The Network of Enterprising Women (NEW) was born in 1988, founded by Shirley Wagner and Debbie Johnston, two professional businesswomen seeking to build a women’s networking group by meeting each month to laugh, network, and build relationships.
Soon, they were joined by hundreds of others, and NEW became a nonprofit, with a board of directors and an active philanthropic initiative.
“The main goal of NEW is to assist and encourage women who desire to become established in business, and to promote and foster the exchange of knowledge and understanding of methods for success in establishing and maintaining a business,” says Dee Dee Schurman, the incoming 2015 president.
What does she have planned for the coming year? And what’s on the horizon for this growing networking group? Scroll down for our Q&A with Dee Dee Shurman.
TOP NETWORKING TIPS FROM THE INCOMING PRESIDENT OF RICHMOND’S NETWORK OF ENTERPRISING WOMEN
Be Inkandescent: Tell us about your organization. What is your mission?
Dee Dee Schurman: (pictured right) NEW is a sassy nonprofit organization of women who come together to support and promote each other in business and give back to the community through our scholarship and grant programs. Our mission is to create and provide a supportive environment for all members, which will foster and enhance their productivity, effectiveness, creativity, self-expression, and accomplishment in their respective fields.
We also tap into the talent, knowledge, and skills of the membership and, through action, make a difference in the community through group projects and valuable contributions. And, we strive to build the name and reputation of NEW and its members as respected business organizations enhancing both the community and the quality of life in the Greater Richmond area.
Be Inkandescent: Who are your members, and what do you offer them?
Dee Dee Schurman: We have a professionally diverse membership. Our enterprising women include financial types, such as bankers, financial advisers, and accountants, as well as professional types such as realtors, web designers, and business consultants. We also include business owners, shop owners, innkeepers, caterers, art gallery curators, photographers, dentists, and many more! We offer our members a fun, resourceful, and supportive environment in which to grow their business.
Be Inkandescent: What are some of the programs you offer, and how have they been received by members?
Dee Dee Schurman: We offer a monthly networking luncheon that highlights the promotion of our individual businesses. Our luncheons are open to guests, but you may only attend as a guest twice within a year. We also have an online directory available only to the membership. I use that a lot. If I need a product or service, I always look there first.
Most every month, at the luncheon we spotlight one member in our “Who kNEW” segment. That member will address the membership and speak for two minutes and tell us about themselves. It’s sort of a two-minute “This is my life” story and an opportunity for us to get to know each other as girlfriends. We want to know about you, what your hobbies are, where you grew up, what inspires you.
We also feature NEW Nite Out. Once a month, a member or two will host a networking gathering at their place of business. NEW Nite Out is also open to guests and offers an opportunity to the hosting member to tell us more about themselves and their business in a social setting, which makes it easy for members to get to know each other better.
NEW is philanthropic. One of the programs that sets NEW apart from other networking groups is our commitment to give back to the community through our grant program and to support future generations of enterprising women through our scholarship program. We have several fundraising events that fund these programs, which our membership is very passionate about, and very generous in their support of them.
Our signature event is Woman 2 Woman, a speed networking event that hosts vendors and some of the most enterprising women in Richmond. Our Woman 2 Woman event will be held this month on Sept. 22 at the Jefferson Lakeside Country Club. If you are lucky, you may still secure your seat at the networking table.
All of these programs have been very well received by the membership. The “Who kNEW” is probably the hardest to promote — these women are sassy, but shy!
Be Inkandescent: You are the incoming president — what are your goals for 2015-2016?
Dee Dee Schurman: My #1 goal is to grow the membership. I want more sassy women to know about NEW. They say a woman can never be too rich or too thin. She can never be too successful or have too many girlfriends either! Other goals include creating more of a presence in social media and enhancing the newsletter to make it more informative and interesting to the membership.
Be Inkandescent: What made you want to join this group? And what are some of your favorite aspects of it?
Dee Dee Schurman: I joined NEW at the invitation of a friend. I had just been downsized as the result of the declining economy, and I was about to turn 50. Good grief! At NEW I found help, inspiration, motivation, and friendship. I did reinvent myself and have a hundred new girlfriends who helped me do it. My favorite aspect of NEW is the social aspect; we really do have a lot of fun. At the luncheons we laugh, a lot!
Be Inkandescent: Why do you think it is important for people to join networking groups like this one?
Dee Dee Schurman: I believe there is something special about sharing ideas among girlfriends. In the company of women, I am less inhibited and more confident. I’m more comfortable failing here. That is, if I try something new, but stupid, my girlfriends are going to tell me it’s stupid and still be my friend. They aren’t a client who won’t ever call me again. I value the perspective of the women of NEW.
Be Inkandescent: What is your most favorite, and least favorite, aspect of networking?
Dee Dee Schurman: Most favorite is the social aspect. I love getting together over a glass of wine and learning about other people. I’m a people person. Some folks don’t like crowds. I feel energized by them. My least favorite part about networking is the hard-sell aspect. It’s inevitable that when networking you will meet a rookie networker who just wants to sell you something. I’m a good listener. I smile when I’m listening to someone’s “pitch” because I know that I am one of their “practice sessions.” It’s like going to an interview and you know you stunk but you needed the practice. That’s how I look at the “pitchers.” Perspective. It’s also my opportunity to practice politely ending the conversation and moving on.
Be Inkandescent: When it comes to networking well, what are your top tips for others?
Dee Dee Schurman: Networking is about connecting with each other and connecting with each other is what life is all about!
So here are my top three:
1. Be patient, courteous, and listen attentively.
2. Network often. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.
3. Let networking be intuitive. You probably already have a network of friends. Even your family is a network.
For more information, visit the Network of Enterprising Women (NEW)