It’s not often that I get the chance to trade in my boring yogurt-at-my-desk lunch for a 3-course meal at Abigail Kirsh’s Tappan Hill Restaurant in Tarrytown, New York. But last Friday, I shared amazing food with some amazing women at WEDC’s annual spring luncheon and microenterprise fair. For those of you unfamiliar with WEDC (which stands for Women’s Enterprise Development Center), its mission is to encourage entrepreneurship in and around Westchester County, New York, through training programs, support services and microenterprise funding opportunities. I am lucky enough to be a WEDC trainer, and I teach their 15-week Entrepreneurial Training Program in the spring and fall.
The luncheon is always the highlight of the season, offering an opportunity to network with other business women, hear inspirational advice from the featured speakers, and catch up with former students (like Tsahai Martin-Wright of Shima & Sahai and Kim Jones of Urban Tranquility, who both exhibited their products at the microenterprise fair beforehand.
But this year’s WEDC event was extra-special because it included the inaugural presentation of the LEAP Awards, micro grants made possible by local philanthropist Patricia Lanza. They were awarded to qualifying women entrepreneurs who have completed WEDC training; and I was thrilled to learn that two of the LEAP award winners were from my current class! I was a proud mama as I gathered with other students to cheer on these inspirational ladies.
Margie Nugent, of Making Faces Parties, had to rebuild her life after arriving in a domestic violence shelter with 2 little boys and just $20 in her pocket. She always dreamed of owning a business that tapped into her artistic abilities and degrees from FIT. In 2009, she launched Making Faces Parties, an entertainment company offering a variety of body art services. The business—run on nights and weekends—supplements her fulltime job working in a school, and was profitable in its first year. Margie will use her grant money to purchase more equipment, get additional training, and exhibit at body painting competitions to broaden her exposure.
Jenifer Ross, of W@tercooler, spotted the emerging trend of co-working, and is capitalizing on it. W@tercooler is a collaborative office space in historic Tarrytown, New York, available for part-time or fulltime rental to entrepreneurs, freelancers, and other mobile workers. But this is no ordinary office suite rental place. Jenifer’s space is unique because members work side by side in a shared loft-like setting, gaining a sense of community and a place to exchange ideas. The open floor plan has a variety of options—private desks, shared desks or tables, and a lounge area—with access to a shared kitchen, a private phone booth, and a state of the art conference room. All members enjoy complimentary WiFi, faxing, printing, and coffee. And (in a move that I think is sheer genius), clerical help is available through the intern program Jenifer has established with her local high school. If you’re in the Westchester area and need an alternative to working in your lonely home office, come check it out. You may just see me there! (Look for me with my laptop on that cool settee)! Jenifer is using her grant money to build a deck overlooking the Hudson River, providing members with yet another scenic and collaborative place to work.
Other LEAP award winners included:
•Cary and Meryl Gabeler, a mom-daughter team who run Anjolie Ayurveda, organic soaps imported from India.
•Beatriz Messina, of BM Consulting of New York, a proposal writing and project management firm
•Juana Pinyol, who launched Details Custom Cleaning Services, a residential cleaning service which uses green products.
•Beverly Turner, of Casaco, Inc., which provides financial literacy and home ownership counseling.
•Maria Valente, of Chocolations, a chocolate shop and café (and the only chocolate factory in Westchester County, NY!)
If you’re in the Westchester, NY area, check WEDC out. If you’re not, research the women’s business development groups or other SBA-funded organizations in your community. Organizations like these are a great resource for support, networking, and training. And sometimes they even provide a nice alternative to eating lunch at your desk!
When’s the last time you met other mom entrepreneurs face to face? Or met your clients and customers personally? I was lucky enough to be featured as a keynote speaker at last week’s Super Mom Entrepreneur Conference, in NYC, and was reminded once again about how important it is to get out from behind your computer to network in person. Yes, it takes time. Yes, you have to put on professional clothes. And yes, you sometimes have to shell out carfare or a conference fee to do it. And then there’s the part about lining up someone to take care of the kids. But when you do all that, the payback is well worth it. You’ll return home inspired and ready to kick butt, with fresh ideas, business leads, and renewed self-confidence.
At the end of the conference we all held hands in a circle and shared one word that described how we felt about the day. We heard words like, “renewed,” “ready,” “connected,” and “empowered.” I said, “energized.” Pat said “community.”
The handholding seems a perfect metaphor for what happens in our MompreneursOnline.com forums every day. Newbie and veteran mompreneurs come together to share, support and challenge each other.
Now I want you to vow to get out of your home office, as well, and meet someone face to face at least once in the next month. Maybe have coffee with a client or customer. Join a local networking group. I belong to a local group of writers; Janene on our message boards organizes a local group of women business owners; and our Florida and California Mompreneurs® Live networking groups are flourishing. The business group I taught last year meets monthly for dinner to keep each other accountable.
So how will you network face-to-face in the next month? Write your intentions here. It’s a way of saying, “Let’s do this thing!”
I don’t know about you, but I have had it up to here with hearing how tough the economy is and how sucky the job market is in return. It’s a fact. Can we move on now? Because dwelling and moping gets us nowhere.
It is time to stop moaning about why your resume is getting no clicks and your emails are not getting responded to. It is time to be smart. Let me share this story with you. As a freelance writer I get a lot of work from my current client base. But I also find work on craigslist, mediabistro, morning coffee and other job boards. I am also always on the look out for new places to find jobs and often click on links within sites because you never know. The other day I saw a posting for a full-time job but thought perhaps they might be open to working remotely. But when I went to the link it was a placement agency and they wanted me to spend like an hour filling out this ridiculous questionnaire. I knew that would not be a good use of my time so I did some digging, found the hiring manager and emailed her my questions directly. She was out of the office so I got an auto-response directing me to another person. So I emailed her. Well, she got back to me immediately and said the position was not open to working remotely and the salary was below my ask. But, she did have a freelance position open elsewhere and she wanted to put me in for it.
So not only did I not have to waste my time filling out all the online forms (only to find out the job would not have fit my criteria), she directly submitted me to her client. I am still waiting to hear, but regardless, I made a connection and now have someone who will continue to look for me. And it was all because I decided to be smart and direct and take a chance. So go out there, be positive and be direct. Now more than ever, you need to take a chance to get noticed. Who can disagree with that?!