"Must attend" trade events will widen your networks

Looking to connect with multi-national corporations, learn about export markets and reach out to new international customers? Make it happen by joining the Canadian Business Women in International Trade (BWIT) team at upcoming annual trade missions for women entrepreneurs.

Canadian Business Women in International Trade

The BWIT trade mission to Austin, Texas, and the 2015 Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) National Conference & Business Fair will be held from June 22-26. Now in its 16th year, the WBENC National Conference is the largest supplier diversity procurement trade show in North America, showcasing and supporting a wide range of women-owned enterprises and promising to draw some 3500 participants and 300 exhibitors.

The 2015 Go for the Greens (GFTG) business development conference for women entrepreneurs will be held this year from September 17-19 at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort in Florida. This is the eighth annual GFTG event, which offers exclusive access to decision makers in companies, government agencies and non-profit organizations.

These two signature “must-attend” events present invaluable opportunities to find national and international buyers with supplier diversity programs and initiatives, says Miriam Lopez-Arbour, the information coordinator for the BWIT program.

“These shows are for women entrepreneurs who want to be players in the global market,” she says, noting that there have been “some transformations” among women entrepreneurs who attend these niche trade events. Women are there “in support of women, they network and meet others like them and refine their pitch.”

Event attendees can connect with like-minded women who want to do business, collaborate and form strategic alliances. The trade shows also feature lots of special elements, such as educational workshops and lectures from high-profile speakers.

Participants especially benefit from sessions surrounding the events that are organized by BWIT and TCS, including special BWIT programming and opportunities for B2B meetings with corporations. There are 52 Fortune 500 companies such as ExxonMobil, Whole Foods and AT&T headquartered in Texas, where the WBENC conference is being held this year.

Ximena Pauvif-Machado, a trade commissioner at the Consulate General of Canada in Miami who assisted the BWIT team with organizing the trade mission to the Go for the Greens event, notes that meeting people face-to-face at such occasions is critical. “You really get to know them so much better than if you just talk on the phone.”

Beyond a wide range of U.S. companies that attend the events, she is also amazed at the numbers of trade associations and economic development people there. “It’s a way of widening your network.”

Pauvif-Machado says that it’s important for businesswomen to be prepared with succinct pitches to deliver in the “matchmaker” sessions at the events. You might have just five to 15 minutes to meet with supplier diversity purchasing teams for large U.S. companies, which are motivated to find the right suppliers to meet their diversity quotas. “It’s like speed-dating,” she says. “You’d better be ready to say what you have to offer.”

Businesswomen should not only prepare good messages but have a good understanding of their audience, she advises.

“Know the company you’re targeting, know why your product or service is good for them and know your competition,” suggests Pauvif-Machado, noting that SMEs should have as good a shot as large companies at the events. “They’re all on a level playing field.”

Lopez-Arbour says that women can find out more about events, sign up for pre-event webinars and connect with the TCS on the highly successful Canadian Business Women in International Trade LinkedIn Group, where businesswomen network and exchange ideas about doing business abroad.

She says there are terrific synergies between the group and the women’s events themselves. “You can meet other businesswomen, stay connected for event updates, share resources and learn about more opportunities,” she says. “The stats tell us that women are a growing force in the economy. We’re seeing it happen here.”

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