by Gracen Hansen
One by one, I see women’s faces appear before me of all ages, locations, and backgrounds.
Rivka Rivera and Jessica Baker introduce themselves and tell us about our goals for the meeting. In the midst of social distancing, Jessica and Rivka were presented with a unique situation as hosts. “I believe that one of the keys to a successful zoom experience with large groups is to keep the energy up and the conversation moving. As an actor and improv teacher, I love to get the whole group in the same ‘virtual’ space using a variety of games,” stated Rivka. When I spoke with Jessica, she remarked, “We all came with the same objective from a very humble place. I have a lot of people to follow up with and I hope others do as well. I love the empowerment of one another, especially in today’s changing environment.”
Women Who Lunch event, founded by The Florence Belsky Charitable Foundation, is a networking event created to connect women from all walks of life, in a space that embraces all generations, and all backgrounds.
Once our attendance was reached, we were lead in a game of ice breakers and broke into small groups to discuss our questions for each round.
Question one: In what ways have you been successful in building your network, and or creating community during this time?
I was then randomly placed into a small group with Claire Raper theater teacher, Melissa Gibson Hemp and Humanity business owner, and Eliza Edge founder of her own child clothing rental company called Cahoots. We all took a moment to introduce ourselves and get acquainted. We all found that the best tool for business right now has been our access to technology and video calls. As Eliza was talking about what it takes to grow her company she commented, “people are so much more willing to jump on a 30-minute zoom call,” this why not? Culture has been very beneficial for those who aren’t afraid to put themselves out there in these unprecedented times.
Claire Raper had a unique perspective as a theater teacher. Her career is based around pulling adolescence out of themselves and helping them gain freedom of expression. Now the “fourth wall” is a screen, and that provides another layer of difficulty connecting with her students.
As a hemp business owner Melissa Gibson had always relied on her ability to sell her products in person, so her consumer could feel, see, and understand the quality of her merchandise. Now, Melissa has had to make a significant change and heavily promote on social media, and advocate for video calls, as she prefers to do business face to face.
Almost too soon, we are sent back to our main room
Question two: What are some needs you find in your business?
I found myself with Debra Cooper founder of Your Career Design Lab, Sheryl Smikle founder of her own non-profit STEMisChildsPlay, the familiar face of Melissa Gibson, and Sharon West who works with a telehealth organization that supports mental, physical, and overall wellbeing of women. What each of us found in need of in our professional careers was connections. Connections with potential clients, partners, and colleagues. We felt so grateful to be apart of the Women Who Lunch event. “This lasts beyond the ask,” remarked Sheryl. We all were in agreement, and as we talked more about the value of “connections” and “networking” we also talked about the importance of the relationship and cultivating that, rather than a “what can I take” mentality.
Question 3: What can you give professionally?
My final group consisted of Lily Raper an 11th-grade student, Eliza Edge once again, Tammy Scher founder of her own art selling business and member of the Chamber of Commerce for Sherman Oaks, CA. In our small group, we talked about loose ties and using the tool of “knowing someone who knows someone” and our own similarities. Tammy Scher had an interesting perspective as a member of the Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce. She recounted the struggles of being a leader in her community amidst COVID-19. Eliza offered her specialties in e-commerce, visuals, and sustainability strategy.
By this time we had returned to our main room for the last time, Jessica and Rivka opened the floor up for comments. Many women stepped forward to say what a positively impacting event this was, and even though it was via the web, the personal connection felt strong.