Is your career stuck in a rut? Need some extra inspiration to pursue your professional passions? Get your wheels turning with the recently launched W.E.E.L., or “Women’s Engaging and Empowering Luncheons” group.
Launched in May 2014 by Katja Barker, a Cincinnati-based entrepreneur, who was inspired to provide women with professional resources and connections to other like-minded women. “All ‘get together’ networking groups had a membership – and most were small-talk about what your husband does, how many children you have, where you’re from – and I never wanted it to be like that,” explains Barker. “I don’t believe that you should be charged a fee to surround yourself with women who are motivating, engaging and supportive.”
So, she was inspired to start something new. “I wanted to start a real group,” says Barker, “a support group that was strictly based on the concept of supporting other business ladies that have strength, brains for ideas, brands of their own, work at interesting companies, or want to start something creative.”
Barker stresses that W.E.E.L. is more than just a networking group. “I also founded this group so that we could all share our challenges with starting your own web page in business, getting clients overseas, marketing on the radio, and event planning,” says Barker. “We have all done this, so it’s nice to share and support one another – not sabotage the success of our partners.”
According to Barker, the overall purpose of the organization is to support women being the best they can be and encourage networking with like-minded women to build their best brand, share ideas, laugh, enjoy their business and meet other inspiring ladies. “We have a lot of fun and the fact that you can meet and share ideas in a safe environment – one where you can say out loud that you don’t know how to do something and that you need “help” – and not feel silly is fabulous! We are all friends and very welcoming,” says Barker.
W.E.E.L. events take place on the last Thursday of every month at The Capital Grille in Rookwood. “Our luncheons at Capital Grille are beautiful, quiet, and in the back private room – and we have a fantastic relationship with the General Manager,” says Barker. “I like that the luncheons are about 25-30 people – it keeps it intimate, relaxed and not too big.”
The cost per luncheon is $55, which includes your three-course meal (salad, choice of three entrees and dessert with a drink), tax and a guest speaker. W.E.E.L. also brings in a guest speaker each month that speaks on building your brand, empowering yourself and building your business for one hour.
“We start out by meeting and chatting for an hour amongst ourselves then talk after as well for roughly 30 minutes,” says Barker. “Everyone has the opportunity to stand, announce themselves, discuss any opportunities with their business and hand out business cards. A lot of people get great leads and contacts, so we do other events to support one another from this. You can ask any questions and talk openly – it’s casual and fun.”
While it’s not required, many attendees do business with each other as a result of the events, according to Barker. “Any one of these ladies will tell you that this has helped their business 2-3 times in volume,” she adds. “Not only this, but we forward their contacts, plan parties and network together. My hairstylist got 48 more customers and my jockey representative sole $3,000 her first week from the luncheon.”
Barker’s goals moving forward are to continue growing the organization and have ladies from all industries and brands come to enjoy the luncheons. “Whether that’s to share their experiences, support one another, assist those who are new, changing industries or lend their expertise,” she explains.
Barker would eventually like to have luncheons twice a month and possibly even make them a mentoring opportunity for young women just starting their careers.