Since 1995, the Center for Women & Enterprise (CWE) has helped women business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses by providing education, training, technical assistance, and certification support. One of CWE’s services is providing Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) certifications for women-owned businesses and entrepreneurs (WBEs), matching qualified WBEs with supplier opportunities, and partnering with corporations on their supplier diversity efforts.
Leadership at CWE partnered with Keystone Strategy to understand how CWE could grow its WBENC offering, fueling CWE’s mission by empowering women entrepreneurs while providing recurring income to CWE to support scalability.
The project consisted of 3 phases: a current state analysis, an opportunity analysis, and an opportunity prioritization phase to examine CWE’s WBENC program and identify opportunities to provide more value.
(1) In the current state analysis phase, Keystone developed an understanding of CWE’s existing WBENC certification process and the value it provides to WBEs and corporate partners. Keystone interviewed teams across CWE’s main functional areas to better understand the WBENC program, roles of distinct teams at CWE, and resource allocation to facilitate the certification process. Keystone also interviewed leaders at various Women Business Centers throughout New England, local partners to CWE that also provide support to women entrepreneurs, to understand opportunities for collaboration and integrated processes.
(2) In the opportunity analysis phase, Keystone examined both WBE and corporate needs via interviews with CWE’s key clients, as well as best practices from peer WBENC certifying organizations throughout the U.S. Following these interviews, Keystone synthesized client needs and categorized the key value drivers for CWE’s clients into three categories: business opportunities, shared learnings, and training offerings. CWE’s ability to facilitate network interactions between WBEs and corporate partners, for example, enhanced “shared learning opportunities” and thereby added value to clients.
(3) In the final opportunity prioritization phase, Keystone examined CWE’s capacity and prioritized high value-add opportunities accordingly. The team prioritized opportunities by evaluating them along four criteria: feasibility, value add for ecosystem participants, potential for revenue generation, and long-term strategic fit, developed through conversations with CWE and its key stakeholders.
Through this engagement, Keystone identified and prioritized opportunities which would incentivize CWE’s key clients to engage in the CWE ecosystem. Based on the three-phased process described above, one of Keystone’s key recommendations for CWE was to own its role as a facilitator of network interactions between WBEs, corporate partners, and other ecosystem players. To implement this recommendation, CWE could leverage technology solutions to create a virtual messaging platform for its clients and serve as a matchmaking tool to facilitate contract fulfillment, relationship building, and other meaningful actions.
By providing more high value opportunities to its clients without significant incremental costs, CWE will continue to uplift and serve communities in New England by supporting women owned businesses and entrepreneurs.
Contributors from the Keystone consulting team include Isra Hussain, Nimo Suleyman, Grace Cho, Nethra Venkatesh, Alexandria Sheng, Amanda Pratt, Jeff Marowits, and KeystoneNext members Alex Rodosky, Megan Wilkins, and Jonah Epstein