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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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My Journey Back to Work, by Lisa Carver, Montville Pod Leader

Posted By Becky Hull, Sunday, September 19, 2010

In 2002, I left a rewarding career at Staffmark to be an "at home mom” with my 2 daughters, Emily and Madeline. One chapter in my life closed suddenly, and a new chapter opened—called motherhood. I really made the most of my new life by volunteering in Hilldale elementary school, the Pine Brook Jewish Center, and organizing community fund raisers in Montville.

In addition, I partnered with another mother in town (B.I.G. member--Amy Denenberg) and started a creative decoupage business. This was extremely rewarding but we ended our business after 4 years for not being compensated for our creativity and long hours….working in between playdates and late nights. In 2010, I decided, it was time to go back into the workforce, but wasn’t sure in what capacity. Once again, my creativity came through and I became a consultant for Creative Memories, designing photo books, as I love working with people’s photos and creating memories that last forever…. I realized I needed to market my books to gain exposure. I attended a networking event called the Ladies Lunch group at the Hyatt in Morristown. (B.I.G. member Aimee Schenkel inspired me to attend this group)

At that first networking luncheon, I met Jackie Somers of B.I.G. who really made a strong impression on me. The next day, I decided to start a pod in Montville. I was extremely inspired by the concept of B.I.G. and felt as though I had to be a part of this organization, knowing my peers in Montville would benefit greatly. I got on the phone that night, with so much enthusiasm, and started calling my friends and family. By May of 2010, I launched my first event at the Montville Inn, and had 28 women at my B.I.G. introductory meeting Since then, as I’ve gotten more involved with B.I.G, meeting many interesting people ,and making great connections. I started thinking there must be several women within B.I.G. who want to return back to the workforce. I noticed there is a job board on the B.I.G. web-site, but started thinking how great would it be to have a live staffing division within our organization. So I decided to seek some advice from my former boss from fifteen years ago, who is currently a partner of Execu/ Search. In that phone conversation, he mentioned, Execu/ Search expanded their offices (last month) into Parsippany, NJ which is 12 minutes from my house.

The rest is history…. after 8 years of being home with my kids, I realized it’s time to pursue what I am most passionate about and earn a living at what I did best. I will be supplying interim staff to all types of companies, specializing in accounting/ finance/ human resources/ and office support. Execu/ Search is offering me the flexibility to work part-time, and have off on Fridays which is very important to me when juggling my work life along with my family. My long term goal is to partner B.I.G. with Execu Search and help members find jobs while utilizing my internal resources. I am extremely excited about the challenge of working in a start-up office in New Jersey, and being part of a company who has an impressive track record in NYC. I look forward to continuing my role as the pod leader of Montville as we have some very exciting upcoming events!

Thank you B.I.G for getting me back on track toward my career goals, I would never have re-entered the staffing industry if it wasn’t for B.I.G.

There are a few things I learned while I was going through the process of transitiioning from an at home mother to being back in the workforce. Once I became a leader of B.I.G., I became aware of the power of networking. By attending lunches and meetings, I was meeting more and more people, and hearing inspirational speakers, like Ellyn Spragins, and it really gave me the motivation to go out and pursue my passion. You have to stay focused, and make time weekly to think about how you will reach your goal, whether it's networking with other working women or updating your resume. In the job-seeking process, I tried to go to as many speakers and meetings as possible to be in touch with the marketplace, and to keep my skills sharpened. Use Linked In to stay connected to as many people as possible, and by the way, this is a great way to reach recruiters. Now that I am in my new career, I use linked in to build my business and develop new contacts. Finally, when you go in for the interview, dress professional, speak with confidence, and have good eye contact. Hopefully, your dreams will come true too.

Tags:  B.I.G. leader  Ellyn Spragins  home business  Lisa Carver  Montville  stay at home  success 

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