Women Business Leaders (WBL) Forum in partnership with NC State University Industry Expansion Solutions (IES) and sponsored by 

Grace Federal Solutions, LLC and RNE Consultants


We are honored to have the Secretary of North Carolina Departmert of Commerce as our keynote lunch speaker!

Governor Cooper appointed Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders to lead NC Department of Commerce in 2021, enlisting her experience as former Administration Secretary, strong background as a business leader and her extensive knowledge of what it takes to build a globally competitive workforce. Sec. Sanders’ approach to advancing North Carolina’s economy is to work with statewide partners to attract and grow innovative companies with good paying jobs, invest in our small businesses and rural communities, and strengthen our diverse and highly skilled workforce for the jobs of today and tomorrow. Her bold and purposeful leadership aims to ensure North Carolina’s economy is one that works for all people of this state.

Thank you to the Honorable Secretary of State, Elaine Marshall for joining us to share her story! In 1996, Secretary of State Elaine F. Marshall became the first woman ever elected to a statewide,executive branch office in North Carolina and has served as President of the National Association of Secretaries of State. Voters re-elected her to a seventh term in 2020, and Governor Cooper presentedher with the NC Order of the Long Leaf Pine award in 2022, the Governor’s highest award for service to the State. A former teacher, small business owner, and private practice attorney, Secretary Marshall was elected to the NC Senate before rising to statewide office.

Join us at DANC-WBL, where ambition meets achievement, and together, we redefine the future of the Defense Industry!


Monday, August 21, 2023 from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM EDT


Iris Phillips, Women Business Leaders Forum Chair 
Defense Alliance of North Carolina (DANC) 


Cape Fear Community College, N Building, Room 202 
411 North Front Street
Wilmington, NC 28401

Driving Directions 

Click here to Register!

No cost to attend.  Interested in promoting your company? Consider a low-investment sponsorship.

Arrive early for NETWORKING!  Program begins promptly at 9:30am. 

 Registration will close once max capacity is reached. Limited to 90.


Cape Fear Community College has provided parking passes for all attendees.  It will be sent to the email address you used to register:

408 North 2 nd Street
Please stop at the Guard House for parking instructions. If Guard is not available, please
park in a Visitor’s Space (VP) or an unlettered space.

WILMINGTON CAMPUS VISITOR PARKING:  If all of the visitors parking (VP) spaces are full, paid public parking is available on the street at meters or in the City/County parking decks. Please follow informational signage to avoid receiving a parking citation. It is not necessary to feed the meters if you have a State issued Handicap (ADA) placard or license plate.

PARKING OPTIONS NEAR CAPE FEAR COMMUNITY COLLEGE:  The Wilmington Convention Center Parking Deck located on the corner of Nutt and Hanover Streets, the New Hanover County (Library) Parking Deck located at 201 Chestnut Street, the City of Wilmington operates parking decks at 114 North 2nd Street (between Chestnut and Princess Streets) and 115 Market Street (intersection of Market and 2nd Streets). Please note, parking fees apply.

NETWORKING SOCIAL:  For locals or overnight travelers, there will be a social on Sunday, August 20 from 5:30pm-7:00pm at Hotel Ballast, 301 N. Water Street.

LODGING:  If interested in overnight accommodations, click on this link to check availablity  Wilmington Hotels & Lodging | Beachfront Suites & Historic B&Bs (wilmingtonandbeaches.com)



The mission of DANC-WBL is simple - Unleash the Potential of Women Business Leaders, propelling the Defense Industry forward with a vision that embraces:

  • Purposeful Growth: We seize every opportunity to drive our business to new heights.
  • Entrepreneurial Vision: We work strategically on our business, nurturing its expansion.
  • Empowered Leadership: We continuously refine our skills, becoming dynamic and influential leaders.
  • Innovate to Thrive: Embracing the bigger picture, we implement cutting-edge business practices.
  • Stronger Together: We uplift and support each other, fostering a community of growth.
  • Connecting Trailblazers: Elevating women by leveraging our diverse network.
  • Forge Collaborative Pathways: Creating unrivaled networking and partnership opportunities.
  • Ignite Creative Excellence: We adapt imaginative sales and marketing strategies that set us apart.



9:00am-9:30am - ARRIVALS - Check-in, Badge Pickup, Networking, Coffee and Breakfast Pastries provided by Apple Annie’s Bakery

9:30am-9:40am - ANNOUNCEMENTS & RECOGNITION OF DISTINGUISHED GUESTS - Tammy Everett, Executive Director, Defense Alliance of North Carolina

"the diverse makeup of the Defense Alliance of North Carolina including women in the military, government agencies, academia, associations and professional services."

9:40am-10:00am - WELCOME - Natalie English, President & CEO, Wilmington Chamber

10:00am-10:20am - OPENING REMARKS - Iris Phillips, President/CEO Grace Federal Solutions, LLC., Women in Business Leaders Forum Chair, Defense Alliance of North Carolina

"how women can and are supporting the defense industry in various leadership roles"  

10:20am-10:40am - SPECIAL GUEST SPEAKER - Elaine Marshall, Secretary of State

"Overcoming obstacles to become the first woman ever elected to a statewide, executive branch office in North Carolina"  

A true activist for women's issues winning numerous state and national awards for women's leadership"

  • 2018 Person of the Year Award from The Women’s Business Center of North Carolina;
  • 2018 Inductee to the North Carolina Women Business Owners Hall of Fame;
  • The 2017 Woman of Achievement Award from Meredith College;
  • The National Foundation for Women Legislators 2013 Elected Women of Excellence Award;
  • The Distinguished Attorney Award from the NC Association of Women Attorneys. She was the second person ever to be honored with this award;
  • The Lifetime Achievement Award for Women in Business by the Triangle Business Journal

10:40am-11:00am - SPECIAL GUEST SPEAKER - Loree Blue,  Director of Marketing and Communications, NC State University Industry Expansion Solutions (IES) 

"Impacting the defense industry and supporting the warfighter" 

11:00m-11:30am - FEATURED AUTHOR - Teresa Spangler, Founder & CEO, Plazabridge Group

 "17 Life Lessons for Entrepreneurs on Winning Big, Failing Big and Dusting Off Your A#S to Do It All Over"

11:30am-12:00noon - NETWORKING BREAK & BOOK SIGNING - - "All That I Am Now That I Know"

12:00noon-12:30pmCATERED LUNCH by Pine Valley Market

12:30pm-1:00pm - KEYNOTE LUNCH SPEAKER - Machelle Baker Sanders, Secretary of the NC Department of Commerce

 "You can't be what you can't see".  
As a native North Carolinian and mother of twin daughters, she is passionate about improving the status of women in our state. She is a member of the International Women’s Forum and OnBoard NC. Some of her work includes creating a Women’s Innovation Network at Biogen and the Lady Cardinals STEM Program for High School students while at North Carolina Department of Administration.  “Improving the status of women in North Carolina is not just a woman’s issue — it is a family, poverty, and economic issue.”

1:00pm-1:15pm - CLOSING REMARKS

1:15pm-2:00pm - NETWORKING


The Defense Alliance of North Carolina (DANC) combines the powerful leadership of distinguished military officers and industry executives, a large and active membership base, and an impressive set of standing forums and events to support North Carolina’s government, military, business, and academic communities.