2018-02-21 / Business

News from Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber

Chamber kicks off new women’s group

On Valentine’s Day morning, the Robinson Room at the Brunswick Hotel & Tavern was abuzz with nearly 60 excited chamber members and other regional professionals on hand to celebrate the kickoff of the new chamber women’s group.

For those who don’t know, women’s groups are becoming much more popular in chambers of commerce in Maine and across New England. Though some mission statements may differ, the idea is essentially to create a way for business women in a region to network, support, mentor and get together to meet the needs identified by the group or within their community.

Some groups focus on networking, some groups focus on fundraising for community projects, some groups focus on trainings, and some focus on a variety of things. The Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber’s newly formed group would fall in the last category, of focusing on many things, and from that the group was born.

Well that’s not the whole story — here’s a little background.

Three or four years ago, SMMC started a group called the Women’s Networking Group, and the group had a few events that they ran, with some decent success. Unfortunately, the chamber went through some transitional years and the organizing committee disbanded and the events became a victim to the transition the chamber was going through.

When I came aboard as the executive director in May 2017, I spent a good part of my first year trying to meet as many members and other community professionals as I could. During each conversation I continued to ask, “What would you like to see the chamber do in our communities?” The answers ran the gamut, but several ideas came up again and again — and one of those ideas was the Women’s Networking Group.

As a chamber director, I’m a true believer that the way a chamber stays relevant is by doing the things that the members want the chamber to do. That is why you will notice in many of my columns I’m consistently asking for your feedback.

That sounds basic enough, but you’d be surprised how often some chambers continue to do the events “because we’ve always done them” and never ask if these annual activities are something that people want anymore.

Side note: If you are a nonprofit or not for profit organization and you want one piece of advice to be more successful, it is this — build your organization like you would build any other successful relationship in your life. The way I build successful relationships is a simple four-step process:

• Ask people what they want.

• Deliver it.

• Remind them that you reached that goal together.

• Ask them what they want, again.

Do this and your organizations will begin to grow.

Now back to your regularly scheduled column, already in progress.

With multiple business women in the area mentioning how they enjoyed the initial group, I knew it was something we needed to bring back.

Late last fall, I announced that the group would be reforming and we had 14 business women at our initial meeting. At our second meeting in December, we decided to commit to five events for 2018: a February kickoff, and then events in April, June, September and November.

We had a name problem though. “Women’s Networking Group” is a solid name, but from our discussions we wanted the group to be more than just networking. We decided that we would create a naming poll that would run for the month of January to help promote the kickoff event and close it two weeks before so we could create a logo for the group that we could unveil at the kickoff.

Also, we were cognizant that we intentionally sought input from others on what events they wanted in 2018. We decided to come to the kickoff event with planned events for April and June, and have a facilitator begin a conversation about what the group wanted the September and November events to be.

Fast forward to Valentine’s morning.

The event kicked off with words from our 2018 series sponsor Legacy Investments & Wealth Management. Then we got right into the program and unveiled the winning name from our poll. The new name is “WILL Power.” WILL stands for Women In Local Leadership. Our slogan is “Where there’s a WILL …,” which intentionally leaves open the possibilities.

The April event will be a Champions Panel Luncheon happening on Wednesday, April 18 at Maine Maritime Museum in Bath. We’re still finalizing some details, but for your planning purposes we are planning a 30-minute registration and mingling session where attendees will grab food and network. Then the program will begin with three tremendous local leaders telling their stories and sharing advice with attendees on what it means to be a leader in your community, roadblocks that they overcame and the best way for individuals and business leaders to have more successful interpersonal relationships in their organizations.

More details to come soon.

The June event will be a Speed Networking event at The Highlands in Topsham. The exact details are still being finalized, but it will be a 5 p.m. event on a Thursday in June with 48 spots open for networking. There will be food and drink, and tables set up in the Holden Frost House for great face-to-face networking.

The kickoff facilitator, Audrey Lovering of Ka Ora Bracelets, did a tremendous job of promoting a discussion about possibilities for the September and November events. Ideas ranged from mentoring and social events to fundraisers and trainings.

It was decided that the ideas generated would be categorized and a poll would be sent to kickoff attendees and SMMC membership to vote on what they want.

If you’d like to be a part of that poll, or if you have idea on what you’d like to see, contact the SMMC office at (207) 725-8797 or email us at admin@midcoastmaine.com.

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