Growing and Connecting
Women in Networking provides a sisterhood for like-minded women in business
There is good news out there for female business owners and entrepreneurs in the area. You are not alone. The Wilmington chapter of Women in Networking (WIN), which started six years ago, offers the opportunity to be around like-minded women and the chance to help grow your business.
Not only can you tap into a supportive community of women, but you might just sit next to a possible referral. The group meets every Wednesday morning. Chick-Fil-A at Mayfaire was the designated meeting spot pre-Covid, and now meetings are held virtually via Zoom.
WIN was a saving grace for current president DEBORAH MAYAK (pictured right), publisher of Porters Neck Living and Hampstead Neighbors magazines. When she moved to Wilmington, she only knew one person.
“I was at a 2017 WILMA event when I met a woman who told me about WIN,” Mayak says. “She invited me to visit the chapter. I joined the group immediately after that visit, as I realized this group of women was like no other.”
As every entrepreneur or new business owner knows, there are many challenges and obstacles when starting out, and having a network to call upon is crucial. Mayak agrees.
“WIN empowers professional women and female entrepreneurs to exchange customer referrals, leads, share knowledge, and offer support for professional growth and prosperity.”
The local chapter of the national group was formed by JENNIFER FLETCHER (pictured middle) who is now a referral coordinator with the group.
“I was personally wanting to expand my network and grow my business and upon searching on the internet for a local women’s networking group I couldn’t find one in the Wilmington area,” Fletcher says. “I found WIN through a Google search and saw that they had chapters throughout North Carolina but none near Wilmington. As a result, I reached out to the leadership team and asked if they would be interested in starting a chapter in Wilmington and they say they would.”
During a typical meeting, members hear a 30-second commercial of each person’s business, kudos, and shout outs promoting each other, announcements, and either a workshop or presentation by a member that rotates weekly.
WIN is a seat protected networking group. You are able to visit the group three times before putting in an application. However, if someone already fills that seat, they can help introduce you to other nearby chapters.
Outgoing president SUMMER LAMBERT (pictured left), who owns her own photography business, was drawn to the group for obvious reasons—to feel connected. She served as president for 2020, a challenging year.
“As you know, the year turned out differently than any of us expected. Instead of having quarterly parties, weekly in-person meetings, and tons of one-on-one meetings, we quickly problem solved into creating an online community and weekly zoom meetings,” she says.
The word of the year and the focus of the group was sustainability.
“The year was about staying present and consistent to sustain our group,” Lambert says. “So many women needed the weekly meetings for group interaction and encouragement. Some couldn’t handle all of the online content because they were burnt out from their own jobs.”
“We stayed connected through phone calls or distanced visits. I’m proud to say that we have more new members going into 2021 than we did when 2020 started.”
The group has grown to 25 members and increasing that number is the goal for this year.
MELISSA CAPPS, membership coordinator, will be in charge of making that happen. Capps holds an industry seat as a professional organizer. For her, WIN turned out to be a lifesaver.
“As a business owner, it sometimes gets lonely brainstorming and making decisions,” she says. “WIN has been a safe place for me to hash out ideas for growth and change. It also has been an excellent way to get and give referrals.”
Seeing membership grow “proves that we need community thrive, and WIN has provided that for so many women in Wilmington,” Lambert says.
Mayak agrees and sees the group as even more than a community but rather as a sisterhood. Outside the weekly meetings, the group does business builders with each other.
“We also have occasional gatherings at a restaurant or party at one of our homes,” Mayak says. “We truly are sisters and love to spend time together.”
And the connections extend beyond being purely professional.
“On a personal level, it’s given me connection with other women who are also professionals,” says Capps. “They can relate to the challenges of balancing family and work and care about what’s going on in my life. One of them whom I barely knew at the time went so far as to make a meal for my brother last year who was going through chemotherapy.”
Looks like WIN is a win-win on all levels.
To view more of photographer Michael Cline Spencer’s work, go to michaelclinephoto.com.
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