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Thoughts from a Women-Owned Business in Minnesota becoming a part of the WBENC

Thirty-two years ago I started my tiny little entertainment business… in my college dorm room!

What started as singing telegrams and characters for special events in the 80’s (to fund my world tour with Up With People), has evolved into a lifelong passion to bring joy and laughter to the human race.

Mine has always been a Woman-Owned business, but it was only a year ago, that I took the necessary steps from WBENC (The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council ) to become “certified”.  This was one of the criteria to be included in the Superbowl LII Business Connect Diversity Directory.

There are companies which have policy requiring them to spend X% on diversity based businesses (including women-owned, minority-owned, veteran-owned, LGBTQ-owned), and the certification process legitimizes the credentials of any business entity.

The process to get certified was a bit grueling. I had to produce paperwork which was over 20 years old to prove that my business was legitimate. I had to submit P & L statements, shareholder meeting minutes, board of director meeting minutes, my articles of incorporation, plus my resume and a letter to WBENC giving the history of my company’s existence, to name a few of the required documents.  (Okay… writing the history was the fun part, as I am often stuck in the daily grind, forgetting how we got to where we are!).

But the part that amused me the most was the “site visit”.  It was described to me that the purpose of the visit was to determine, once and for all, that my business is indeed, woman-owned.  I’m not sure how a visit to my office does that, but I complied and had a lovely meeting with the organization’s designee. I’m not sure what she was looking for upon arrival (or how my visit ‘proves’ that my business is woman owned any more than all of the paperwork I completed), but obviously, I passed the inspection.

Apparently, I had it easy. A friend of mine, who was also applying for the diversity directory and needed to be qualified as LGBTQ had a different experience. He had all of the same paperwork requirements, and he also had the site visit, which begs the question, how does he “prove” he’s Gay, beyond his own declaration? He said they asked for marriage licenses (but what if he was single?) and photos of him and his partner, and had some probing questions.

It’s been a year since my certification, and I am getting to do this all over again. I wonder what happens if my husband shows up to the site visit instead of me! :o)

So, to all of my fellow women-business owners, if you are considering this certification, be prepared that the application process is intense.  I will say that having this distinction has opened doors and facilitated conversations I wouldn’t have otherwise had.  I really like the local, Minnesota WBENC chapter and have loved the events they produce and the opportunities they have provided to attend procurement and networking events for major corporations in the Twin Cities who are looking for diverse-owned companies.

And perhaps the best perk of being a WBE is that I have met so many other WBE’s, and it is great being part of this community, locally and nationally!