WDS honorees at the 2019 Stevie Awards for Women in Business awards gala in New York City (L to R): Virginia Littlejohn, Quantum Leaps, 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award (NAWBO member); Bindu Latha Cheedella, Elite-Tek-Solutions, Entrepreneur of the Year Award-Business Services; Becky, Grand Stevie Award; Stephanie Sage, Sage Restoration, Company of the Year-Consumer Services (NAWBO-Kansas City chapter president); and Ann M. DeAngelo, SnapIt Solutions, Women Helping Women Award.
As women entrepreneurs, we often feel uncomfortable about using self-promotion to draw attention to our businesses. Longtime NAWBO-Kansas City member Becky Wilson, who is chief visibility officer of WDS Marketing & Public Relations, says there’s no experience like winning an award that can shine a positive light on your career and business achievements.
Becky launched her business in 1992 as a full-service marketing agency that provided everything from direct mail programs to print advertising campaigns. Then, about 20 years ago, she evolved it to focus primarily on helping clients seek awards, honors and recognition that can help elevate their enterprises. She also consults with organizations that are creating their own award programs.
“I had a client in 1998—a NAWBO member—who wondered why she wasn’t getting any media coverage for her business,” recalls Becky. “She thought newspaper reporters just showed up at your office door to interview you. She first called me to assist her with story placement.” The woman business owner was also a member of the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, which had a “Top 10 Small Businesses of the Year Award” competition. She wanted to apply, asked Becky what she knew about it, handed her a box of paperwork and told her to make it happen!
A few weeks later, Becky was standing in her office by her fax machine when a communication came through and fell to the floor. It said simply, “Becky, we’re in! Thanks!” That was the very first award Becky helped a business win. Today, she is at 300 awards and counting, including a variety of honors for NAWBO members and NAWBO National.
At the Kansas City celebration for 2019 Enterprising Women of the Year Award honorees (L to R): Erin Joy, Black Dress Circle; Jeri Kling, Bartunek Group Recruiting; Sheryl Vickers, Select Sites, LLC; Becky; Stephanie Isaacson, New Horizons Enterprises, LLC; (NAWBO-Kansas City chapter member) and Janelle Burlin, KJB Packaging Solutions.
Becky’s agency follows about a dozen national award programs, in addition to local recognition opportunities in the Kansas City area. These include the Stevie Awards for Women in Business, American Business Awards, Enterprising Women of the Year, Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year, U.S. Chamber Dream Big Awards and Kansas Minority Business Awards, among others.
“Each award program is unique in how it operates regarding the questions asked in the applications, judging procedures and selection of the winners. Some do require financial disclosure,” shares Becky. “They also have different ways of presenting the awards and showcasing the honorees.”
While the Stevie Awards, for example, currently has seven separate award programs, each with a selection of categories, Becky prefers to focus on just three of the programs. “Their annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business offers the opportunity to build the reputation of female entrepreneurs and women business leaders nationally, drawing attention to capabilities and achievements,” Becky says. “I see this as ideal third-party validation rather than self-promotion. And, being selected is an energizing and enjoyable experience.”
Pictured left: Becky holds her 2019 Grand Stevie Award presented for outstanding agency performance. Alongside her is Nancy Zurbuchen, former NAWBO-Kansas City chapter president.
To assist agency clients, Becky first recommends the best awards and their categories. She sits down with each business owner to go over everything accomplished and to gather supporting documents. Next, the application content is written—closely following the instructions. Becky forwards the applications, and then awaits the results, which is not easy to do! But those results have been plentiful.
Last year, Becky had five WDS clients win Gold awards and two clients win Bronze awards (seven total) at the 2019 Stevie Awards for Women in Business ceremony held in New York City. “That was a career highlight for me to see these fabulous women proudly making their acceptance speeches,” she says. The honorees included NAWBO National. Becky nominated NAWBO, compiled the supporting materials and then submitted their application. NAWBO has been honored with a Gold “Non-Profit Organization of the Year Award” and a Gold “Event of the Year Award” in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Becky also assisted NAWBO National Past President Virginia Littlejohn of Quantum Leaps in receiving a Gold Stevie Award for “Lifetime Achievement” in the Non-Profit category.
Becky shares that winning awards has been beneficial for her clients, too. One WDS client went to an awards dinner in Washington, D.C., where he sat at a table alongside another honoree with whom he later put together a lucrative business deal. Another client met an honoree at an awards reception, was later able to make a presentation and was given several large projects as a result.
A recent highlight was when WDS assisted a client in receiving the Kansas City Philanthropist of the Year Award—a significant honor that comes with much esteem and respect. “I think we represented him in such a way with the copy we wrote that it provided the judges with an understanding of his philosophy about community involvement,” says Becky.
Pictured right: At the 2018 Stevie Awards for Women in Business awards gala (L to R): Jen Earle, NAWBO National CEO, Female Executive of the Year, Non-Profit category, Bronze Award honoree, and Molly Gimmel, Design to Delivery Inc., past NAWBO National Board chair, who accepted the 2018 Gold Stevie Award on behalf of NAWBO for Organization of the Year, in the Government or Non-Profit category.
So, what’s Becky’s advice for those applying for awards? If you have questions, call the presenting organization directly. Follow the award application instructions. Include insightful content that gives examples. Make note of the entry deadline, and don’t put off entering until the last day. And remember, it’s a learning experience. If you don’t win the first time you apply (you just might not), don’t give up. Try again.
After all, there’s nothing like letting an award tout your success!
“Right now, we are all going through some challenging times. It’s easy to feel sad and discouraged,” says Becky. “Then, someone calls and says, ‘I see you won that award.’ Let this serve to remind you that you can handle challenges. Give yourself permission to move forward. We do need to reaffirm that we are leading viable, profitable, outstanding businesses. This is just one positive attribute of awards.”
Becky’s NAWBO Experience
“When I became a NAWBO member in Kansas City in 1993, one of the first things I was asked was to join the board of directors, and I said, ‘Yes,’ and I am glad I did. The leadership experience I’ve gotten has given me the confidence to step up when needed in my community. I’ve had the opportunity to build relationships with successful women business owners throughout the country. Many of the milestones in my career can be credited to NAWBO—the people I’ve met, the events I attended and the experiences I’ve had.”
Putting Your Awards to Work
Awards can reaffirm a reputation of success and credibility, however, winning is just the tip of the iceberg. Becky suggests that once you receive notice you are an honoree:
- Seek media coverage for every award you win.
- Share your good fortune on social media to let your network know.
- Send a congratulatory card or small gift to other honorees (or even honorees in the year following your win).
- Take part in all the award activities to network and increase your visibility (even with events being virtual right now).
- Display awards in your office—it makes your employees and clients feel proud.
- Be sure to include awards as part of your sales presentations and proposals.