On September 14, 2018, the Women’s Business Development Center held WBDC Connect & Celebrate: Chicago Conference at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, Illinois. Local and regional women business owners and corporate, government, and community partners came together for a day of learning, connecting, procurement and celebrating success.
The 2018 conference had over 700 attendees and featured a powerhouse luncheon interview with Maria Contreras-Sweet, an expert on economic growth and job creation, and former Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration under President Barack Obama. She was interviewed by Allison Rosati, an award-winning anchor and reporter on NBC 5 Chicago.
The afternoon featured procurement and educational activities. At the Business Matchmaker, pre-matched WBENC-certified WBEs pitched procurement representatives from large corporate and government entities. B2B Connections offered business owners of every size, the opportunity to pitch large and medium-sized WBENC-certified WBEs, prime contractors, and WBDC corporate and government partners. At the Business Resource Center, attendees were able to make growth-enhancing connections with a range of small business program and service providers. Learning opportunities included capacity-building workshops addressing innovations in marketing, business growth strategies, and business technology, along with a health care/pharma industry meetup.
Following the afternoon sessions, attendees gathered to hear the Supplier Diversity Forum panel discussion, “Leaders Learning from Leaders: How the Current Economy is Impacting Procurement Trends.”
The conference concluded with the Awards Celebration. The 2018 awardees were:
- Corporate Champion Award: BP America Inc.
- Foundation Champion Award: Polk Bros. Foundation
- Government Champion Award: Illinois State Toll Highway Authority
- Deborah Sawyer Rising Star Award: Jeanette Chavarria-Torres, President, DCH Construction & Hauling
- WBE Award: Stephanie Hickman, President & CEO, Trice Construction Company
- Future Forward Award: Jamie L. Rhee, Chief Procurement Officer, City of Chicago
- Veteran Entrepreneur Award: Thomas Day, Invent2026
- Hedy M. Ratner and S. Carol Dougal Legacy Award: Debra Jennings-Johnson & Sandra Rand
For more information on the WBDC and its programs and services, visit www.wbdc.org.