Women's network: Sharing the wealth
Ever wish you had your own executive secretary, if only for a week or two a year? For those with a wish list that might include such diverse things as wanting to publish a story, obtain a bank loan for a small business, take an evening course, or find the best scenic route to travel on a recumbent bike, Martha's Vineyard Women's Network is the logical resource.
Formed in May 2007 by a group of four women, the network now has 77 members who meet every six weeks to assist one another incubating, developing, and maintaining businesses on Martha's Vineyard. The mission of the network is clear. It exists to support and provide education and resources to Island businesswomen. And it does not exclude men. Seminars and workshops are open to everyone, members and non-members alike.
Photo by M.C. Wallo
Being removed from the mainland, many Island business owners whose travel time is limited, are unable to take advantage of the seminars and graduate programs convenient to those off-Island. So instead of driving to Boston for courses on Excel spreadsheets or marketing, the Martha's Vineyard Women's Network offers the opportunity to congregate in the Baylies Room of the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown to improve their acumen through programs and interfacing with others.
Jan Pogue, who sits on the board of the network, believes that women who migrate to Martha's Vineyard do not have easy access to other business owners when they first arrive. "It is difficult to find professional development here. The Martha's Vineyard Women's Network even has speed networking sessions where you come and bring your business card." One such session was held in January at The Wharf restaurant in Edgartown.
According to Ms. Pogue, the organization is focused on important topics such as legal matters in small business ownership, technology assistance, and gaining financial support from local banks.
Despite the current recession, the Martha's Vineyard Women's Network is optimistic about the future of small businesses on the Vineyard. Their website for members (mvwomensnetwork.org) allows women access to workshops, networking events, business news, gearing up for the summer influx of tourists, announcements, meeting other members, and using the Internet as a way to increase business.
"Businesses can thrive during economic downturns and recessions if they know the right strategies to use," says President Margo Urbany-Joyce. "Doom and gloom will become a self-fulfilling prophecy for those who believe in them."
This March, Ms. Urbany-Joyce of Ameriprise, is offering a workshop with speaker Lynn Switanowski of the Creative Business Consulting Group on "Embracing the Economic Challenges of Today." In her opinion, economic slowdowns create opportunities. Suppliers are more willing to negotiate, and lower interest rates prevail. The upcoming seminar is designed to teach businesses strategies for restructuring marketing tactics, reinventing your business, seeking out alternative marketing strategies, creating emotional attachments, uncovering new channels of distribution, and directing your marketing toward key customers.
Ms. Pogue points out that not all network professional development is Vineyard-centric. Learning how to develop a blog was a topic of one recent seminar.
Most meetings convene at 7 am, giving members a chance to have coffee and do some networking before heading to work. Workshops offer a good mix of off- and on-Island subjects, and they function in cooperation with ACE Martha's Vineyard adult education programs at the regional high school.
Martha's Vineyard's women's network outnumbers Boston's women's network, which has only 45 women, a recruiting success that seems to signal that the Vineyard has an active small-business community.
Martha's Vineyard Women's Network member Heidi Feldman of Down Island Farm in Tisbury provides farm products and information technology to a varied client base. She says she hopes to "bridge the societal gap between farmers and white-collar industry." Working in the computer field off-Island, she has brought her new skills to running a farm. The network has enabled her to share knowledge and interact with other businesses in a formal way. Meetings include both formal and informal time for women business people who are struggling to survive what Ms. Feldman describes as the "perils of the economy."
To learn more about the workshop on Thursday, March 5, open to all, contact Margo Urbany-Joyce at 508-627-7777 or visit mvwomensnetwork.org
Peg Regan, former principal of Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, is a freelance writer living in Oak Bluffs.