Why I Love My Women's Network

One of the events that I am busy with presently is our upcoming hi-tea at Equatorial Hotel. It’s part of something we initiated last year thanks to a suggestion by one of our members, Kim that we should do a gala event and give our ladies a time to shine and have fun and seriously let our hair down.
Last year’s event was quite stressful as we did a lot of things on the fly. It’s understandable because it was our first time organizing a luncheon for 80 women, many of whom were women in business. Despite the stress and mad ticketing sales (we had to sell at least 60 tickets to break even), we pulled it off.
Madness, I said.
This year, we’re doing a hi-tea as a luncheon is too much to manage (and being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on a Saturday morning makes the organizing committee cringe).
But this isn’t about the event.
It’s about having a chance to bring women of all walks of life to meet new friends and learn new stuff while feasting on high tea snacks and tea. Our group is mainly for women who own businesses and sometimes we get requests from those yet to own businesses that they would like to join us too.
This once-a-year luncheon/hi-tea event is meant for this purpose. If you want to buy a ticket or promote your woman-friendly products or services at this event, you can read more here.
Now what struck me today was that technology combined with a network of women with abilities and contacts is a potent combination indeed.
My group, WomenBizSENSE, has a website (managed by yours truly and that is why it gets lots of eyeballs) and we also have our Facebook page.
These days, we’ve upped the ante with our WhatsApp chat group since all of us have our smartphones.
The beauty of communication via these platforms is that things can get done pretty damn fast.
Take today for instance.
Mily sent out a message from her friend to our WhatsApp group. It was a request for 50 units of skipping ropes to help kids exercise more often under a programme initiated by some college students.
Immediately another member, Lisa who owns a spa, offered to sponsor and supply 50 units of the skipping ropes!
Besides the skipping ropes, Mily mentioned that the college students’ also wanted water soluble Vitamin C and sunflower seeds (most likely as nutritional supplements for the kids as well). Everyone in our WhatsApp group wanted to sponsor and get the items!
So that really made me think – the power of a strong and financially capable network of women entrepreneurs can do wonders. We made it possible for some college students to make their health project come true with these sponsorships.
This isn’t of course the only “miracle” and magic of our network.
Whenever we’ve had household needs (need a plumber/need a renovator/need a maid etc.) we’ve looked at asking our own members who are involved in supplying these services or if there are none, we offer helpful contacts.
I am really proud of my women’s network and the kinds of magic we have been able to do for our community. (We managed to get McDonald to sponsor burgers for the children of House of Hope among other things, thanks to the people and wider circles of who we know.)
I have always said I am an accidental entrepreneur. It’s not an easy road to travel as an entrepreneur and it has nothing to do with one’s gender.
But I have observed that being female has its own set of challenges – I don’t have children so I don’t face as many challenges as my friends who have to juggle family, kids and businesses. I don’t have to be the “driver” who picks and drops kids off at school and tuition or worry about activities to occupy them during the school holidays or work around kids’ schedules.
But women entrepreneurs are unique in that we function as women who often feel more emotions than male entrepreneurs.
In that way, I love my women’s network – a powerful network of sisters in business – because it is  also women who are financially capable are the ones who are more likely and more able to help their community.
Now if you’re planning to be in business or want to check us out, buy a ticket or two and join us at our 6 July hi-tea.
I can promise you it’s going to be super duper fun!

3…Going Strong

Last week was a bit of rush for me as we held our first free talk. Anyway, that’s done till the next monthly talk comes up in September. (Just in case you want to attend, do sign up! I promise it’s fun and educational.)
The next day, I rushed off to my WomenBizSense lunch to celebrate our 3rd anniversary. This time, it was held at Strada Restaurant on Pulau Tikus. I don’t mind the venue though parking is a hassle especially if we’re talking about Pulau Tikus traffic on a Friday afternoon, lunch hour no less!
WomenBizSense is now 3 years old.

Last Friday, I was truly grateful that so many friends turned up to help us celebrate this third birthday of ours. Most of them were regular attendees of our networking events; all of them businesswomen in their own right.
All busy but all took time to come share this achievement with us. Us as in me and Jo. Jo had the idea to start this group many years ago and when she told me, I said, why not?
The ‘why not’ was also painted with rebellion. Sometimes that’s me. If I don’t like something that I see out there, I’d rather start my own or do something on my own. I’d seen many business groups but none resonated with me. Some rules were plain silly anyway. Instead of griping, I thought, let’s see what we can do about it. And yup, WomenBizSense was born.
But running a women’s only networking group does have its setback sometimes. As we’re a group that meets once a month, relationships may not be as strong as what we envision. And we don’t have membership dues so some women do take us for granted – they attend once or twice and disappear for a year or so. They drop in whenever they like at events. And women always put family first so we work around nitty-gritties like school, kids, holidays and festivities.
And Jo and I cannot be running this group forever. At some point, we need others to pitch in. And of course, grow the group so we can do better things and bring more benefits to the group of women entrepreneurs in Penang.
Right now we’re not publicising ourselves enough. It’s just within the group of 40 or so ladies but that’s certainly not enough. And yes, it’s a voluntary role because we started it out of pure need. We needed a group for women entrepreneurs who are just starting out, who want to get genuine referrals, who want to become friends and at the same time do business with each other.
But realizing these teething problems is one good way of moving forward.
I realize that Jo and I cannot do this on our limited resources if we want to reach out to more women who run small businesses in Penang.
Starting next month, we’re electing a group of committee members to help us out – to plan activities which are more social and recreational in nature. The funny thing with women is, if we’re not comfortable with each other, we cannot refer or send business to each other. Or does this also happen with men? (Men, if you run businesses, I’d love to hear your point of view.)
One day, our dream for WomenBizSense is that there’s a chapter in every city across Malaysia. That’s what one member said to us during our sharing session after lunch was over and done with.
Again, I think, why not? All things are possible.
I’m glad we’ve turned 3. We’re just beginning at WomenBizSense!