WBENC National Convention 2023


Written By: Lauren Millar – Director of Strategic Innovation

Momentum was a perfect theme for this year’s WBENC National Conference. For three full days over 4,000 people came together to learn, build relationships, and celebrate the impact of Women-Owned Brands and Champions of Supplier Diversity across a range of industries at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, TN. 

As a fellow Women-Owned, WBENC-Certified business, Smith Design was excited to send Lauren Millar, our Director of Strategic Innovation to participate. As the conference kicked off on March 21h you could feel the excitement and positive energy build. After the keynote address, there was a series of inspiring and insightful Industry Labs. Lauren was able to hear from expert panels on Women in Retail, Maximizing Amazon Sellers’ Opportunities, The Future of Healthcare, and The State of Government Contracting. Lauren said, “There are few overarching themes that came up in each panel that could apply to any brand— educate others on the value of diversity in business, act with purpose, and collaboration is critical.” 

  • Educate others on the value of diversity in business: Throughout the conference, we heard from both brand owners and corporate sponsors how important diversity and inclusion are in business. When we create an inclusive environment, and people feel open to expressing their true selves, we leave room for growth, innovation, and new ideas. Diverse businesses and suppliers also tend to be local, so by supporting diverse businesses, you in turn support the local workforce and community. Don’t look at supplier diversity as a one-time value but one that has exponential growth if nurtured and supported.  
  • Act with purpose: Regardless of the topic, each panel spoke to having a purpose-driven culture that helped to lead the actions and decisions their corporations take—from Target’s desire to help the whole family discover joy in the everyday, to Johnson & Johnson’s commitment to putting the needs and well-being of the people they serve first and drive towards health equity. While living your purpose is key, you also need to be able to communicate your purpose quickly and concisely to others to rally support and grow fellowship effectively.  
  • Collaboration is critical: Throughout the conference, the importance of collaboration and building strong relationships with clients, suppliers, and partners was emphasized. This was highlighted during the Industry Labs discussions where panelists were sharing and celebrating achievements made possible through different collaborations. Who you collaborate with is as important as how. Working with diverse and sustainable partners brings additional value. Merck shared the results of a study they conducted that showed investing in diverse suppliers had a direct positive correlation to increasing life expectancy, decreasing mental distress, and increasing the number of insured children, just to name a few benefits. There is proof that the more we support and spend on diversity initiatives, the greater the long-term effects on reducing gaps in health equity.    

The next two days were focused on networking, discussion, and relationship-building. Over two hundred Corporate Members participated in Meet-and-Greet conversations with attendees. Lauren also explored the Expo Hall, where Corporate Members and Women-Owned Brands had informative and engaging booths. She was able to connect with procurement and supplier diversity teams to ask questions and find out about their latest ESG initiatives. Between the Expo, Women-Own Demo stations, and Wednesday Evening’s #WomenOwned Pop-Up shops, Lauren said, “it was wonderful to see so many truly great brands and meet the women leading them.” Here are just a few Lauren was introduced to at the convention.  

Vitavate is Lori White’s labor of Love. Inspired by the needs of women in her life she developed dietarty supplements that also taste great to help them “Fill their cup first.” Vitavate is a functional Beverage additive that supports HEART health, boost FOCUS and ENERGY– while also providing hydration! vitavate.com 

Jennifer Reynold is the Sauce Goddess herself. She turned her Dad’s family favorite recipe into a finger licking sauce, dip and seasoning company. Their products are only made with real food ingredients – no junk ingredients or flavorings. They even won Best BBQ Rub awards in Texas! 

The Dessert Ladies’ mother daughter duo, Geraldine Keogh and Lindsay Smith, based out of Stirling, NJ, have been making high quality delicious desserts since 2011. Biens have since developed a cult-like following and inspired Geraldine and Lindsay to branch out and bring Biens to a national audience. In the summer of 2020 they opened a factory in Denville, NJ and Biens Chocolate Centerpieces was born. dessertladiesgroup.com and bienscc.com

Posh Pickler was born from co-founder Jenna Pugh’s love for the game. She felt Pickleball enthusiasts lacked gear that was both high-quality and functional, plus stylish and fun. We were lucky enough to get a preview of their initial line prior to the official launch on April 10th.

During Amy Suzanne’s first pregnancy she faced severe complications that eventually lead her to create Pink Stork. The brand provides clean, sustainable, and effective products for every stage of a woman’s fertility, pregnancy, postpartum, nursing journey and overall health. pinkstork.com

“Networking at this conference versus others had a different energy. There was an overwhelming amount of support, collaboration, and comradery. I experienced first-hand how attendees and corporate sponsors truly wanted to make genuine connections,” stated Lauren. Attendees learned that by working together and leveraging each other’s strengths, we can achieve more than we could on our own. By the last day, as the conference theme promised, Lauren left with so much to share with her colleagues, a deeper understanding of the power of supplier diversity, increased pride in working for a Women-Owned business, and momentum toward building new business relationships for Smith Design!


Get in touch

    At Smith Design, our culture is rooted in caring. We make a conscious and collective effort to translate our values into actions that benefit our staff, our clients, our community and our environment.


    ©2022 SmithDesign, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED   |   Privacy Policy   |   8 Budd Street, Morristown NJ 07960   |   973.429.2177