This year’s climate heading into the National Association of Women Business Owners' yearly conference had seen, let’s face it, fearful and challenging economic times for most of the business owners in the country, as well as a week of rain in Chicago before we arrived. Well, this all changed as hundreds of women from all over the world came to connect and strengthen their commitment to “Power the Dream” of each woman entrepreneur present from Tuesday evening, June 23, through Saturday, June 27.
Some of you may recall the Steven Covey book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” If you are like many of us, you have read or listened to every motivational speaker telling us how we can all make more, be more and do more. It took me more than 30 years to realize that while we could be, do and have whatever we wanted in our lives, it may not be possible at the same time. There is one habit, however, that I have always gone back to no matter how the economic times, dreams or goals have changed, and this is “Sharpening the Saw.” I believe most of you would agree that revisiting the obvious, as well as constantly educating and learning different ways to adapt and reinvent ourselves and our businesses, are keys to the dream not only being powered, but also attained.
This year’s NAWBO conference did exactly that. The theme was, of course, “Power Your Dream.” We had three packed days plus a few extra activities on each end to network and take in the sights of my favorite city and hometown, Chicago. There was the opportunity to educate ourselves and share in roundtable discussions with other like-minded women business owners, all dedicated to each other’s success while being entertained and learning new skills and perspectives to grow our business to the next level. We had keynote speakers ranging from Oprah and TLC’s hit series “Clean Sweep” star and author, Peter Walsh, to Suzy Welch talking about the 10-10-10 of decision-making.
Walsh has some catchy book titles dealing with the clutter and disorganization in our lives that keeps us stuck, such as “Enough Already – Clearing Mental Clutter to Become the Best You,” as well as my favorite, “Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?” He really knew how to speak to his audience while giving us great tips and letting us laugh at ourselves.
Welch’s idea of revolutionary decision-making had some of us wondering if it was invented over tequila shots and a box of Kleenex. However, when we really listened, it started to make more sense. If we approached crossroads with the basic question: "How is this decision going to affect the next 10 minutes of my life or the lives of those around me, the next 10 months, the next 10 years," we would probably make more relevant and effective decisions.
Cynthia McClain-Hill passed the baton of presidency to Wendy Lopez, and our new board was installed while Marilyn Johnson, vice president of Market Development at IBM, addressed us over lunch on Wednesday. Awards followed.
NAWBO-O.C. was the winner of the Membership Recruitment Challenge for 2009, bringing in 56 new members in two months during a recession with no fiscal budget. This was due to in-kind exposure at various tradeshows, exhibits and conferences, along with the support and excellent teamwork of great committee members like Christina Becker, Trina Fleming, Janet Cronick and Kimberly Gerber, director of Membership. I had the honor of representing NAWBO-O.C. and accepting this award as the director of Marketing & Communications. This made NAWBO-O.C. the largest chapter in the nation with more than 380 members. Way to go, team!
Particularly valuable were the roundtable discussions among all leaders on Wednesday, June 24, where we shared our best practices and ways to support each other, as well as the mission and purpose of NAWBO.
We ended our first night with a spectacular event held at The Field Museum, which caused many of us to experience flashbacks to the Ben Stiller movie of the same name. Me? I was having a fabulous time networking. On Friday, many of us ventured out to the infamous Taste of Chicago. In case any of you were wondering, EVERYTHING tastes good in Chicago.
We also gave an award on Friday to our Guardian Girls Going Places winner. Fifteen-year-old Eugenia O’Kelly of San Francisco was selected from 5,000 girls to receive one of the $1,000 dollar awards. Eugenia has operated Sirius Games LLC, a software company that develops and markets electronic learning games to assist high school and college students studying Latin language and Roman history. Eugenia timidly approached the microphone and shared with all of us a message that I think sums up the entire conference. “For anyone who has a dream and someone is there telling you it is not possible, that you are being way too ambitious ... I am here to tell you they are wrong!”
A perfect week ended with a White Sox/Cubs game and a shipment home of Garret’s Popcorn in the 42-pound box I preshipped from our corporate sponsor, Jeffrey, my friend from UPS. “BROWN” has done a lot for NAWBO! We L-O-V-E UPS !!!
For more information on NAWBO Women’s Business Conference 2009 or to hear more about NAWBO-Orange County, please visit us at nawbo.org and nawbo-oc.org, where you will find pictures of our meetings, events and activities, and more calendar information.