They come from somewhat disparate backgrounds, yet share more common traits than differences. The most significant similarity is their success. They are the women of the board of directors of the Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CAGLCC).
When you speak with these four women, if you ask why they participate in the Chamber and, as important, why they dedicate several hours a month to be part of the organization's leadership, two terms keep coming up: networking and knowledge.
Eleasa Du Bois is founder of Tight Body Makeover, a company that helps individuals achieve optimal health while turning love handles into sexy curves. She's a fan of Women's Wednesday and the Chamber's Smart Networking events.
''Women's Wednesdays,'' she says, ''put me in touch with some of the most interesting and powerful women in the greater D.C. area. Smart Networking teaches me business concepts that help to propel my business forward.''
Katie McElroy, owner of Katie Rose LLC, an event design and planning firm specializing in the Virginia wine industry, including a focus on same-sex weddings, is the sole ''ally'' on the board. The Chamber is a great investment of any business owner's time, she believes, ''because it has grown my network of clients and potential clientele and referrals.'' The Chamber ''has given me a lot of basic business knowledge through programs such as Smart Networking and the Business Matter Lunches.''
Jeanie Adkins is a longtime Chamber member and board secretary who has experienced career growth while a member. Now a senior analyst for Penn, Good & Associates, an integrated strategic communications firm that addresses health and social disparities, she says the professional development programs have always been valuable in advancing her work life. However, she adds, Chamber networking is a key benefit – and for more than professional connections.
''I have developed an incredible support system through the Chamber,'' Adkins says, ''both personally and professionally.''
After being introduced to the Chamber at the annual Mega Networking event, the weekly Master Mind business development and support meetings became a regular activity for Dr. Susanne Coates. She is president of two firms, TechCentric Design Group LLC, which develops neuroscience software applications for researchers, and GX Media Services, a multimedia services business.
''Aside from meeting some really fantastic people and making new friends,'' Coates says, ''the Chamber has proved to be a valuable resource for both business networking and business knowledge.''
Is the Chamber a good investment for a businesswoman on a budget because she's in an entry-level job, or trying to save every dollar she can to achieve her goals as an entrepreneur? Adkins says yes, because of the high value of the membership benefits every member receives.
''We've restructured our membership packages so that they're more cost-effective for every member.'' And the quality of the connections you can make in a room full of powerful women? ''It's a unique group you won't find anywhere but at a Chamber event,'' Adkins believes.
Du Bois agrees, and emphasizes it's not just about the business: ''I've learned how to have real conversations, build trust and value, all while having a good time.''
Robert E. McLean owns REM Association Service, a full-service association management company in Arlington.