains Anderson. It offers a personalized introduction –where WBEs have the opportunity to do an elevator pitch to corporations that might be interested in their product or service.
“It’s really an opportunity for WBEs to showcase their unique product or service to some of North America’s largest organizations.”
And whether your business is in the services sector or manufacturing, success today often means expanding beyond Canada. “Certainly, companies that export tend to stay around longer,” adds Anderson.
“And make no mistake, growing a business is not without its risks, no matter where the market. But there are plenty of tools out there to help minimize these risks.”
Other upcoming events include a webinar on Maximize International Growth Opportunities, designed to show companies how to mitigate risk and position their business for success in the US.
Presenters include Jennifer Cooke, District Manager, GTA, Export Development Canada (EDC), Amesika Baeta, Account Manager, Small Business Solutions, (EDC) and Caroline Tompkins, President and CEO, Forum for International Trade Training (FITT). To register for this webinar, visit