Third-Party certifiers such as WBENC (Women’s Business Enterprise National Council) and NMSDC (National Minority Supplier Development Council) [please see our Glossary of Terms for more information] have at least one yearly national event. These conferences are usually multi-day events that include workshops, keynote speakers, a business fair (or exhibition hall), matchmaker meetings, and numerous networking functions. They offer member or potential-member businesses and owners a chance to meet with corporate sponsors of their organization and corporate supplier diversity personnel, as well as, and oftentimes more importantly; with other small businesses.
Both WBENC and NMSDC are made up of more local councils which hold networking and learning events within in their geographical area, usually in association with their council’s corporate sponsors. Attending these national and regional events is a good way of getting your business in front of larger corporations and making business-to-business connections with other small businesses.
State and County certifiers also have events like these third-party certifiers. They are usually sponsored by an individual agency – most likely, if they have one, by the State’s minority and women business enterprise office – or a group agencies. Others likely to offer networking and educational events are chambers of commerce, non-profits – such as PowerLink, individual trade associations or collegiate entrepreneurial programs – such as the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University.
Many of the State and County events are geared towards assisting businesses with certification or giving businesses a chance to make contact with decision makers within different agencies. Usually there is no fee involved with these types of events. For third-party certifiers, trade associations, non-profits, chamber of commerce, and collegiate entrepreneurial programs events there may be an associated fee. If there is, there is usually one fee for non-members and a reduced fee for members. The types of learning events hosted by these organizations vary; everything from funding your business, leveraging your certification, software training, and business fundamentals could be a topic.
Most certifiers, chambers of commerce, non-profits, trade associations and collegiate entrepreneurial programs have an “Event” tab or link on their web site. Check out the type of events they’re offering, whether they’re networking or educational, and see if any apply to your type of business or would be useful for the next stage of your business’ evolution. Attend an event and while there speak to other members, as they’ll be the best people to talk about how being a member of a certain group can be beneficial to your company.