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

Arlene Inch, TransPak, Inc. is Astra’s WBENC Star for 2013

Astra is delighted to announce that Arlene Inch, Chairman, TransPak, Inc., is Astra’s 2013 WBENC Star   Arlene a committed supporter of women in business and Astra is honored to have her in our region and on our team!

Arlene’s consistent focus meeting her team’s need and her innate ability to identify strategic options is a critical factor in TransPak’s growth. Since the Inch family acquired the business in 1969, Arlene has taken on any role necessary in order to make the business the success it is today. Arlene’s personal philosophy of keeping positive no matter what the challenge has served the business since their first major customer, Farinon Electric, a microwave radio equipment manufacturer.  In addition to her responsibilities at TransPak, Arlene works to have a positive impact on the community. Arlene is on Astra’s Board of Directors  & in addition to  supporting  Astra/WBENC, Arlene is on the Board of the Bay Area Tumor Institute as well as the Northern California Arthritis Foundation. Arlene earned her B.A. from San Diego State University.

Join Astra & TransPak at the Summit & Salute in Baltimore on March 13-14, 2013.

Previous Astra WBENC Stars

2012 Hannah Kain. Alom Technologies, Inc.

2011 Janell McGill, Milligan Events

2010 Sandy Hunter, Hunter Hawk, Inc.

2009 Sandra James, Private Eyes, Inc.

2008 Olsa Martini, Olsa Resources, Inc.

2007 Julia Rhodes, Kleenslate Concepts

2006 Sandra Floyd, Outsource Consulting Services, Inc.

2005 Elizabeth Kearney, Ph.D., Kearney & Associates: The Experts’ Alliance

2004 Joan Lasselle, Lasselle-Ramsay Information Development Services

2003 Linda Harris, LF Harris Co.

2002 Candace Phillips, Bio-med Testing

Astra WBENC Workshops, EXPO and Matchmaker, Seattle September 13, 2012 – Being Smart Out Loud

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WBEs from across the USA & Canada, corporate & agency representatives joined Astra in Seattle on September 13th, 2012, for a jam-packed day that included workshops, an EXPO of WBEs, and an afternoon of matchmaking.

Astra WBE, Fran Zone of Zone Communications kicked off the day by warming everyone up with her stories & interactive exercises.  She shared her secrets of being Smart Out Loud by explaining that in a world of short attention spans and brief encounters, standing out from the pack requires the ability to be Smart Out Loud in real time. Being Smart Out Loud means knowing the right thing to say, when to say it, how to say it, and how to turn every interaction into an opportunity. Remember to carry yourself not your stuff; stand up straight and take off five pounds; and focus on drawing attention to your eyes with color & objects. Check out Read My Pins by one of Fran’s favorite people, Madeleine Albright.

Following Fran, the workshops continued with 2 interactive panels.  First up, a panel of supplier diversity leaders from private and public companies shared their insights and best practices for company introductions. WBEs were engaged and had fun with this interactive session. Participants prepared and delivered their pitch messages to the panel and received ratings as well as valuable feedback from the panel.  The panel was moderated by Astra’s own Diane McClelland and the panelists: Diane Lin, Starbucks; Kenyon Taylor, GSA;Veronica Kammler, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District; Lucy Leu, U.S. Navy – Naval Supply Systems – Command – Fleet Logistics Center – Puget Sound.)

The second panel covered Women in Construction. Moderated by Holli Dorr of Hollister Construction, the panelists gave WBEs insight into winning contracts in both the public & private sectors. Panelists: Mel Jones, Skanska USA; Ida Booker, The Boeing Company; Marc Sauze, Stantec; Roxie Schescke, Indian Eyes, LLC; and Eric Maughan, North Wind Group.

Guests at lunch were entertained by Paul Taylor, Taylor Global Law and a member of Astra’s Global Committee who shared best practices and current opportunities for expanding business globally.

Following lunch all WBEs participated in the afternoon matchmaking – “roundtable style”. This new format (v. short 1-to-1 interviews) was used to promote not only interaction between WBEs and Corporate/Agency representatives but also to promote WBE to WBE networking. In the past,  1-to-1 sessions tend to be rushed and tense. Access is limted and this creates an air of exclusivity as well as a huge undertaking by resource scarce WBE advocates who typically meet with a new company every 6-10 minutes. In Seattle, each Roundtable was co-hosted by a trained facilitator & corporate/agency representative who introduced themselves & shared their organization’s information. Table assignments were made based on sourcing requests from the advocates, industry groups and potential teaming opportunities amongst WBEs. Each WBE at the table took turns giving their pitch, sharing their marketing materials and receiving feedback from not only the table hosts but also the WBEs. Using this format created a positive atmosphere of access, cooperation and support.   Here is how one WBE summed it up:

“I loved the 25 minutes roundtable discussions!  It was a great opportunity to learn about our corporate host but perhaps more importantly, we learned about our fellow WBEs.  At our first table there were several opportunities between WBEs that we would never have known about had the matchmaker sessions been one on one. Thank you ASTRA!!” Sandy Dupleich, Dynamic Language

More feedback from attendees:

  • “Wonderful! I would attend again in a heartbeat!” Jodie Landes, Arcus Communications
  • “The contacts and strategies developed at Astra events are incredibly valuable and transformational!” Sharon Root, Computer Magic Training
  • “I always take away something new from Astra’s events.  It’s wonderful to network with other women business owners and build our relationships.” Renee Fink,  ClearPath Management Group, Inc.
  • “Another great opportunity to connect with dynamic people making the most of shared opportunities.” Sandy Hunter, Hunter Hawk, Inc.
  • “The conference exceeded my expectations, I came away with several ideas and contact.” Bibby Gignilliat, Parties That Cook
  • “This was an outstanding event that provided immediate information I could use in growing my business.” Amanda Grindle, Muir Contracting, Inc.
  • “This conference provided us an opportunity to meet and speak with so many individuals that benefited us both professionally and personally.  The format provided a warm, friendly and supportive atmosphere – completely conducive to learning and building relationships.” Karen Gildea, Amick Brown
  • “Having attended numerous small and large business events over the years, yours was by far one of the very best.  The contacts and content were very much applicable to our business.  I am looking forward to the next one!.”  Kathryn Townsend, West Sound Workforce

Didn’t make it to Seattle? Check out the program below.

Open publication

Astra Annual Matchmaker & EXPO

Trade Mission with Canada

Astra Women’s Business Alliance (WBENC Regional Partner Organization) and WEConnect Canada are joining efforts to hold a Trade Mission in San Jose, CA, February 29- March 1,2012. The purpose of the Trade Mission is foster relationships across borders and promote women owned businesses to each other and to major corporations. Working together to foster relationships across borders is one of Astra Women’s Business Alliance’s key objectives. This premier event lays the foundation for creating mutually beneficial relationships in 2012 and beyond. Women business owners seeking new business opportunities should plan to attend. The Trade Mission kicks off with a reception on February 29th and continues the next day with workshops, luncheon & an EXPO of women owned businesses. Also on Mar 1st qualified women owned businesses will have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with corporate contacts who can advocate for their products & services within their organizations. Applications to participate in the Matchmaker event are due by February 15th. Early bird discounts are available for tickets purchased before February 1st. Register now.

Astra Opens Northern California Office

Astra Women’s Business Alliance (Astra) Opens Northern California Office

Astra opens its satellite office in Northern California this month. Kicking off on December 13th in Pleasant Hill, Astra Co-Founders, Diane McClelland and Suzanne Lackman will be hosting open houses in Sacramento, San Franciso and San Jose throughout the week. These open houses will lay the foundation for a year of opportunities for scheduling meetings in-person for WBEs, Corporate & Agency Members and partner organizations. The new flexible office in Northern California will help Astra support the growing delegation of women business owners in the region. The Astra team will be open for business each month on a rotating basis using the space for networking, education, & certification meetings.

“Face-to-face meetings are key in building relationships that lead to business growth,” says Diane McClelland, President of Astra, “Astra is a catalyst that consistently provides opportunities that open doors. Our Northern California office is essential to fostering a networking platform designed to help build connections for our women business owners.”

Lynn Tilton, CEO of Patriarch Partners, will Deliver Keynote at Women-Owned Business Celebration

Lynn Tilton at Horasis Annual Meeting 2011


Astra Women’s Business Alliance (Astra) & a Regional Partner Organization (RPO) of the Women’s Enterprise National Council (WBENC) announced today that Lynn Tilton of Patriarch Partners will be the keynote speaker at Astra’s 16th Annual Workshops and Awards in San Francisco on July 25th, 2012. Patriarch Partners owns more than 70 companies throughout the country, many of them are certified as women-owned by WBENC through it’s network of RPOs.

Astra Women’s Business Alliance Astra Women’s Business Alliance was founded in 2000. Astra’s mission is to work proactively and cooperatively toward the elimination of marketplace barriers, such that women-owned businesses receive access to and fair consideration of programs and projects that fund business growth. Astra provides business skills training, team development and linkage to contract opportunities to women owned businesses throughout the northwest. (www.astrawba.org)

The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), founded in 1997, is the largest third-party certifier of businesses owned controlled, and operated by women in the United States. WBENC, a national 501(c)(3) non-profit, partners with 14 Regional Partner Organizations to provide its national standard of certification to women-owned businesses throughout the country. WBENC  is also the nation’s leading advocate of women-owned businesses as suppliers to America’s corporations.(www.wbenc.org)