Female-owned business learned what it takes to do business with energy companies like Alabama Power at the Women’s Business Enterprise Council South’s Second Annual Power Industry Summit in Birmingham.
The event on April 19 is in its second year.
“This is the first time we’re having this conference in Birmingham,” said Phala Mire, president and CEO of WBEC South. “It’s our second Power Summit, but it was so successful the first time, we wanted to bring it to Birmingham because we felt it was really important to be able to connect with some of our major power companies.
“Alabama Power is a huge supporter of the Women’s Business Council. They are absolutely committed to doing business with women-owned businesses across our region.”
In addition to Alabama Power, representatives of other Southern Company business units also took part. Glenda Thomas, a board member at WBEC South and supplier relations and diversity manager at Alabama Power, helped bring the event to Birmingham.
“I thought it was very important to have an industry-focused group – this is our second annual power summit – and I thought it would be great if Alabama Power hosted and brought our Southern Company partners,” she said. “So, we’re fortunate to have Gulf Power, Southern Nuclear, Southern Company Services and the newly added Southern Gas.”
CenterPoint Energy, Entergy, TVA, Mobile Area Water and Sewer System, Cleco and the U.S. Department of Energy were other participants in the conference. The Small Business Administration, Birmingham Business Alliance, South Region Minority Supplier Development Council and Edison Electric Institute Business Diversity were also involved in the summit.
Scott Vowels, supplier diversity manager for Apple and author of “Hacking Supplier Diversity: Cracking the Code for the Business Case, Revenue Generation, Economic Impact, ROI,” was the keynote speaker.
“This is imperative because this is where we get to meet the diverse suppliers,” Vowels said. “This is where we get to understand who they are. Because I always believe that people do business with people they know and people they like.”
Vowels said for small, female-owned businesses, events like the summit can be eye-opening.
“I think women-owned businesses have so much power and so much leverage that at times they don’t really understand the power that they possess,” he said.
Vowels said he hoped minority businesses came away with a better understanding of the opportunities and that the corporations better understood the business case for hiring these firms.
“Any businesses from staffing to IT to environmental – we have a wide variety of women-owned businesses here today networking together for the Power Industry Summit,” said Kristina Bridgeman, sourcing agent with Southern Company Services.
Bridgeman said the conference was successful in making those connections.
As for what female-owned businesses can bring to a company like Alabama Power, Vowels said the value of a different perspective should never be discounted.
“I think those unique perspectives are what help with innovation because I believe the more inclusive you are, the more innovative you can be,” he said.