NAWBO-Greater DC Is Getting Back to Their Roots

HISTORY

Susan Hager, Founder and Capital Area Chapter (CAC) President in 1975-1976, said, “Originally, we began as a local self-help group concerned with our own businesses. But as we gained visibility, my office would receive hundreds of telephone calls from all over the nation about what we were doing.” Together, this small group of about a dozen women built a platform to advocate for political change, create a community of like-minded women and make their voices heard.

As the “mother chapter,” NAWBO-CAC was that platform. Virginia Littlejohn, 1982-1984 CAC President, pointed out how CAC leaders have traditionally had to “function in all normal chapter roles, while at the same time having responsibility to officially or unoffically represent the entire organization in Washington.” The chapter in Northern Virginia, founded in 2000, merged with the CAC chapter to form NAWBO-Greater DC in 2008.  

BACK TO OUR ROOTS

Today, with around 100 members, NAWBO-Greater DC is getting back to NAWBO’s roots as an organization that sees the need for change—and does something about it. In Washington, D.C., that means empowering women business owners through education and nurturing connections among its diverse membership, from solopreneurs to larger businesses. “It’s so much more than networking—it’s a movement that started 40 years ago,” explains Mina Fies, Founder and CEO, Synergy Design & Construction, and NAWBO-Greater DC Past President. “We’re bringing that into the conversation and educating members on the history of NAWBO.”

 

EVENTS & PROGRAMS

“We surveyed members and saw that they wanted educational events and opportunities, lunch events and workshops, even half-day events where they can learn a lot,” Mina continues. Whether it’s our Annual Luncheon or a monthly Lunch & Learn meeting, “We don’t just host a typical networking event; we’re there to do more than hand out business cards and leave,” Mina says. “There’s no value in that; our time is worth more.”

That’s why the chapter’s events committee is engaged and committed to creating events that build stronger connections between our members. Lunch & Learns, for example, are one of the chapter’s more popular events, and provide women business owners the opportunity to learn from industry experts and discuss different issues at a local restaurant the first Wednesday of every month.

Another great new program is NAWBO Masterminds, which launched in February. With six moderators placed throughout the area the chapter serves, there’s really a group for everyone. Mastermind groups include up to five members in varying industries, who gather once a month to discuss shared tips and challenges as women business owners who are on the same journey.

The chapter’s annual banquet takes place every June and brings together hundreds of women business owners. The “Woman of Distinction” award, given at the banquet, honors a woman who has helped other women business owners in various ways. This year, the focus is policy and outreach and FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn will be the keynote speaker.

Other NAWBO-Greater DC events include:

  • Evening and morning opportunities are a way to include members who can’t meet during lunch: Half-day workshops, evening mix ’n’ mingles, member breakfasts once a quarter and a three-part legal compliance breakfast series government contracting series (government law, business law and HR law)
  • One-off special events include an evening monuments tour, a summer winery tour and book signings by authors like longtime supporter and international author Sam Horn
  • Community outreach: donations to Suited for Change, a non-profit that contributes to the economic success of low-income women
  • And more!

CONTINUAL GROWTH

“Especially in the D.C. area, there are so many other options,” says Molly Gimmel, Executive Vice President and Co-Founder, Design To Delivery Inc., NAWBO-Greater DC Past President and longtime member and NAWBO National board member. “With women’s groups and industry groups, you could go to a different thing every single night if you wanted to. We are offering a community of peers, other women business owners who become advisers, friends and mentors, and an environment of support—of wanting to help each other succeed. It’s very different from any other group.”

To learn more about NAWBO’s founding chapter, NAWBO-Greater DC, please visit www.nawbogreaterdc.com.

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