By Michelle Moskowitz
Local women are banding together to ignite, empower and strengthen one another’s business ventures.
Founded in the summer of 2017 and run by an all-volunteer group of steering committee members, Woman Owned Greenwich (WOMOG) represents a diverse group of female business owners and entrepreneurs.
To get their take on how Greenwichites are changing the economic state of affairs locally, nationally, and ultimately strengthening the corporate arena for women all over the world, The Sentinel sat down with a few of the committee members including: Cathleen Blood, communications liaison and long-time entrepreneur of companies, such as NEST New Media and Spertias Capital Partners; Jennifer Deinard, press liaison, an ICF Certified life coach and owner of JOT Coaching; Maria Turkel personal wardrobe stylist and small complements liaison, and Charlotte J. Walker, start-up and funding liaison and founder of TSF Management Inc.
Greenwich Sentinel: Describe WOMOG and what inspired you (and the other steering committee members) to create the organization.
Charlotte J. Walker: WOMOG is a peer-to-peer mentoring organization for women who own or lead organizations in Greenwich, or who live in Greenwich and own or lead organizations elsewhere.
For me, the catalyst to join the effort to build WOMOG, was the experience and knowledge of just how much harder it is for women versus men to start and grow an organization. The bar is set much higher for women. They are judged more harshly, must overcome more hurdles, and are allowed fewer, if any mistakes. After helping and funding both men and women to start and grow their technology-based businesses, I felt it was my duty to give back to the community and share everything that I could to help other women be successful.
Cathleen Blood: WOMOG is a place where women business owners and leaders can get the help they need – if they invest in building relationships – to build and grow their businesses and organizations.
I was inspired to help start WOMOG because of my personal startup failure. I founded an early internet startup (KidsEvents.com in 2000), working 80 hour weeks to become profitable, then failing after 12 years, in part because I neglected to develop a network and brain trust that I could go to help our company pivot and adapt during times of economic stress and tech innovation. I had my head in the sand. Five years after my failure, there still wasn’t a group in town that could have helped me through the hurdles and challenges that KidsEvents.com faced. That had to change!
Maria Turkel: I realized that I knew so many women who owned their own venture who lived within just a few blocks of me. I thought it would be great for us all to collaborate and support each other starting from the point of helping each other first and then looking to build our businesses second. The local women I know have such strong networks. If I wanted to get the word out about anything, I could tell a friend here in Riverside and watch how the word spread throughout all of Greenwich. We have such great connections with each other in this town.
GS: What are the membership requirements and key benefits?
CB: Members must have a strong relationship to Greenwich and must be women business owners or women leaders of a local nonprofit, live in Greenwich or have a physical business based in town.
The primary benefits are the deep relationships members can build and nurture, entrepreneurial learning from fellow members, a digital platform to help members easily connect and find each other. WOMOG is something of an experiment in community-based networking, and what differentiates us from other groups is our focus on Greenwich. We’re seeing strong relationships develop because we have the opportunity to connect not just through work, but at school pick up, where we volunteer, and at the dump! And let’s be honest, working women, especially entrepreneurs and leaders, don’t often have time to get on I-95 to drive to Stamford or Norwalk for a business event. We are time challenged. We have families and other responsibilities that are important to us. As member Heidi Matonis once said to me, ‘Being part of Woman Owned Greenwich is easy.’
CW: We have an extraordinary talent pool here in Greenwich and WOMOG takes every advantage of it. Imagine all the resources and talent in Greenwich coming together to help you solve your business/organization problems? It’s powerful. Our members make themselves available for one another.
GS: How often are group events held and can you share a few of your signature events or highlights over the past year or so?
CB: We generally have an event at least once a month, sometimes twice. But they are merely a starting point. We have “member connects” where members connect for the first time, learn about a topic, then set up one-on-one meetings after that first connection. We co-sponsor two business events each year with Greenwich Library, and we call these our Signature Events as they are an opportunity for us to engage with the wider Greenwich community. Also, our member-led roundtables are very popular; members on their own, or in collaboration, share their expertise with other members. What is so great about our events is that they are member led and member hosted, e.g. at Zaniac, the YWCA, River House and in our members’ homes and offices.
Some highlights include: “What’s the Right Board for your Business or Nonprofit and How to Build it,” “Authority Building for Solopreneurs,” and “Financing 101 – Credit, Collateral, and Cashflow.”
GS: Tell us about WOMOG’s motto’s “Give to Get,” and “Share what you know. Take what you need.”
MT: Any person who feels comfortable “giving first” has a particular confidence. They aren’t afraid to be open and to share knowledge, support and resources. They are confident that no matter how much they give, they won’t be giving it away. Good things come back around.
CB: A group focused on relationship building vs. transactions is not for everyone. It’s a special kind of person who is willing to invest in and empower other women. That said, women also need to learn not to give too much, and draw the line, and recognize “takers.”
CJW: There is nothing more powerful than peer-to-peer learning and mentorship. But, it’s not easy to harness. That’s what we’re trying to do here at WOMOG. Our members must be confident enough, which business owners and leaders generally are, to share without fear. We provide the environment to do that.
GS: How many women businesses are there in Greenwich and what is the yearly trajectory for growth?
CB: That is a hard question to answer because so many of the woman owned business in town are not registered with the state. We found that only ⅓ of our members own an officially registered business in CT. Sometimes that is because they are registered in Delaware or another taxed advantaged location, but more often it is because they are testing the water, or a DBA. There are currently 380 registered women owned business in Greenwich. If you do the math, that means we have a potential pool of 900+ members. Not including all the nonprofit leaders!
CW: We see no reason why WOMOG could not grow to 300 or 400 members over the next five years.
To read Part II of the Michelle Moskowitz’s article on ‘Women Owned Greenwich’ – Fueling Female Entrepreneurship, come back to Greenwichsentinel.com on May 17 or read the May 17 edition of the Greenwich Sentinel.
For more information on Women Owned Greenwich, visit www.womanownedgreenwich.com.