Women's Business Development Center

The Challenge

Position the WBDC as a collective group of thought leaders and advocates for under-represented business owners

Since its founding in 1986, the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) has supported business development and accelerated growth by advocating for women and serving all diverse business owners in order to strengthen their participation in, and impact on, the economy. While the WBDC has successfully partnered with several woman- and minority-owned businesses to achieve their business goals, the organization’s leadership was eager to increase exposure for their advocacy efforts and expand their reach to the broader public.

Starting in 2016, Hawthorne Strategy Group partnered with the WBDC to help them elevate their thought leadership and advocacy platform by increasing awareness of the work they do in support of businesses that are traditionally underrepresented, such as women, minorities, veterans, people that identify as LGBT, and people living with disabilities. In an already crowded field of organizations that advocate for and support diverse business owners, Hawthorne sought to bring to the forefront the many ways in which the WBDC had already distinguished itself. From capital lending to corporate partnerships, Hawthorne knew these differentiators needed to be clear to the public to generate greater awareness of the WBDC and best impact those they serve.

The Solution

Become part of a larger conversation on women and minority-owned businesses

As part of Hawthorne’s strategy to bolster the WBDC’s reputation as a leader in advocating for underrepresented business owners, the team identified specific opportunities for the WBDC’s President and Chief Executive Officier, Emilia DiMenco, and other WBDC leaders that would reinforce this message. In addition to more strongly incorporating advocacy proof points into the WBCD’s existing messaging and materials, Hawthorne contributed op-eds and letters to the editor, and identified speaking engagements and events tied to topics of critical importance to their mission.

Through these efforts, Hawthorne has helped increase awareness of the unique ways in which the WBDC is committed to and supports diverse business owners. Some key examples of this work include:

– Supporting promotional efforts related to the WBDC’s annual event, Connect & Celebrate, in order to further position WBDC leadership as advocates for business owners and demonstrate the organization’s wide variety of services.

– Assisting the WBDC in calling for an update to the Affordable Care Act, in an effort to further position the WBDC as an advocate for all diverse business owners and businesses of all sizes on important issues, such as healthcare, childcare and immigration.

– Partnering with the WBDC staff in Kansas City to support regional events in a key target market, including an event with Michelle Kantor, a leader in federal and local government contracting, and the Future Forum Series, which has brought together over 500 entrepreneurs looking to hear from corporate and public sector supplier diversity/procurement and certified Women Business Enterprises.

– Elevating the WBDC’s reputation as an innovator by partnering with its technology-focused program, InventIllinois, and partners like SimpleGrowth.

– Securing a long-form radio interview with a Chicago-based radio show geared toward technology and innovation to highlight the WBDC’s efforts to provide access to government funding and help diverse business owners bring their products to market.

The Results

Increased visibility and voice 

Through media engagement and targeted efforts to identify and participate in opportunities and activities that promote advocacy, Hawthorne has generated media coverage that further positions the WBDC as a leading voice and thought leader on issues related to women and minority business owners. Over the course of the partnership to date, results include:

– Bloomberg interview with Emilia DiMenco that highlighted a survey conducted by the WBDC about an update to the Affordable Healthcare Act.

– Modern Healthcare article about the WBDC’s study on the Affordable Healthcare Act and its impact on small businesses across the Midwest.

– Letters to the editor and an op-ed in three target markets, the Louis Post-Dispatch, the Omaha World Herald, and the Des Moines Register, encouraging women business owners to vote and highlighting ways in which they can impact the legislative process.

– A letter to the editor in the Louis Post-Dispatch from Jacinta Witherspoon, Associate Director of Certification Services, discussing women’s impact on local economies and why it’s important for businesses to give women the opportunity to lead.

– An op-ed on supporting women in the workforce from WBDC President Emilia DiMenco in Crain’s Chicago Business Morning 10 – a daily roundup of top coverage that is distributed to subscribers via email.

– Increased coverage over multiple years, in 2017, we had 139M impression, and 2018 more than 170M impressions.