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.

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Compusave Strategic Alliance Quadruples its Business

winstonwinnickiAstra Women’s Business Alliance (Astra WBENC) sat down with Sandy Winston (left) and Julia Winnicki (right) of Compusave Strategic Alliance to learn about how they utilize their Astra WBENC certification. Read on to learn about their partnership with The Boeing Company Supplier Diversity Team (Boeing) and how Astra WBENC has helped them grow their business.

1.    You’ve been an Astra WBENC WBE since 2007.  How did you learn about the Astra WBENC network?

(Julia) I became certified by the State of Washington as a WBE in 2005 and in 2007 I received an invitation to attend an event in Everett that Astra was hosting. I’d never heard of WBENC before. We had become Washington State Certified because we were interested in going after government contracts.  At that first event, there was “speed dating” with buyers from Boeing who told me that my company was too small and that I should talk to Astra about getting WBENC certified. So, at the event, I sat down with Astra and talked to them about the certification process and officially became an Astra WBENC WBE in 2007.
2. What does your company do and how has your business changed since you became WBENC certified?

(Julia) We are a Value Added Reseller (VAR). Being a VAR means that we procure computer equipment, both hardware and software, process and integrate it, and then ship it to our customers for just in time delivery. Over the last 5 years our business has quadrupled. Boeing has been critical to our growth as a company. Really the key to this relationship has been the Boeing Supplier Diversity Team. Glory McCallum of Boeing has been a stellar advocate for us. She works closely with businesses and partner organizations like Astra WBENC.  She has truly been a mentor and supporter of our company. We cherish our relationship. Compusave Strategic Alliance is a true beneficiary of the corporate support of WBENC certification. We are better for it. And as are result we just received notification that we will be receiving  the Boeing Performance Excellence Award for 2012.

(Sandy) Boeing wants 100% accuracy and 100% on time delivery from suppliers.  To be acknowledged with The Boeing Performance Excellence Award,  Compusave Strategic Alliance creates and maintains internal core processes that triple check every order and every shipment we make – throughout quoting,  purchasing, configuring, testing, labeling and shipping. These processes, plus our ability to develop and maintain customer relationships are at the center of our success, both with Boeing, and with all  our other customers.  The relationships we have created through the WBENC network have helped every step of the way.

(Julia) We have learned so much working with Boeing. We were invited to their first supplier diversity symposium as an exhibitor back in 2009. We were ready by then as we were certified and we had built capacity through our alliances. So at that event we were able to show our products and share our capabilities directly with buyers. That was a huge turning point for us and we became a Boeing supplier. We were also invited to participate in an online supplier showcase where we presented our capabilities live via web conference to 40 invited Boeing buyers. We had 20 minutes for our presentation and 10 minutes for questions. That was a very successful event for us.

3. What is your favorite Astra WBENC connection story?

(Sandy) It was one of those “you have got to be kidding moments”. Compusave was already certified when I came on board and I really didn’t understand the value. Julia was already working the network and then I showed up at a national WBENC National event in Las Vegas- you know the one they hold every year in June – this year it will be in Minneapolis. I sat down next to a stranger at lunch and we introduced ourselves. I explained what Compusave did and she said “I need that and I’ll call you.” When we arrived back home this large WBE called me and placed an order. It was truly an amazing experience.

(Julia) For me it was probably at an Astra event in 2009 where we connected with Robert Half International. It was a matchmaking event and that was the beginning of a successful business relationship.

4.    What is your Astra WBENC “aha’”moment?

(Julia) For me, it was hearing Elizabeth Kearney, Ph.D., President, Kearney & Associates speak at an Astra event. Liz spoke about strategic alliances and how that helped her grow her business. It was like a light bulb went off. Boeing had called Compusave “too small” and here is this woman telling me how to get bigger by gathering capacity through alliances. That was definitely my “aha” moment.

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

(Julia) I will continue to participate at the national level as part of the Leadership Forum-at-Large. Boeing nominated me to this perpetual posting in 2010. This is great exposure for our company at the national level.

(Sandy) Both Julia and I will be attending all three of the big WBENC events as well as supporting Astra’s regional events. We co-chair Astra’s Washington State Leadership Forum. There is also a big event being planned at Microsoft in Redmond on October 16th.  We are looking at partnering with The Mariners for a “Take me out the Ball Game” event over the summer  and as well as having an events at  Macy’s and Starbucks. So a lot is going on in the State of Washington!

(Julia) We’d love to see increased access to buyers for contract ready firms through the Astra WBENC network. I am not sure what format or structure this access would take on but it would allow established, experienced supply chain savvy, referable, capacity ready firms to showcase their X Factor. To me an X Factor is what makes a company different from their competition. That difference might be innovation, creativity, performance excellence or some other a combination of unique factors that sets them apart. It’s just an idea but it would be great to figure it out and make it work. There are some fabulous WBEs out there!

6. What’s your best advice for someone new to the Astra/WBENC network?

(Sandy)  Show up! You have to show up! Just keep coming back. It’s a 2 to 3 year investment and it will pay off. Just keep working the network and giving back.

To learn more about Compusave Strategic Alliance visit their website: http://www.compusavedirect.comcompusave

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

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

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.)