WBE Stars: Barbara Wichmann, Imelda Alejandrino, and Pamela Kan

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Six questions. Six WBE Stars. Six completely unique stories.

This week, we are revealing three Women Business Enterprise Stars, as part of our 3-week series leading up to the announcement of WBEC Pacific’s 2019 WBE Star; who will be revealed at the Summit and Salute national conference March 11-13. Barbara Wichmann, WBE Star 2014, Imelda Alejandrino, WBE Star 2015, and Pamela Kan, WBE Star 2018, are three pillars in the WBEC Pacific and WBENC community. Some of our more recent WBE Stars, these women gave us insight on how they took vision to reality, and in turn, reached for the stars.

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BARBARA WICHMANN

Barbara Wichmann is the CEO/CSO of ARTÉMIA; an award-winning strategic communications and digital marketing agency with a successful track record of assisting Fortune 500 corporations, high growth technology firms (start-ups) and international government organizations to more effectively engage with their target audiences. She currently serves on the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s (WBENC) Leadership Forum.

How / Why did you start your business?  What was your vision?

I started out as a communications consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area, successfully providing PR, creative and marketing solutions to clients in collaboration with some of the top graphic designers and creative talents at the time. Based on our joint activities, they suggested that I create a full-service agency and effectively drive the overall strategy and tactical implementation for clients. After some deliberation I founded ARTEMIA IN 1995.

At first my team and I focused on international product launches for technology start-ups and assisting such companies as Volkswagen USA with the Bay Area launch of VW’s new Beetle. As a European, newly arrived in the US, I was uniquely positioned to help companies bridge cultural differences and provide what we now call ‘localization’ through compelling messaging, media exposure and partnership development.  I served as a conduit, helping my clients to enter new markets in North America and the Pacific Rim.  Our client list soon included high-growth start-ups, large corporations, international government agencies, among others.

What barriers did you overcome to be successful?  How did you overcome them?

The biggest hurdle I faced was the lack of an existing network of mentors. After an initial period of settling in in the US and meeting all legal requirements, I began working as a consultant.  In the process, I was able to connect with thought leaders and a wide range of brilliant minds – especially in Silicon Valley.  

Who inspired you along your journey?

I was very fortunate to connect with some top talents in the Bay Area early in my time here.  Michael Osborne of Osborne Design and Linda Hinrichs of Pentagram both took an interest in me and guided me along the way.  Their help was invaluable.

Many in the WBENC leadership also inspired me, including Pamela Prince-Easton and Vivian Isaak, of the Magnum Group Inc. (who’s a fellow Tuck graduate), Hannah Kain of ALOM, Olsa Martini of OLSA Resources, Inc. and Sandra James of Private Eyes.

Their continued success was, and remains, an inspiration.  They motivated me to keep pursuing my dreams and have been a great resource. Having such great mentors is one reason I’ve been able to adapt to the ever-changing global business climate and our industry-specific challenges in the age of digitalization.

How has WBEC-Pacific and/or WBENC certification contributed to your success? 

Having the WBENC WBE certification allowed me to meet corporate supplier diversity advocates who both understand the demands made on corporations in the global economy and are generous about sharing their knowledge.  They helped me to modify my strategic and tactical goals and to follow best practices.  They’ve also supported my continuous learning over the years. 

What does being a WBE Star mean to you? 

It was wonderful to be recognized and included in such an impressive group of accomplished women.  Being named a WBE Star, as I was in 2014, gave me a platform on which to share my vision.  In the process, it provided great visibility for our company.

What advice would you give other WBEs?

Get involved!  Network and ask for help.  There are 14,000 certified WBEs in the US -- that’s a large network of qualified, high-level contacts .  Not to mention the many corporate members.   Don’t hesitate to reach out.   We’re here to champion you and serve as your advocates.

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IMELDA ALEJANDRINO

Imelda Alejandrino brings with her over 20 years of producing result-driven and award-winning work as both a creative director and strategist. As the founder and chief evangelist behind AP42, she has led the charge by forming a top-quality team driven by a successful combination of creative quality, strategic focus and client services. She is also the Leadership Forum 2nd Vice Chair of the Global Service Team for the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).

How/Why did you start your business? What was your vision?

I began AP42 after helping grow a marketing company from a few employees to a few hundred as a creative director. I ultimately started my company as a way to have the flexibility to be with my family when I wanted to and to dictate the projects I would lead and implement.

My vision was to create a company that was forward-thinking and grounded in foundational marketing principles. I also wanted to prove a woman of color in a nontraditional field could excel and lift up other women to make an impact in the marketing industry. 

What barriers did you overcome to be successful? How did you overcome them?

Like in any individual business endeavor financing was a barrier and finding the right talent mix to create great things. I overcame these barriers through finding the right mentors and ensuring I built bridges in every business interaction and relationship I made. Many of these relationships were directly through WBEC-Pacific. Creating a trusted network of confidants and trusted suppliers allowed me make my business grow and thrive.

WBE Stars inspire others to achieve, who inspired you along your journey?

There are many people who inspired me on my journey. One individual that sticks out is my mother who would have been 96 years old this year. She grew up in a time where women were not considered equal to men. She aspired to be a doctor, but was dissuaded by her father because he was concerned about the hardship she may face working with a male dominated profession. She became a nurse. Her advice to my women in my family were two things: 1) Have your own checking account and 2) Learn how to drive. This translates to today as: 1) Control of your own destiny and 2) Be independent. My mother didn't drive, but eventually had her own checking account by the 1990's.

How has WBEC-Pacific and/or WBENC certification contributed to your success?

WBEC-Pacific is a tribe of women who collaborate and lift each other up. We lift each other up by referring business to each other, sharing information, and resources. The WBENC stamp of approval has opened doors to both corporate and WBE opportunities. 

What does being a WBE Star mean to you?

 Being a WBE star means being in the company of other accomplished and striving WBE leaders. It gave me visibility and the credibility to the corporations and WBEs. The work I have seen women do to thrive in business is inspiring.

What advice would you give other WBEs?

I would advise WBEs to get certified annually and to get their name and reputation out there in the WBENC community. Look to your tribe to help you get there.

 

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PAMELA KAN

Pamela Kan is President of Bishop-Wisecarver Group (BWG). BWG is a woman-owned family of WBENC-certified companies that works with manufacturers to engineer, manufacture, and build linear and rotary motion solutions, custom complex assemblies, and optimal embedded intelligence systems.

How/Why did you start your business? What was your vision?

My dad actually co-founded the company more than 65 years ago and I grew up watching him develop new linear motion inventions to help solve customer problems. We discussed the business every night at the dinner table. (I might appreciate that more now than I did some of those years!) After working in a different area of business after college, I joined the company in 1991 to help with one project, but loved being back in manufacturing. I worked in several different areas of the business, became president in 2000 and majority owner in 2009.

My high level vision has remained constant from day one – continue developing high quality products customers need, provide the absolute best customer service possible and inspire a work environment with a passionate and engaged team each aligned around the same goals.

The 1-5-10 year visions I have for the company do change as I’m looking at ways to be innovative and leverage new technology and lead a next generation of employees. From new product designs to completely new business models to business partnerships and acquisitions, I’ve implemented ideas that have helped the company continue being successful, and often in ways that were never considered 10 or 20 years ago.

What barriers did you overcome to be successful? How did you overcome them?

Manufacturing is historically a male-dominated industry, so taking over as president and then majority owner had its challenges. Key to my success was realizing that all customers care about the same thing – how can you best help me be successful? When I walk into a meeting, I focus on providing customers that insight – I know my company’s products and engineering services, I know the customer’s needs and I provide the solutions they need to be successful. Customers quickly realize I’m there to help in their success and the fact I’m a rare female leader in manufacturing becomes a non-issue. I’ve also brought this approach into the entire company with something we call the Signature Experience™. Every member of our team is trained in helping the customer succeed and this focus is what keeps our company growing strong after almost 70 years in business.

WBE Stars inspire others to achieve, who inspired you along your journey?

I love this question as mentors are key to everyone’s success and I’ve had so many people inspire me on this journey - even if they weren’t always realizing it.

From a career perspective, my dad was my first inspiration as he never felt that my being female mattered in this business. I was part of his work conversations from a young age, whether it was around designing a new product solution or how to best serve the customer. But as I became the lead at the company, I sought out mentors to help me achieve not just my success, but those around me. Two main mentors were helpful in such different ways. One mentor saw I was neglecting my health and the negative impact that was causing. He reminded that even the president of the USA (at that time), made time in his schedule to exercise and be healthy. I know most women have a hard time making themselves a priority, and I’m no exception, but I do make an effort to remember this and act upon it for my physical and mental health.

A second mentor helped me understand that the person who acknowledges the elephant in the room gains the power in the conversation. That has served me well in my business, as well as personal, conversations and it builds longer lasting relationships built on trust. If no one is talking about the elephant, then progress can’t occur. When I address the situations head on, people know I’m not afraid of the hard discussions, or the work needed to solve any situation.

Finally, I have to include Grandma Wisecarver, my dad’s mother. She broke all the stereotypes for her generation and left a lasting legacy for me. She paid her own way to France to serve as a nurse in WWI, went behind enemy lines to treat soldiers and won several awards for her bravery. She was wicked smart, played bridge and completed the New York Times crossword puzzle (in pen!) daily until her death at 101. She was half-full type of person and each day, I realize more and more how much her strength, positive attitude and solid self-esteem inspired my own life.

How has WBEC-Pacific and/or WBENC certification contributed to your success?

My company has been WBENC-certified since 2011 and it has contributed to our short-term success, but even more importantly, to our continued long-term goals. In the short term, the WBENC certification has provided new customer opportunities, multiple networking venues and training sessions. The access to corporations through the matchmaker and meet-and-greet sessions is priceless. As an example, we have opportunities at Disney and Imagineering we would never have had without WBENC.

For the long term, WBEC-Pacific is an organization that shares my passion for encouraging women to consider STEM careers as viable options and to realize their potential for leadership in these industries.  The work we do in this area today will have a significant impact on the future workforce.

What does being a WBE Star mean to you?

When I see the long list of STARs from each of the previous years, many of whom I have met and worked with, it is inspiring to realize how much progress has been made for women-owned businesses based on the efforts of these individuals. Being included in this high caliber group has been a true honor and I have focused on continuing to do the daily work needed to help continue this progress for years to come.

I’m aware that all the glass ceilings I break in my career help other women experience success in the future. With that in mind, I serve on WBE panels as a way to promote women’s initiatives and mentor female students and young entrepreneurs. This additional effort makes immediate differences, but also provides the long-term foundation for a more diverse, high quality set of employees.

What advice would you give other WBEs?

Take risks. Get mentors. Ask for help.

You can do any and all of these with the support and resources offered through WBEC-Pacific and they will be game changers in your business and career.

 

To read last week’s feature on Olsa Martini and Hannah Kain, click here. And be sure to check back next week when we reveal the 2019 WBEC Pacific WBE Star!