01 June 2010
Local Business News
by Business First of Louisville
- by Ben Adkins Staff Writer
Louisville will be the site of the National Association of Women Business Owners'
2012 Women's Business Conference, making it the first city of its size to do so.
In the past, cities such as Atlanta, Phoenix, San Francisco and Chicago have played host to the convention, said Maggie Payette Harlow, president of NAWBO's Louisville chapter. The three-day event will be held in Washington, D.C., this year and San Diego next year.
Luring the convention to Louisville was a multifaceted effort, said Harlow, co-owner of Sign-A-Rama Downtown and FranchiseMart Louisville.
"We really feel like it's a culmination of a lot of different women and people in the community who have given a lot of time and effort," she said. "It was a very deliberate campaign on our part."
In 2008, Evelyn Strange, president of Louisville-based Advanced Electrical Systems Inc. and a member of NAWBO's national board of directors, coordinated a board retreat to Louisville.
During the visit, a number of local people and organizations "pitched in to really sell Louisville to that national board," Harlow said.
"It's been an ongoing process for ... years," she said.
Churchill Downs hosted an event. Louisville Metro Councilman Tom Owen gave a bus tour of parts of the city, and Joe Reagan, president of Greater Louisville Inc., the metro chamber of commerce, made a presentation.
The Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau also has been a partner in wooing the organization and bringing the convention here.
Jim Wood, president and CEO of the convention bureau, said the national NAWBO convention is expected to have an economic impact of more than $658,000. Between 800 and 1,000 people attend the event each year.
"We're very thrilled to have this prestigious convention here in Louisville," Wood said. "We hope that some of the (visitors) will take a look at Louisville and find that this is a great place to invest into the future."
Changes have boosted profile of local chapter
National NAWBO president and CEO Helen Han credited the Louisville chapter for being among the "leading and most innovative" chapters in the organization.
Harlow said the local chapter has worked to have women in leadership roles at the top of the organization, "which helps raise our profile at the national level."
Other efforts have helped boost the chapter's profile on a local level.
In 2006, terms for board members were extended from one year to two years. Harlow said this provides more continuity in leadership and helps with succession planning.
"We felt that momentum is gained on that two-year term that you can't gain on a one-year term," she said.
And, in late 2008, the local chapter hired a full-time executive director, Helen Overfield. A large part of her role is to focus on fund-raising efforts and partnerships.
Harlow declined to discuss dollar figures related to fund-raising efforts, but she said the chapter is cultivating partnerships and seeing more contributions in forms other than monetary.
"Because of the economy, we've really had to be creative," she said.
As a result of outreach efforts by Overfield and other leaders, the chapter has become more visible, Harlow said, and it is perceived as more consistent and vibrant.
A growing number of women are volunteering for leadership roles in the chapter, and membership has grown within the past two years.
The chapter has nearly 160 members, up from 100 in 2008, when Harlow became president.
Harlow's tenure as chapter president ends in June, when she will relinquish the post to Lesa Seibert, president of Xstreme Media LLC.
"I didn't create this momentum," Harlow said of changes at the chapter. "But I feel like I can take credit for helping keep the momentum going."
National Association of Women Business Owners, Louisville chapter
Members: Approximately 160
Board members: 20
President: Maggie Payette Harlow
President Elect: Lesa Seibert
Executive director: Helen Overfield
Nawbo Women's Business Conference
What is it?: Three-day event that includes internationally known speakers, networking, educational sessions and other programs. This year, the national event takes place in Washington, D.C., June 9 to 11.
Cost to attend: Early-bird rates, which ended April 15, are $495 for members and $645 for non-members. Regular rates are $545 for members and $695 for non-members.
Web site: www.nawbo.org