Growing a Business by Getting Involved with WBCS
"Since becoming certified in 2003, our percent of revenue with WBEs and Corporate Members has grown to more than 52% of our business. The membership as a WBE has also helped facilitate the growth of employees from 5 to 15 allowing us to better serve our clients with a more customer focused staff."
Jennifer Blakeney, President of Guaranteed Express, Inc, has been a certified WBE and member of WBCS since 2003. Getting involved with WBCS has helped grow her business revenue and the number of employees. She was also selected to be a part of the Toyota Mentorship program and is a recent Lillie Knox Grant recipient.
How did you start this business and how did you learn about certification?
I started as an employee at Guaranteed Express in 1998 as the Assistant to the President in 1998. Within a couple of years I’d been promoted to the Office Manager and then promoted again to the Operations Manager. Due to the failing health of the male owner, his stock was transferred to his wife and we sought certification. It was at this time that the previous owner and I constructed a plan for me to purchase the company, which I did in January of 2009. We were already certified by that time (2003) and I’d been involved with receiving the certification at that time due to a potential client approaching us to apply for it. We already had several clients that were Corporate sponsors so it made sense to seek the certification.
How has WBCS membership benefitted your business?
The WBCS has benefitted our business in many ways. It has enabled us to work with other WBEs and corporations that have helped with growth last year of more than 15% from the previous year. Since becoming certified in 2003, our percent of revenue with WBEs and Corporate Members has grown to more than 52% of our business. The membership as a WBE has also helped facilitate the growth of employees from 5 to 15 allowing us to better serve our clients with a more customer focused staff. I have also had the wonderful opportunities as an owner to contribute to numerous committee positions both locally and on the National level as well as participate in the TFS Mentor Program.
How has the Toyota Mentorship program helped your business?
My mentors have been a wonderful asset in the recent months. They’ve helped me focus on my strengths and where I need to pursue growth opportunities as well as review our processes and help streamline our procedures to make for a more efficiently run business. We are in the very beginnings, but I am confident that by the time we are ending our program, many ideas and procedural changes will have been generated through the Toyota Mentorship program.
You previously were awarded a Lillie Knox Investing for Growth Grant (a grant fully funded by WBCS members). How did the grant help your business?
Winning the Lillie Knox Grant was the catalyst in helping grow from 5 employees to 15. The Lillie Knox Grant awarded me enough funds to purchase our very first cargo van and since then we’ve either purchased or leased 5 more along with two box trucks and have employees in every one of them. The grant not only gave me the funds, but also the courage to step out of the box we’d allowed ourselves to become stuck in and take a step in improving the company’s services.
What is the best reason for another WBE to get certified?
I believe the best reason to become certified is the ability to have access to so many mentors, allies, and partners in one organization. The WBENC organization is an amazing facilitator of women business owners and corporations to help create a culture of successful women. There are so many events that are offered to newly certified and well-established businesses to help them learn to familiarize themselves with the organization and meet other WBEs and Corporate sponsors, multiple committees to volunteer with and so many opportunities to participate in programs that are geared towards not only the growth of your business but also your personal growth to increase your own business knowledge.
What is one thing you wish you knew about WBCS before joining?
Because we were already certified when I became the owner of my business, I didn’t go through the newly certified process. Had I done so, I would have definitely would have known more about the various programs and opportunities for me. However, when I did become the owner, I wish I’d become more involved immediately. I feel had I known all of the opportunities there were within the WBENC organization, I would have definitely become more involved more quickly.
Have you volunteered with WBCS? Which events/committees?
Yes, I have volunteered for several years now and it is something I love to do. I’ve volunteered on the Power to Potential committee, The Gala Committee, the BusinessWorks! committee several times as well as currently serving on the Site Visit Committee. I was recently nominated and elected as a Forum Member, which has led to even more growth in my business and various other opportunities.
What is your favorite WBCS event and why?
My favorite WBCS event is the Parade of Stars Awards Gala. I enjoy all extravagance of the evening and seeing the awards being presented. I’m so impressed by other women’s stories and enjoy sharing in their successes, even if I don’t know them personally.