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B.I.G. in West Hartford, CT: A Case Study

Posted By Becky Hull, Wednesday, November 10, 2010

B.I.G. in West Hartford, CT.: A Case Study

as told by Marie McNamara, B.I.G. Key Regional Director and West Hartford, CT Pod Leader

Q. What is B.I.G. and how long has it been in Greater Hartford? What are the group's primary goals? How big is the group locally?
A. B.I.G. (which stands for believe, inspire, grow) is a support, education and networking group designed to empower women to achieve their business goals. First and foremost, our goal is to give women confidence and self-value, so that they can feel comfortable working towards reaching their business aspirations. We launched our West Hartford pod on Feb 1, 2010, which currently has 20 official members, and is growing weekly. Our monthly meeting attendance averages 22 women, both members and non-members. Our entire organization has over 30 pods, with 475 members network-wide in NJ, NY, CT MA, and Ohio and we're launching about 4 new more pods each month.

Q. Why the need for another networking group? There seems to be an abundance of them.
A. Networking is just a part of B.I.G. First, we provide peer support and encouragement to our members, which is essential for women to step forward. Next, we educate by providing local experts at our meetings, who teach various business disciplines. And third is the networking piece. We feel that the combination of all three makes us different than the other groups. The cornerstone to B.I.G. is the in-person community meetings we have each month, as well as our forum-based website.

Q. One of the things asked on your website homepage (http://www.justthinkbig.us/) is "Have family commitments or the fear of financial investment kept you from trying to start your own business?" How can B.I.G. help women overcome those concerns?
A. One of our biggest benefits is bringing together women at different stages of their professional lives. Many of the women in B.I.G. are in transition - personal or professional. They include women who have been laid off from corporate jobs or whose financial situations or goals have changed. Many have advanced degrees and/or significant work experience, but have been out of their field for a while and are looking to re-enter the workforce. Some women are great at something and want to see if they can make it pay. We also have women who are already full-force, successful entrepreneurs. When you bring these groups of women together, you provide an environment for success, regardless of where they are in life. They enhance each other. Some members have learned to integrate their personal and professional lives and have figured out ways to find a balance. So, we give them a forum to share successes, as well as business pitfalls.
Because we focus on women, we take a unique business perspective. Women need to live their lives. We understand personal commitments play a role. We help members to get back to business on their own terms. We say, "It's ok. We get it. We know our audience. If you can't make it to tonight's meeting, we have teleconference on the same topic next week - or a webinar next month." When given these options, we build a strong, positive support system for members that gives them the encouragement, information, and resources they need to move forward with their business goals.
Q. B.I.G. charges $19.95 a month to be a member, it appears. Does B.I.G. envision becoming an organization like Rotary, which is also geared towards business people and has membership fees?
A. Rotary is a service club made up of existing business people. Not all of our members consider themselves business people - yet. We give a pathway towards business for those who may not have one. We have proven success stories where women would have stopped their pursuit, if not for us. There are ways that we are like them, in that we provide support, education and networking, and that members pay a monthly fee. Also, if you are a member of B.I.G. - West Hartford, you are a member of the entire network and have access to all 320 members through our website and online community. And we both believe in supporting our communities. Our scholarship fund, designed to help young women pursue their entrepreneurial aspirations, is raised through our membership fund.

Q. What requirements do you have for B.I.G. membership?
A. We are open to all women who are looking to achieve their business goals. Our ideal member is a woman looking to pursue her professional passion through an entrepreneurial path or by bringing her existing business to a larger forum.

Q. Are the leaders of B.I.G. volunteers at this point or are they compensated for their positions?
A. BIG is a registered LLC company, with the mission of helping women reach their business goals. We are not a volunteer business. This is consistent with the organization's philosophy that money validates work effort, in the professional arena. B.I.G. members view the membership dues as an investment in creating their future. Currently leaders are compensated for up to 50% of membership dues.

Tags:  B.I.G. leader  education unique selling proposition  getting the word out there  home business  support  West Hartford  women entrepreneurs 

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