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Women's Business Enterprise National Conference To Be Held In Detroit

More than 6,000 women business owners are expected to attend

June 17, 2018 - 6:15 am

DETROIT (WWJ) – Thousands of women business owners will be in Detroit this upcoming week for the 19th Annual Women’s Business Enterprise National Council Conference.

The conference, held at Cobo Center June 19-21, provides opportunities for women who own businesses across the country – and across the globe – through networking, matchmaking and training exercises.

Michelle Richards, executive director of the Great Lakes Women’s Business Council, said the council does a number of things to support women business owners, from networking to financing.

“It’s about getting the tools and resources to actually get you started,” Richards told WWJ Newsradio 950. “That makes the difference.”

Founded in 1997, WBENC is the leading third-party certifier of businesses owned and operated by women, with more than 14,000 WBENC-certified WBEs.

Great Lakes WBC represents more than 1200 WBENC-certified women’s business enterprises generating approximately $14.4 billion in annual revenue and employing 45,400 U.S. workers, as well as 95 corporate partners in a range of industry sectors.

Richards says more than 6,000 women will attend the conference in Detroit, and upwards of 80 percent of the attendees will be from outside of the Detroit area, which is expected to bring an influx of business to Detroit’s lodging, entertainment and restaurant venues.

“Detroit’s innovative and entrepreneurial history, the city’s dynamic resurgence on the national scene, our international ports and, of course, our global automotive and manufacturing economy, combine to make Detroit an attractive destination for the 19th annual Conference,” Richards said in a press release.

While the conference is held in a different location every year, Richards says Detroit is a fascinating host city because it ranks among the top five places for new women entrepreneurs in the country. That, paired with Detroit’s economic resurgence makes for a good example of the difference women can make in business.

Richards said the conference -- themed “Discover The Difference” – has opportunities for a wide range of business owners, from one-person operations to billion-dollar, Fortune 500 companies.

“What is the decider here is that you have to direct your approach to the right size company to do business with,” Richards told WWJ. “So maybe if you’re a one or two –person operation, then you’re trying to do business with other women business owners, where if you’re a larger entity, you’re trying to do business with a major corporation.”

“We’re helping to grow up those next ladder steps to get to the higher levels,” Richards said.

Richards said Detroit “creates a blueprint for what other cities should be doing.”

“We’ve had women being able to contract with the companies that are coming in for everything from staffing services to janitorial,” she said. “The opportunities right now in Detroit are so amazing. Detroit is such a focal point in the kinds of resurgence.”

One major focus of the WBC is its ability to help women finance. Women only receive 4.4 percent of funding and 14 percent of all loans given out nationally to business, Richards said. And her organization strives to help women with the “interim steps,” giving them a financial foundation to start with before receiving “conventional financing” from the banks.

“Women’s dreams don’t die in the parking lots of banks anymore because we’re able to help them when they have an idea and need to develop that track record before they can go back to the bank,” she said.

Registration for the WBENC Conference is now open.