It helps to have friends in high places. That's the whole point behind the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), a new nonprofit consortium of major corporations and women's business organizations formed to provide women with a national standard of certification.
"The goal of the program is to enhance opportunities for women to do business with major corporations and government bodies," says Susan Bari, executive director of WBENC. "We wanted to design an organization that would provide women's business organizations a new service to offer their client base, women business owners an opportunity to increase their marketing potential with Fortune 500 companies, and Fortune 500 companies the ability to access a database of women's business enterprises certified [as 51 percent owned, managed and controlled by women] by a process in which they have faith."
This process involves a comprehensive application, which is reviewed by a women's organization affiliated with WBENC and then verified by an on-site visit. Upon approval, the woman receives a certificate and has her name and business added to a national database available online to corporate members.
Among WBENC's founders are Wal-Mart Stores, J.C. Penney Co. and Federated Department Stores. "I've been in the nonprofit area and in women's business ownership development for 12 years," says Bari, "and I've never seen corporate support as enthusiastic as I'm seeing from these corporations."