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STEPPING OUT

Do the holidays and year-end feel like they come sooner every year? Research shows there’s actually a reason for this. When we are younger, we constantly experience and learn new things that take time to anticipate and process. As adults, we have often “been there, done that,” and aren’t as willing to step out of our comfort zones to try new things. Yet, doing so is critically important for an organization like NAWBO and for the thousands of women business owners we serve.

This year, I am proud to look back and say that NAWBO stepped out. In 2013, we introduced new events, like our e-learning webinar series that was so well received and that delivered timely information on topics like health care reform to women entrepreneurs around the country. We brought on new corporate partners that have introduced exciting expertise and resources to our community. Also, we focused on providing even more benefits, tools and training to our chapters and leaders. In fact, our NAWBO Leadership Training portion of this year’s Women’s Business Conference was one of our most successful conference events to date.

Two initiatives that I have been working on this year are the YEA! program and MentorCloud. YEA! is a groundbreaking yearlong program that transforms middle and high school students into entrepreneurs. The students generate business ideas, conduct market research, write business plans, pitch to a panel of investors and launch their own companies. Several chapters have launched the YEA! program, including NAWBO-Indianapolis, in my hometown.

The second initiative is a partnership with MentorCloud that we’re working to roll out in the first quarter of 2014. Mentoring is such an important component of NAWBO, and one of the key drivers of success for entrepreneurs. Through MentorCloud’s global mentoring network, NAWBO members will be able to tap into a cloud-based platform to collaborate and support one another to grow. They will connect as subject-matter experts, mentors, mentees and peers around their goals as well as areas of mutual interest. Stay tuned for details in the weeks ahead!

This past week, your NAWBO National Board met to discuss how we can step out even more in 2014 to strengthen and grow our entire organization, from National to our chapters around the country. As an organization that is now in its 38th year, one of the greatest challenges we face is remaining relevant and delivering exceptional value to not only our current member demographics, but also to the next generation of women entrepreneurs. We know that women of all ages have limited time and many choices. We’d like to give them even more reasons to choose NAWBO in 2014 and beyond. And that will require us to step out.

As you enjoy all the hard work and celebration this month will no doubt bring, I hope you will spend a moment thinking about how you’ve stepped out to perhaps enter a new market, start a new venture or promote your company in a fresh way, how it’s made a difference and how you plan to build on this success in 2014. On behalf of the NAWBO National Board of Directors and staff, I’d also like to wish you a happy holiday season and a New Year filled with health, happiness and success.

—Billie Dragoo, NAWBO National Chair and Interim CEO