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Michigan Design and Marketing Firm Receives Certification as Women’s Business Enterprise

Connection Graphics, Michigan based Design and Marketing Firm Receives Certification as Women’s Business Enterprise by WBENC

Michigan design and marketing firm receives Certification as Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) from WBENC

December 15, 2015 – Connection Graphics, LLC receives national certification as Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) by the Great Lakes Women’s Business Council, a regional certifying partner of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).

“The Great Lakes Women’s Business Council is proud to have Connection Graphics as one of our newly certified women owned businesses.  They have tremendous talent and promise that we are excited to see soar even higher,” according to Michelle Richards, President, Great Lakes WBC.

WBENC’s national standard of certification provided by the Great Lakes Women’s Business Council Certification Committee is a meticulous process including an in-depth review of the business and a site inspection. The certification process is designed to confirm that the business is at least 51% owned, operated and controlled by a woman or women. According to WBENC, by including women-owned businesses among their vendors, corporations and government agencies demonstrate their commitment to fostering diversity and continued development of supplier/vendor diversity programs.

“We are pleased to receive this certification by WBENC. We look forward to fostering the growth of other women-owned businesses while continuing to provide marketing and design services to successful corporations,” said Connie Sweet, founder and CEO of Connection Graphics.

About Connection Graphics:

Connection Graphics is an integrative marketing and design firm located in the Lansing, Michigan area. For nearly 20 years, Connection Graphics has provided expert website development, graphic design, and marketing solutions.  Connection Graphics offers guidance for the most cost-effective and creative solutions available to achieve maximum results. Serving a diverse clientele of large corporations and manufacturers to start-ups and non-profits clients extend across Michigan and the United States.  Connection Graphics works in person or digitally, to develop a strategy and visual signature adaptable to each stage of a companies growth.

Certification as Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) from Great Lakes Women’s Business Council means Connection Graphics can help more corporations. If corporations have marketing services, graphic design, or website design and development needs, this certification can help to meet supplier diversity program goals with an experienced, responsible design firm.

The certification achievement is an important milestone for Connection Graphics as we continue to grow and to improve our corporate relationships while fostering the growth of diverse and other women owned businesses.  Through a culture of continuous improvement our mission is to create partnerships by delivering cutting edge marketing and design solutions combined with incomparable service that brings results and makes everyones job easier. 

About WBENC:

The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council is the nation’s largest third-party certifier of businesses owned and operated by women in the United States. WBENC is a resource for the thousands of U.S. companies and government agencies that rely on WBENC’s certification as an integral part of their supplier diversity programs.

Media Contact for Connection Graphics:

Connie Sweet

WBENC Women owned business certification

WISE women: Joining together for support, friendship, advice on the road to business success


TJH6214Branding expert Connie Sweet has some business advice for you, woman to woman.

Steer clear of those business card companies that offer pre-made designs anyone can choose.

“You don’t want the same business card someone else is using,” Sweet says. “You could attend an event and discover three people have the same business card design as you do — a yoga instructor, a hair stylist and a dog groomer.

“If you don’t recognize the importance of your business image, how can I feel confident you will provide the individualized service I would appreciate?”

That’s one kind of insider tip you’ll find at a gathering of WISE women.

TJH6257-226x300Sweet co-founded WISE — Women in Successful Enterprises — in 2009 with friend and fellow business owner Floriza Genautis.

Both are successful entrepreneurs with impressive resumes. They decided to round up some other successful women to see if they could bolster each other.

“There are a lot of organizations that serve start-up companies and offer classes, but once you get past that start-up phase, you no longer get that level of help or collaboration,” Sweet says.

WISE is designed for women who already have their business feet wet — but who want to continue to succeed and grow. It’s a “bridge organization,” Sweet says, that helps women business owners gain certification, corporate connections, government contracts and networking.

The group has worked with the Center for Empowerment & Economic Development and introduces members to the Women’s Business Enterprise Council, an initiative of CEED that provides opportunities for nationally recognized certification of businesses that are at least 51 percent owned, operated and controlled by a woman or women.

Women who own businesses have interests and needs that not all women share, Sweet says. “Women’s conversations often center around families and children,” Sweet says. “But for business owners, a good portion of our lives is about our businesses. When we meet people at PTA meetings, we’re often just not on the same page.”

WISE offers an opportunity for women in business to connect with each other.


“We can gain a lot of information from each other,” Sweet says. “We share resources, share tips. We gain so much from each other. That’s a powerful thing for women who often feel they’re out at sea, on their own.”

Maureen Fitzgerald Penn felt that way when she left her job as marketing and development director for Catholic Charities West Michigan in Muskegon to start her business, Penn & Ink Communications, in 2008.

“I thought, ‘How do I begin this? I’m hanging up my shingle but I don’t have any contacts in Grand Rapids,’” Penn says.

Joining WISE changed all that. Penn met other women business owners, made friends and acquired a few clients.

Now, years later, the group is still valuable, she says.

“Once you’ve been in business a few years, you need to grow,” Penn says. “You have to step out of your comfort zone and approach larger companies with bigger needs. WISE has helped me break down the barriers so I can do that.”

Penn is on the group’s advisory board — they call themselves “advocates” — and helps plan each year’s events.

“We decide on the speakers and events based on our own reality,” she says. “What are the issues we’re facing? What questions do we have? Then we find speakers to address those needs.”

Events set for this year:

  •  “Common Negotiation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.” Speaker Penny Rosema, a professional buyer, shares negotiation tips March 12.
  •  “How to Get in with Community Media.” A panel of media experts shares tips at a gathering at the mlive hub May 7.
  •  “Building Success from Scratch,” a presentation by award-winning chef and restaurant owner Jenna Arcidiacono from Amore Trattoria Italiana Aug. 20.

Each year WISE also hosts an event designed to give back to the community.

This year they support the American Diabetes Association at a Nov. 5 event.

“We’re reminding other business women that a social conscience should be part of your business,” Penn says.

While there is a cost to attend WISE events (and non-members are welcome, too) it costs nothing to belong to WISE.

“We formed this group just as the Michigan economy was flailing,” Sweet says. “We decided we weren’t going to saddle people with an annual membership fee.”

Sweet and cofounder Genautis met through another organization, Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs.

Sweet is founder of Connection Group, Inc. in Lansing. She creates distinctive brands that connect with her client’s philosophy and business strategy.

Her resume of graphic design jobs includes time at ad agencies, educational institutions, non-profit organizations, publishing houses and governmental offices.

Genautis is the principal founder of Management Business Solutions, a professional staffing firm specializing in placing candidates in the areas of accounting, finance, human resource, information technology, sales and marketing and engineering.

The tips and resources WISE members share are valuable, Sweet says, but the laughter is pretty great, too.

“What I’ve gained most is friendships,” Sweet says. “This is an open, diverse and welcoming group. And I want women to know that having a successful business is within reach for all of us.”

For more about WISE, including upcoming events, visit

Article by: Stellafly

Organization to boost women business owners

Grand Rapids Business Journal

A new group is organizing to support women whose businesses are ready to take the next step.

WISE — Women In Successful Enterprises — aims to help women business owners who are past the start-up phase and are ready to grow, said Floriza Genautis.

Genautis, owner of Management Business Solutions Inc., a Grand Rapids staffing and recruiting firm with six employees, is working with Connie Sweet of Connection Group in Lansing to organize WISE, an outgrowth of their participation in the local group Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs.

WISE plans to sponsor events quarterly for established women-owned businesses in central and West Michigan, Genautis said. The first occurred last week, with a session on sustainability at Cascade Engineering, followed by a brewery tour and networking time at Schmohz Brewery. She said she expected about 50 to attend.

The next event will be a full-day conference on leadership May 21 in conjunction with Ann Arbor-based Michigan Women’s Marketplace, an online forum for women in business, at Davenport University’s Caledonia campus.

“It’s created to be a resource group for women in business who are already established.” said Genautis, who launched her firm less than three years ago.

“When we were looking to find a name, we really said, ‘You know, these are wise women,’” she added. “They are looking to grow their business to the next level. They’re certainly not start-ups. They are not in the entrepreneurial phase. … We want to be the vehicle to provide those opportunities as well as resources to get them to that level.”

The organization is not membership-based, she said.

Genautis said she has often attended events for women business owners on the east side of the state.

“There’s something missing here in our area in West Michigan, because there’s nothing here available. There are a lot of great, great … events, organizations available to help you get started, networking opportunities, but never focused on established companies. Really, that’s where we came in.”

More information is available at

“It’s very inclusive. You don’t have to be a business owner to join in,” she added, noting that executives in larger businesses may participate in WISE events.

Among the issues that established businesses face that may be addressed by WISE are public relations and employee retention, Genautis said. “We do face different types of issues as we grow our business,” she said.

Article Written By: Elizabeth Slowik

West Michigan Women Entrepreneurs – AWEsome

by Elaine Eldridge –

Photo by: Kelly Loucks Wilson; KriZma Photography 2008-2009 AWE BOARD OF DIRECTORS: Front row from left: President Kim Schamberger of Finishing Touches by Kin, Vice President Beverly Mapes of Top of the List, Marketing Chair Connie Sweet, Connection Group, Programs Chair Floriza Genautis, Management Business Solutions, Treasurer Kathy Heintzelman, Heintzelman Accounting Services, Inc. Back row from left: Membership Chair Suzanne Knight, 1-2-1 Personal Computer Training and Secretary Deanna Fridley, Crosby and Henry Insurance

2008-2009 AWE BOARD OF DIRECTORS: Front row from left: President Kim Schamberger of Finishing Touches by Kin, Vice President Beverly Mapes of Top of the List, Marketing Chair Connie Sweet, Connection Group, Programs Chair Floriza Genautis, Management Business Solutions, Treasurer Kathy Heintzelman, Heintzelman Accounting Services, Inc. Back row from left: Membership Chair Suzanne Knight, 1-2-1 Personal Computer Training and Secretary Deanna Fridley, Crosby and Henry Insurance

AWE members mean business! In a June survey of the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs over 90 percent of the respondents cited “networking and gaining business contacts” as their main reason for membership. In fact, that was the main reason for the first AWE meeting in 1984, when Grand Rapids women business owners gathered at a woman-owned restaurant to create a network of businesswomen who shared common aspirations, interests, and needs. Today, AWE’s mission is to be the premier organization promoting the success of women entrepreneurs through networking connections, educational resources, and leadership development.

The businesses represented in this organization range from sole proprietorships with fewer than five employees to corporations with over 100 employees; from service providers to manufacturing and construction companies; and from revenues under $50,000 to sales exceeding $5 million.

AWE’s new Board of Directors has already implemented several changes in response to survey comments. Almost half the members asked for an alternative to the traditional dinner meetings, so this year will feature both dinners and AWEsome Hour Networking. Meetings are always the third Monday of the month from 5:30–7:30 p.m., but locations will vary so members can try new places while networking. The line-up includes Naya Bistro and Wine Bar, Louis Benton Steak House, and the JW Marriott. First up is Naya on Monday, August 18. After August is Thousand Oaks Golf Club (September 15) and Malarky’s on the East Beltline (October 20). The popular Women in Networking (WIN) lunch program will continue in 2008–09 with a new location. AWE members and guests will meet every fourth Monday from 11:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m. at the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan (located at 20 Hall Street SE on the corner of Hall and Division). Each WIN meeting offers a speaker and time to network as well as eat. This month’s WIN lunch on August 25 features Chris Frederick Willis, owner and CEO of awardwinning Media 1. Willis will speak on how entrepreneurs can tap into their creative side and apply their creativity in their businesses. September 22 will be led by Renwick Brutus, owner of Achievement Resources, an executive management company. Renwick will present a motivational program to inspire business owners to triumph over adversity. In addition to the regular monthly meetings, two major annual events showcase AWE’s commitment to women entrepreneurs in West Michigan. Pathways to Success, AWE’s annual January conference, offers speakers and workshops on marketing, public relations, tax law, and business growth and leadership.

The January 2009 Pathways to Success conference will celebrate AWE’s 25th anniversary with a focus on change. New this year will be special attention to the needs of second-stage business owners as they guide their business past the start-up phase. Breakout sessions will include the effects of today’s technology on business, the benefits of becoming a certified Michigan Woman-owned Business Enterprise, and goal-directed networking. “We don’t think learning and business should be boring,” says Floriza Genautis, AWE Program Coordinator and owner of Management Business Solutions. “AWE members are serious about growing their businesses, but we like to have fun, too. ”The second annual event, AWE’s November membership drive, also puts this philosophy to work. Members are encouraged to bring guests to enjoy dinner and a program highlighting members’ achievements and how AWE promotes the success of local businesswomen. Interested, but don’t know an AWE member? “No problem,” says Connie Sweet, owner of Connection Group and AWE’s Marketing Coordinator. “The membership dinner is a great way to meet lots of established and prospective members. Come alone or, if you’d like to attend with someone, give us a call (616-719- 5382) and we’ll match you with an interested member.”

Partnerships with local organizations extend AWE’s ability to promote member businesses. A major benefit of AWE membership includes a $100 discount on standard dues from the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

AWE’s membership in the Regional Alliance for Diversity in Public Purchasing expands the network of women and minority-owned businesses that provide goods and services for public institutions. AWE members can also participate in the Michigan Women’s Marketplace, which provides business opportunities through an online directory that lists woman-owned businesses in all industries throughout the state.

AWE membership is open all to business owners and professionals who support AWE’s goals and promote and support women business owners and professionals in Grand Rapids. AWE President Kim Schwamberger, owner of Finishing Touches by Kim, encourages curious visitors. “Come see what AWE is like. People are welcome to attend events before they join, and members can always bring guests.”

awepdfRegistration and prepayment are required for most events. Check out AWE at

Photo by: Kelly Loucks Wilson; KriZma Photography

West Michigan Business Women – Powered by MiBiz

Connection Graphics Announces Membership

Greater Lansing Business Monthly

Connection Graphics, LLC announced membership with the Graphic Communications Conference of the Brotherhood of Teamsters. Connection Graphics, LLC is united in support of fair wage and labor practices worldwide. As the only local union web site design firm, they are working with associations and unions in mid-Michigan building and updating Web sites and union communication and print materials.

Greater Lansing Business Monthly – May 2008