It's been a few weeks since a sold out room full of trail-blazing, extraordinary women and very smart men gathered to learn new ways to grow their already successful businesses and collaborate to help change the lives of women through charitable giving.
These successful women entrepreneurs and business leaders from all over the world were invited to expand their marketing strategies while establishing connections, sharing best practices and networking with their peers.
An Eco-System for Business Success
Networking with peers sounds like an easy thing to do. However, comments from my last column show how difficult it is for successful women to find an event just for them. One woman leader after another echoed the longing to find an event 'just for us.' BRAVA was a new and more fertile environment for women entrepreneurs, who, upon reaching a certain level of success in their businesses, have found limited opportunities to network with other women at their level. The diverse group of attendees included a former First Lady, the CEO of a 15,000-person organization and a brilliant male scientist who discovered a molecule at Stanford.
Now that I've had a chance to catch my breath and reflect on attendee feedback, participants said it was a world class event that gave them cutting edge strategies. BRAVA put a flag in the ground. It answered the call to be more than a successful gathering.
It was the start of a revolution.
A bold statement? Maybe. But together, this collection of extraordinary women represents a new, powerful force in the challenge to create a new ecosystem of success and business growth for female entrepreneurs (and some very smart men). And according to Forbes magazine, it couldn't be happening at a more important time.
Entrepreneurship is the New Women's Movement
In an article titled Entrepreneurship is the New Women's Movement, reporter Natalie MacNeil revealed that the rise of the woman breadwinner has been a long time coming. Female entrepreneurs have been launching more new businesses than their male counterparts for a jaw-dropping two decades, and are on track to create more than half of all new small business jobs by the year 2018.
She also cited data from the National Federation of Independent Business indicating that this cosmic shift in the business landscape is here to stay. That study concludes that while women-owned businesses clearly took an economic hit during the recession, they have proven they have staying power by adapting to the new economy. According to the Federation's William Dennis, "The result...is a new cohort of women-owned businesses, battle-tested and more competitive than the generation that preceded them."
Which brings us to the challenge: With more and more successful female business leaders emerging, where can we find appropriate support systems in a business world where the playing field, as least as far as our institutions are concerned, still isn't quite level? At least when compared to what HuffPo commentator Artemis34 dubbed the "hulking temples of the Masons, the Scottish Rite, etc. that spot most urban areas"?
A Force For Good In The World
As more and more women reach higher and higher levels of entrepreneurial success, some groups are emerging to stand up to the challenge. The National Association of Women Business Owners, or NAWBO, is the grandmother of them all, representing female business owners in almost every major metropolitan area. Women Impacting Public Policy, or WIPP, works to bring women business owners of all political stripes together to communicate their unique needs to our local, state and national leaders. And many of my readers have shared their own links to groups and organizations that are playing their own, important part in this New Women's Movement.
BRAVA aims to be a unique part of this new and growing ecosystem for female entrepreneurs. By giving successful businesswomen a rare opportunity to network with their peers, we're providing more than a place for women to collaborate, or to raise capital, or to share ideas. As one of the retreat attendees, Linda Cobb, so succinctly put it, "As women business champions, we can join together to be a force for good in the world."
Doing Well by Doing Good
That's one of the hidden benefits of women rising ever higher in the business world. A National Federation of Independent Business survey revealed what may be the most interesting -- and most overlooked -- fact about women business owners. Almost 40% of us believe in "Doing Well by Doing Good." Specifically, they stated that "39% of WOBs increased their involvement in civic, social or school activities to boost their exposure and create value for their communities."
Translation: women gravitate to causes that help more than just their bottom line. 39% of the women surveyed say they became better civic citizens as part of their overall strategy to build their businesses and create value for others.
We were delighted to do our part by reaching out to the international organization Women for Women, raising enough money through the BRAVA event to triple the number of women who are struggling to survive in war-ravaged countries that we have been able to help. One of the most touching moments of the conference was when participants wrote letters of support to these women who have been ravaged by war. Women that they will likely never meet. Women who may have never even received a letter before in their lives. Women who will hopefully someday have their own opportunity to follow their own dreams and make a better world.
Due to the unprecedented success of our inaugural BRAVA event, we've already been asked to do another, and have scheduled it for February 21-23. This time, we'll be supporting a US charity that supports women and children in need.
Like the previous BRAVA event, this conference is by invitation only. If you're a woman business owner interested in this opportunity, I encourage you to apply for your invitation. Judging from the weekend I just experienced , it promises to be an incredible event!
How does your business "do well by doing good?"
What organizations have been helpful to you as a woman business owner?
What are problems you are facing as a successful woman?
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Eli Davidson is a nationally recognized motivational speaker and executive coach. Her book, "Funky to Fabulous: Surefire Success Stories for the Savvy, Sassy and Swamped" (Oak Grove Publishing) has won three national book awards. Check out her blog atfunkytofabulous.blogspot.com.