Why Astra? Why WBENC?

Networking. It’s tough to get out there. But that’s exactly what busy Astra WBEs do. They SHOW UP. Showing up is an important part of  Astra’s 2013 theme – Game Changers – Show Up. Grow. Win. When Team Astra was developing the theme earlier this year the original creative used the term “play” v. “show up”. Wisely, Suzanne Lackman, Vice President and Co-Founder of Astra said, “No. That messaging is wrong. We don’t play at business. We show up and work hard.”  Take a moment and meet Cecelia McCloy, President of Integrated Science Solutions and find out why she is part of the WBENC Astra network .

Video produced by Total Media Group.

Astra Women’s Business Alliance Organized Game Changers Event

On July 24th-25th, 2013, Fortune 500 companies, women-owned businesses and federal agencies came together to explore opportunities to do business, network and support women-owned businesses.


Astra Women’s Business Alliance, a regional partner of Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), organized and hosted a “Game Changers, Champions for Women-Owned Businesses Worldwide,” event that brought together Fortune 500 companies, women-owned businesses and federal agencies. The Workshops Awards & Matchmaker event provided an opportunity for those involved to do business, which can lead to economic development and job creation, which can then also span the world with its impact.

Three Astra women business owners won WBE Growth Awards for increasing their revenues during the past two years. Imelda Alejandrino, of AP42 won for businesses with growth under $1 million dollars; Laura Bergerson of Channel Impact won for growth up to $6 million and Olsa Martini of Olsa Resources, Inc. won for representing businesses over $6 million dollars in total revenues. The businesses were nominated by other individuals and were selected through a committee process.

Timothy Evans, Supplier Diversity Manager of Comcast was recognized as Corporate Advocate of the Year. Done Deals Awards were given to the following companies who have created at least three contracts with Astra women business owners in the last calendar year: Brocade, Robert Half International, Comcast and Effective Training Associates.

Astra also held a workshop entitled “Capturing Pooled Power of Women” which addressed the importance of women buying goods and services from each other and forming strategic alliances to position themselves for larger contracts in order to impact families and the communities. Mary Ann Campbell, Money Magic, Inc, former National Women’s Business Council, appointed by President Clinton; Billie Bryant Schultz, Cesco, Inc. founding board member of WBENC and Barbara Kasoff, co-founder of Women Impacting Public Policy were panelists. The workshop was moderated by Diane McClelland, co-founder of Astra Women’s Business Alliance and co-founder of Foundation for Women Owned Businesses. These women have been actively supporting the growth for business opportunities for women business owners for over 125 years combined.

Sponsors for the event were Chevron, Johnson & Johnson, AT&T, TransPak, Inc, Private Eyes, Inc. Olsa Resources, Inc., TMG, Union Bank, Hunter Hawk, Inc. and Primitive Logic.

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Hunter Hawk, Inc.,Shooting Past $2 million and Positioned for Growth

On January 28th, 2013, Astra sat down with Sandy Hunter, President of Hunter Hawk, Inc. Take five and read on to hear how Sandy leverages the Astra WBENC network for success.

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1. You’ve been an Astra/WBENC WBE for more than ten years. What turned you onto the Astra/WBENC network?

The Shell Martinez Refinery requested that I become certified. I was very resistant because I didn’t understand the need; I was already doing business with Shell and other refineries. My initial reaction is that no one should have access to my business information. Suzanne Lackman, Vice-President of Astra Women’s Business Alliance told me straight up,” You will conform to the WBENC standards or you will not be certified.”  Even though that doesn’t sound like a good beginning, I consider Suzanne the champion of Astra/WBENC standards and I cherish her support.  Both Suzanne and her sister and co-founder Diane McClelland work tirelessly for women business owners. For them it is a vocation. They are the supreme connectors. I hope I live up to their expectations. And Mary Jo Juarez, as a former Navy contracts person has been phenomenal in her support. She’s on the Astra Board as well. She is so good, plus talented – at our first in-person meeting she presented me with a bracelet she made for me.  Her continuous support has spurred me on. She insisted that I keep trying. It took us 6 complete bid packages, totaling many many hours and almost two years of trying to finally win a contract from the US Army that put us over the $2 million dollar mark. We had to re-think it. We had to re-engineer and re-locate what we do to find $6 per unit difference to make it work. Do you understand what that contract has meant for our business? Our business is now 50% diversified between government and non-government work.  Diversity of client base is key to our success and that balance will help us continue to grow this year.

2. How has your business changed over this period?

We went through that bad place called 2009 and it was our best year ever. Then in 2010 our business took a one million dollar dump. It was all due to our small customer base and I was too involved. In 2011, we switched it up and learned how to go after government contracts. We are not looking back. In 2012 I did the Kauffman Bootcamp in San Leandro with Astra. That program for me was invaluable in many ways. It kicked me in the butt. It made me stop whining and over thinking. It allowed me to breathe. I walked out after 5 days and hired someone who I trust to do the stuff I don’t like to do and shouldn’t be doing. Now I make sure I get a chance to do what I love; be with my customers and sell.  That’s what I do best. It also taught me to look beyond the comfort zone and now we have 3 divisions. We studied our audience, our customers and potential customers. Now we know who they are and we are effectively communicating with them. That sounds so simple now but who knows how long it would have taken me on my own. The support from the facilitators and other business owners was priceless.

3. What’s your favorite Astra/WBENC connection story?

I was nominated by Astra in late 2009 to be a WBENC Star for 2010. So in November of 2009 I arrive in Baltimore and I was lost in space. Then I met “The Women in the Bar” – Denise Kanaar, D& D Logistics, from Michigan and Laurie Travis, LTevention from Las Vegas.  We literally looked at each other and said, “You a star?” “Yeah I’m a star.” “Does anyone know what we’re doing?” We had no idea. We still laugh about it. But I learned so much from that experience. The following  year when I heard that Janell McGill, Milligan Events from Idaho was named as Astra’s Star and would be honored at the Summit and Salute II called her up and said, “ Here’s the scoop.” That’s the WBENC sisterhood – sharing information and paying it forward.

4. What was your Astra/WBENC “Aha” moment?

When Sandra James. Private Eyes, Inc. came to my ‘home’ office to do my Site Visit – way back when…..Yes I run a $2 million business with 4 employees out of my converted garage. The moment was the instant connection about the common things we shared as women business owners. Although I had friends that owned businesses, this was different.  I didn’t even know what I was missing. Sandra is so real. She just gets it and pays it forward all the time.  For me, she is “the real deal”.

5. What are your Astra/WBENC plans for 2013 and how can Astra/WBENC improve its service offering to your company?

Astra is essential to us this year. The introductions and connections that we will gain by attending Astra events and paying it forward will propel us to our goal of $3 million in revenue. We’re working on the bids  right now. It’s going to happen. I am now operating a bi-coastal company and my desire is that Astra will help make that even more successful with more bi-coastal contacts. We are based in Northern California and have a manufacturing facility in North Carolina. We continue to deliver products with zero defects zero rejects on our Army contract. The receiver of the equipment is Lockheed Martin. It’s a working network. I am not sure if we will expand internationally or not. I am not ruling it out but we have a Made in America/Buy in America Policy and we are sticking to it. When first looking for suppliers I look for women business owners, then minorities, then small businesses. It’s a supply chain program that works for us and will continue to spur our growth. Hunter Hawk remains fearless, focused and flexible. Working together. Women working together. That’s WBENC. That’s Astra.

Here’s more about Hunter Hawk, Inc:

Want to meet Sandy in-person? Join  Sandy & Astra in Napa, California for “Wine, Women & Winning” on February 22nd, 2013.

To find out more about Hunter Hawk, Inc. visit their website: www.hunterhawk.com

WBENC Summit & Salute March 13-14th, 2013

Northern California Leadership Forum

Astra WBENC Stars

WOSB – What Next?

MaryJo Juarez, Government Contracting Expert, Consultant at NAPTAC & Astra Board Member sees an increasing volume  of opportunities, especially with Prime Contractors, for WBEs.  Here are  MaryJo’s top action items using your WOSB Certification for success:

  • Learn the language – Government contracting is different. Start with the SBA website as a resource & learn the different acronyms. Present your marketing materials with the information the Contracting Officers need on your business cards, Capability Statements (Services) & on your Line Cards (products).
  • Research who buys what you sell – All agencies are different but most put together a buying forecast each September that lists everything the agency will be buying. If you don’t see these posted online ask the agency representatives for a copy when you see them at events. PTACs are a good resource  and offer assistance to small businesses at low/no cost including “Bid Match” that matches you with opportunities as they are posted online.
  • Go to events -Find out where the Primes are going to be. Often times they list their outreach events on their websites. Follow Astra’s Events & plan to attend the partner outreach events that they are attending.
  • Ask for help & build relationships – The only unanswered question is the one that is not asked. Build your network & use it. Reach out to Astra Leaders.

Thank you to Astra Corporate Member URS for sponsoring Astra’s webinar on February 20,2012: “WOSB – What Next?” For more information about URS’ supplier diversity program visit their website.

> Webinar Slides: WOSB- What Next? (PDF)

WBEs join Astra’s Board of Directors

Astra’s 2012 Board of Directors (pictured above from left to right) is led by, Board Chair, Gay Adams, U.S. Bank. Vice-Chair of the Board is, Olsa Martini, Olsa Resources, Inc. Olsa is also Co-Chair of Astra’s Leadership Forum. Sandra James of Private Eyes, Inc. has stepped up to be Secretary & is Co-Chair of the Leadership Forum. Both Olsa and Sandra represent Astra at WBENC as National Forum Representatives. Mary Jo Jaurez, Native American PTAC continues as Treasurer.  Fernando Hernandez, Microsoft, is in-charge of Astra’s Development Committee. Heading up the Global Committee is Caroline Gladding, Johnson & Johnson. Sam Artis, URS, continues to lead the Government Committee. Joining the Board for the first time are  Suchi Gupta, Pure Design Solution (Marketing Committee Chair) & Arlene Inch, TransPak, Inc.  Julia Rhodes, Kleenslate Concepts LLC and Diane McClelland, Astra Women’s Business Alliance continue as Board Members.

The Bottom-Line Benefits of Being WBENC Certified

Business is all about the bottom line. Fortunately, supporting women-owned businesses not only helps level the playing field and generates good will for a company, it also makes good business sense. By working with the women- owned business community, corporations gain access to a powerful market segment. Our corporate members tell us they’ve saved millions of dollars and become more effective marketers due to their relationships with women-owned business suppliers.

And how does that benefit the bottom-line of WBEs? Astra (WBENC) WBE, Mary Kariotis, President & CEO of Merrimak Capital recently reported that the company’s new business volume has increased more than 50 percent since last year.  “The dramatic spike in business is primarily a result of our heightened focus on Fortune 500 companies producing essential consumer products. Many of Merrimak Capital’s new investment grade clients were attracted to competitive rates, but also to the fact that the company is woman-owned.  As a result, Merrimak can meet vendor diversity compliance requirements.” Merrimark obtained WBENC certification in 2009. Merrimak serves equipment leasing and asset finance needs of public and private companies worldwide, spanning many growth industries.  Women’s Business Enterprise Certification makes it possible for Merrimark customers to qualify for Tier One Diversity Spend Credit.

Wondering how to get started? Check out our recent Webinar on how to use your WBENC certification in 2012.

Not sure which “BIG” companies to pursue? Start by visiting Astra’s Corporate Member’s web resources (Quick links are posted on our Corporate Membership Page.) to determine who you should be targeting. Each company is set up a little bit differently but offers an insight as to what drives diversity at their organization. Plan to meet  Corporate Representatives at an upcoming event.

Meet the Leadership Forum

The Leadership Forum represents a partnership and a powerful link between Astra and WBENC, the national organization for women that provides certification. Olsa Martini and Sandra James Co-Chair Astra’s  Forum as well as representing Astra at WBENC’s Women’s Enterprise Leadership Forum as Chair & and Vice Chair. Led by successful women business owners representing, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Northern California and Washington – the Leadership Forum serves as the voice of our region, communicating with WBENC to let them know our members’ needs and challenges so they can be addressed through future national events and programs. The Leadership Forum also connects women-owned businesses with each other so that they can network, share ideas and offer solutions. This includes hosting regular gatherings featuring guest speakers and lots of time for member mingling. Joining your State’s Leadership Forum is easy & provides you with an opportunity to get involved. Want to learn more? Just reach out to a Forum Leader in your state and introduce yourself today.

(Pictured above from Left to Right: Co-Chairs: Olsa Martini & Sandra James; From Alaska, Cary Foster & Gail Morrison; from Idaho, Janell McGill;  Montana, Anna Kazmierowski and Denna Korting; from Northern California,  Sandy Hunter; from Oregon, Nancy Gudekunst; from Washington Julia Winnicki, Sandy Winston & Kristina Roth.)