When the time is right for something, there’s a certain energy and excitement you can just feel—like the hundreds of women business owners and community of supporters did at this year’s National Women’s Business Conference hosted by NAWBO in beautiful Jacksonville, Florida.
They came together at a time when women business owners are starting and growing companies at a pace faster than ever before. They are at the table in more executive boardrooms, speaking out on more important issues and becoming key contenders and players in Washington, DC and in their state and local government offices. And they are paying forward this success by reaching down to the next generation and out to women around the globe to bring them up. That’s why the theme of this year’s conference—Our Time Is Now—resonated so personally with attendees from the main stage to every stage.
Amazing women entrepreneurs who are proof positive that our time is now helped to inspire as keynote speakers. Sophia Amoruso, CEO of Girlboss and author of #GIRLBOSS, shared candid moments and takeaways from her rise and fall, and rise again. “It’s important to share your failures,” she said. “You never learn when you don’t raise your hand.” Sophia also encouraged women to continue the cycle of inspiration by giving back to one another and supporting young women entrepreneurs. “Compete less and compliment one another more,” she said.
Tiffany Dufu, CEO of The Cru and author of Drop the Ball, continued to inspire. She shared her challenges in fulfilling all her perceived work and life responsibilities after becoming a first-time working mom, and how it all came together for her when she embraced “dropping the ball.” Or in other words: focusing on what’s most important to you in work and life and not feeling guilty about the rest. “Releasing unrealistic expectations of doing it all—dropping the ball—is how I think of it now,” she said.
In between keynotes like these, connections were made and strengthened with other women business owners, sponsors and exhibitors over meals, in breakout sessions and while exploring the exhibit hall. There were some incredible firsts, too—like the Next Generation Track launched this year for high school and college aged entrepreneurs who will make sure our time continues to be now for decades into the future.
It was an incredible three days that can be best described by the women who were there to “feel” the energy and excitement. Here’s what some had to say:
Dina Petrutsas, Concordis Practice Management, LLC, NAWBO-San Antonio:
“Several years ago, our chapter was in a bad position and losing members. I am on the board, so it was important for us to come celebrate the struggles we went through and how far we’ve come. It gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.
This is my fourth year coming to the conference, and there’s always something relevant to what I want. My weakest link is marketing, networking and closing the deal so I usually gravitate toward that content to make my business better. Yesterday, there was a lady named Carmen who got us up and had us chanting and motivated. You could feel the energy in the room. You can maybe get that back home in a conference, but this one is just so energizing! It makes you feel like, ‘I can do anything.’”
Emily Rogers, First Source Consulting, LLC, NAWBO-Lakeland Metro:
“I have been to other conferences, but this is my first time attending as president of my chapter. I wanted to connect with the other companies in Florida as well as all the members coming from everywhere else.
All the information Sophia Amoruso shared was impactful and illuminating. She was just very transparent. I think I’ll share a lot of her quotes with my chapter. Also, I feel like my time is now because attending this conference has helped me to see that I need to take action versus waiting, waiting, waiting until everything is perfect. There’s no more of that. I feel motivated to step out and take action.”
Olalah Njenga, Yellowwood Group, NAWBO-Greater Raleigh:
“It’s an amazing experience to connect with women entrepreneurs from all the other chapters who are on your same journey and have visions and aspirations similar to yours. You feel so much more connected, which means you feel much less alone. I think we need that, because when we run companies, we always feel alone because we’re the cheese and the cheese is at the top of the pyramid. There’s no one you can go to at your company, so you come here and are instantly connected with women who get you. They get your journey. They understand your pains. They understand your wins and successes. And there’s no competition and that is amazing.
Women, Money and Leadership: Our Time is Now was the theme I used for my own installation gala three months before NAWBO announced this year’s conference theme. It was this beautiful hum because it’s always been our time but we’ve been whispering it. I just felt like it was time to scream it from the top of every hill and every mountain across the country that we get to have one united voice that is loud, thunderous, harmonious and absolutely beautiful. Where else in the world can you do that other than at NAWBO and here at the WBC?”
Lizzette Suarez, From His Garden Event Planning and Floral Décor, NAWBO-San Antonio:
“This was a must-attend because I have been a part of NAWBO for two-and-a-half years and every year I hear better and better things about the conference. I didn’t want to prolong it anymore. I had to experience it. NAWBO is really great at having information and resources available online, but sometimes the one-on-one connections with the speakers and other business owners gives you more insight into the questions you want answered. I like to experience things in person like I do that with my business—if I can talk to people in person instead of by email, I think it makes for a better connection.
I had a workshop in the morning and what I was looking for is exactly what I found. The speaker was very informative about taking the leap to get to the next level. It was short, sweet and to the point and I took away three things that I’m going to take back with me and apply for myself. It’s also important for me to share these with my friends who are in the same place of ‘How do we get to the next level?’”
Patricia Klika, Commonwealth Sign Co., NAWBO-Kentucky:
“There was recently a local, one-day summit that got me reconnected with NAWBO. I had become so busy in my business that I wasn’t stepping outside to get involved. I was just really feeling the need to be empowered, so I came to Jacksonville.
For me, it’s about finding the inner strength to have a voice, continue through HR issues and make sure finances are in order; there’s so much to learn here. I was really inspired by Tinesha Cherry—someone who’s been through so much and shows that anyone can rewrite your script. I think that’s what I’d like to see—rewriting our company script and instead of dollar signs, having the purpose of helping and inspiring other businesses.”
Ale Ortega-Botello, Mobile Notary Loan Signing, NAWBO-Santa Barbara:
“I think the sisterhood, the networking piece, is what was most attractive to me. I just feel the passion here among the other women. We’re all here to meet each other and build that sisterhood. That’s been my takeaway. Also, Sophia Amoruso was amazing. She was so transparent and you could feel her genuineness. There were no filters—it’s like ‘I’m here to talk and you’re going to get to know everything about me.’ One of my checklist items is to watch her Netflix series.
Our Time Is Now to me is to go for it and not be afraid. I started my business a little over two years ago and it is really starting to build. I feel like my time is now and I can really do this. I’ve been in banking for 32 years and I became involved in NAWBO for networking for business banking first. Life has changes, though, and there are layoffs. I thought my time is now and I’m going to start my own business.”
Rikki Quintana, HoonArts, NAWBO-New Mexico:
“I came last year to the conference for the first time. Other of my chapter members had been telling me for years you really need to come to a national event to experience the value of belonging to a national organization.
My main takeaway is that we all have the same struggles and challenges and we’re so much better together than struggling on our own. I’m just here to connect with people and hear the speakers—it’s like yes, get it totally, been there, done that. There’s like a steel mesh that ties us together and gives us that collective strength. Also, my biggest business challenge now is finding my target customers because they are dispersed around the country and the world and the noise is very loud in ecommerce. I know there are plenty of customers; it’s about rising above the noise. I think the value here is just the reinforcement that I’m doing the right things, to be patient and not give up and that I have support.”