I started attending a networking group for women in Central New York a year or so after I opened my doors. WBOC (Women Business Owner’s Connection) had been started by a small group of women business owners in Cicero, NY. They came together once a month to encourage and support each other in the male dominated area of entrepreneurship. I often think of them as pioneers, in the pre-computer age, understanding the strength they would receive by “circling the wagons” and fighting the fear and frustration of being in business.
Attending the meeting each month was like attending a private pep rally – we cheered for each success and encouraged each struggle with ideas and solutions. Through that group I met many of my future clients and developed life long friendships with many other women. I believe that the friendships and trust I built by developing relationships with other business woman has been the most valuable asset to my business over the years. People do business with people they like and trust. Here are some examples:
In 1995 I met a young woman at the monthly meeting named Tracy Higginbotham, she was an enthusiastic business woman and had started an event planning business, Five Star Events in the Syracuse area,. I admired her professionalism and excitement for entrepreneurship very much. We were placed together as co- facilitators of WBOC in the fall of 1995. We became fast friends as we built the networking group from 12 members to 150+ when we left the leadership in 2005.
As we worked together on WBOC she gained the trust she needed in my abilities to allow me to develop all her Five Star Event branding and then later developed her new business Women TIES branding and website. Over the years we were able to work together on several projects which benefited us both. Today I actively serve on Tracy’s advisory board for Women TIES. I’ve appreciated having Tracy as a client but more importantly as a friend.We’ve been there for each other as we’ve grown our businesses, but also as our children have grown up. We’re both self-employed so it’s been wonderful to know someone else understands those issues and can offer support and advice.
Another connection I met at WBOC was Cathy Pokines, Director of Marketing and Communications at the Syracuse office of the U.S. Small Business Administration. She asked me to design a newsletter for women business owners which would highlight successful women in the area and offer tips and information. I was excited to work with the SBA, but also with Cathy, I knew she was smart and excited about women in business too. Cathy was a wonderful resource of information and support, but more importantly a great friend. As we worked on that first project together we developed a mutual respect for each others abilities and talents. We worked together on many projects over the years, including the design of all the branding and website of the New York State Women’s Business Center in Utica, NY and the annual Small Business Excellence Award Programs and website. I appreciated Cathy’s trust and enthusiasm for my work, and her willingness to offer her knowledge and advice to support my business.
These are just two of the many stories that I could tell. The lesson I have learned over the years is to value the client relationship highly. Each and every client has so much more to offer me than the next job. I’m very grateful to the women that started the organization WBOC so many years ago. Their example of encouragement and sincere interest in each other, rather than pushing for the sale, has made my business succeed.