Hyatt Regency O’Hare Rosemont, Illinois

What’s Next? Link Your Business to the Future

Welcome the future at the WBDC’s 2023 Midwest Business Conference. Learn from industry leaders about how to take your business to the next level and pursue new business opportunities.  Mingle and make promising new connections to expand your network. This is your chance to boost your business and prepare for what’s coming. Don’t miss out!


Emilia DiMenco

WBDC President and CEO

Sandra Rand

WBDC Board Chair and Retired Director of Supplier Diversity, United Airlines, Inc.

Crystal Washington

Technology Strategist and Certified Futurist

Event Schedule

12:30 PM-6:30 PM: Galleria Connections

A festive marketplace with premier products sold by women entrepreneurs.


Ari’s Wicks – Candles, Wax Melts

Bee My Honey – French Macarons, Churro Cheesecake Bites, and Cookies

DDC Wraps – African Fashion and Accessories

De Mi Tierra Natural – Skincare

Designs by Uchita – Geometric Jewelry

For Good Granola – Granola

Hustle & Ground – Corporate Gift Boxes

JAK Premiums LLC – Fine Resin Art

K Shulada LLC – Clothing, Handmade Goods

Knotty Knits Designs – Wearable Art Fashions and Accessories

LF JF Designs – Crocheted Clothing

Maytown Foods LLC – Gourmet Spicy Chili Sauce

One Special Gift – Jewelry

Only One Boutique – Jackets, Purses, Accessories

SavvyDesigns&Wines – Resin Clay Artist

Silver Spoon Desserts – Cake pops, cakes, coffee cakes

Small Shop LLC – Artisanal womenswear

Sugar Bliss – Macarons, cakes, cake pops

SUSU Accessories – Fair Trade hand-made bags and purses

Vircier – Tech Accessories

YASOU – natural skin care

Location: Grand Foyer


Knock Inc.

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM: Alumni Connections

An invitation-only event for WBDC program alumni.

Location: Grand Ballroom E

2:00 PM - 3:00 PM: Kickoff Connections

Welcome Remarks and Keynote Address

  • Welcome from Emilia DiMenco, WBDC President and CEO
  • Welcome from Sandra Rand, WBDC Board Chair and Retired Director of Supplier Diversity, United Airlines, Inc.
  • Keynote address from Crystal Washington, technology strategist and certified futurist

Futureproof Yourself and Your Business: Innovate and Thrive in Times of Uncertainty

Our new normal of consistent and radical change leaves leaders concerned about being left behind, about not being able to keep up with the new pace.
Instead of reacting, it’s time to plan…it’s time to identify the easter eggs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_egg_) the future has left for us.
In her interactive keynote presentation, technology futurist Crystal Washington will show you and your team how to innovate, thrive, and enjoy the ride.

In this talk, you will:

  • Understand the gifts the future really has to offer, allowing you to shape and use them to achieve your goals.
  • Identify the most under-utilized easter eggs of innovation…which you already have in your basket.
  • Create a framework to future-proof your career and business organization…and avoid getting scrambled.

Location: Grand Ballroom ABC

Keynote Speaker | Crystal Washington

Crystal Washington, CSP works with organizations that want to leverage technology to increase profits and productivity!

As a technology strategist and certified futurist, Crystal takes complex social media, app, and web topics and makes them easy to understand and accessible for everyday people.

Crystal’s clients comprise Fortune 500 companies including Google, Microsoft, and GE, and as a sought-after keynote speaker, she has educated and entertained audiences around the globe.

As one of Forbes’ 50 Leading Female Futurists, She appears weekly on season two of the Emmy nominated show, Life 2.0 and she’s appeared in numerous publications including Entrepreneur and Bloomberg Businessweek. She is regularly called on by major television networks as a tech expert.

Crystal is the author of the books One Tech Action and The Social Media Why.

Learn more about Crystal here. 


3:00 PM - 5:00 PM: Learning Connections

Workshop I | Empowering Digital Marketing 

3:00-4:00 | 4:00-5:00

An empowering workshop offering strategies and tools needed to leverage digital marketing for business growth. Discussion topics include brand voice, digital strategy (both website and social media), content, personal brand, and mentors and sponsors.


Amy Yuhn, Head of U.S. Community Banking and Personal, Private, and Digital Banking Client Experience CIBC and Former U.S. Chief Marketing Officer and Head of Communications, CIBC


JinJa Birkenbeuel, Founder and CEO, Birk Creative, and an Illinois Grow with Google Digital Coach

Lilah Jones, Head of Independent Software Vendors and Marketplace Sales, North America, Google

Location: Grand Ballroom F

Workshop II | Mastering Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG)

 3:00-4:00 | 4:00-5:00 

A practical workshop to help you dive deeper into ESG and create a simple ESG statement since, although ESG standards may seem daunting, an ESG statement can be a differentiator in your corporate sales efforts, while also helping to accelerate your business growth and enhance your impact on people and the planet. Discussion topics include what ESG is all about, why corporate America cares, and tips on writing your own ESG statement.


Danielle Barrs, Director of ESG and Sustainability Solutions, EisnerAmper

Anthony Billinger, Director of Supplier Diversity, Walgreens

Location: Grand Ballroom G

3:00 PM - 5:00 PM: Industry Connections

Pursuing Business Opportunities: Infrastructure Industries

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (commonly known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) and the billions of dollars in Federal funds for transportation, transit, electric vehicle, broadband, and other modernization projects to strengthen our communities and fuel economic growth. But is your company ready to take advantage of these opportunities? This session features a panel providing an overview of these opportunities and how to pursue projects throughout the Midwest, followed by one-on-one meetings at opportunity and resource tables hosted by panelists and representatives from project agencies, prime contractors, and service providers.


Maria Castro, Regional External Affairs Manager, Comcast


Nuria Fernandez, Administrator, Federal Transit Administration

Brian Hendricks, Policy and Supportive Services Unit Manager, Illinois Department of Transportation

JuanPablo Prieto, Director, Diversity Program, Chicago Transit Authority

Opportunity Table Hosts:

Chicago Department of Aviation

Cook County



FH Paschen, Ragnar Benson, Milhouse and BOWA Joint Venture

Hispanic American Construction Industry Association (HACIA)

HIRE360 Chicago

Illinois Department of Transportation

Illinois APEX Accelerator @ WBDC

Inner-City Underwriting Agency

Kiewit Infrastructure Co.

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District

Metra DBE

NPL Construction


Walsh VINCI Transit Community Partners

Wisconsin Procurement Institute APEX Accelerator

Location: Grand Ballroom D

Pursuing Business Opportunities: Insurance Industry

Three sequential panels:

1. Doing Business with the Insurance Industry

3:00 pm – 3:40 pm

Learn about the broad range of products and services provided by insurance companies, the capabilities required to support them, and broad regulatory requirements and trends impacting what insurance companies buy.


Andy Schuman, Vice President, Enterprise Procurement & Chief Procurement Officer, TruStage Insurance Agency

2. Operationalizing Sustainable Business Practices through the Lens of Supplier Engagement

3:40 pm – 4:20 pm

Learn about the importance of implementing sustainable practices, e.g., reducing waste, conserving energy, human rights awareness, business ethics, and other impacts on environmental, social, and governance issues, when exploring partnerships between large corporations and women-owned businesses.


Cathy Hill, CEO, HOBI International, Inc.


Melissa Warneke, Vice President, Head of Sustainable Procurement, AON plc.

Kristin Holzhauer, Sr. Director Enterprise Sustainability & Impact (ESI) Northwestern Mutual

Jamie Vermie, Managing Principal – ESG & Impact Investments, Allstate Insurance

3. Cybersecurity Basics for Small and Medium Sized Businesses

4:20 pm – 5:00 pm

From partnerships to contracting, learn more about how the insurance industry fits into cybersecurity.


Anisha Jackson, Supplier Diversity Manager-American Family Insurance


LaJuan Miller, Senior Manager, Third Party Risk Management & Surveillance- Ameren

Adonica Randall, President/ Chief Problem Solver-Abaxent,LLC

Location: Grand Ballroom E







5:00 PM - 6:30 PM: Network Connections

A finale Reception where you, fellow women business owners, private and public sector executives, and community partners can mix and mingle while enjoying a light dinner buffet, drinks, and live jazz.

Location: Grand Foyer

Music provided by

Hotel, Parking, and Transportation

Room Blocks

For those who wish to stay overnight at the Hyatt, we have a block of rooms available at a discounted rate of $159 per night. Please click here to learn more and book your stay.


To enter the Hyatt’s self-park garage, turn off River Road onto Bryn Mawr Avenue. At the end of Bryn Mawr Avenue at the dead end, turn left to enter the Hyatt covered garage. Do not turn right or you’ll be in the covered garage for the Stephens Convention Center.

The Hyatt also has an outdoor parking lot.

Valet parking is not available.

The discounted parking cost for conference attendees is $17. You will need your parking ticket validated by WBDC staff at the Parking Validation table to use the discount.


The Hyatt is conveniently located less than a mile away from the Rosemont CTA Blue Line station.

The Hyatt offers complimentary shuttle service to and from O’Hare International Airport, running every 15 minutes from 4:00 am-midnight and every 30 minutes from midnight-4:00 am.


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