5 Things I’ve Learned About Community Building from Wonder Women of Boston
Every once in a while, an article comes out about how “networking” is out and real relationship building is in (I’ve written a few myself). The best “networking” groups know this and operate from this principle. But it’s worth mentioning again and again if necessary, because it’s easy to forget in a culture that is all about the sell. Often, we’re so eager to get our ideas out there, we forget people need to feel engaged and be hosted well.
As founder Jeanne Dasaro’s former business partner at another venture, I’ve had the privilege of watching the networking organization Wonder Women of Boston (WWBOS) grow from an idea to a full-fledged business — and a fairly spectacular success. As a strategic advisor for WWBOS, I’ve been reflecting on the reason for that. Here’s what I’ve learned from Jeanne, her hard-working event committee and the wonder women who are stirring up Boston.
Keep the invitation simple. “Find your niche” may work for a lot of businesses with a very specific product or service for a specific portion of society. But sometimes the purpose of an organization or event is (and should be!) much simpler. If you look at the target audience for WWBOS, it’s “professional” and/or “creative” women of all ages and backgrounds, from all sectors in Boston. Depending on the event, WWBOS gatherings consistently bring together anywhere from 40 to 200 people. It turns out people respond well to an open invitation.
Make it beautiful. Whether or not you believe in “branding,” the feel of any organization really matters. The time and attention Jeanne put into making the WWBOS logo and banner (designed by Tishon Woolcock of Well&Plenty), website, and “promotional” materials has paid off in spades. Every time I see the WWBOS logo, I feel happy and think of my fellow WWBOS members. Beauty matters! And whaddaya know, beauty doesn’t have to mean drenching your organization in pink! Although sometimes pink is pretty, too.
Fun is important. The WWBOS event committee (Erin Anderson, Trish Fontanilla, Alison Preston Baldyga, Arestia Rosenberg, Andrea Squitieri, and Carrie Stalder) are all staples of the Boston startup and/or social entrepreneurship scenes. Drawing upon their connections in the community and making an effort to reach out beyond their immediate circles, these women throw lively gatherings with great food and music. WWBOS events feel as fun and interesting as they are purposeful, and as a result, people leave feeling energized. (Just check out the buzz on Twitter #wwbos).
Forget the “competition”. One thing I think a lot of young women entrepreneurs share is that we could care less about our perceived competition. Just like it doesn’t make any sense to be jealous of other women when we see them succeed, it doesn’t make sense for women’s organizations to compete with each other (check out Take the Lead’s partners). This doesn’t mean you don’t have to be strategic or you can’t be intentional—WWBOS makes a point to partner with local, socially-responsible companies. But WWBOS puts collaboration first, aims for “win/win” partnerships (for example with Haley House and Zipcar), and trusts good things happen from playing well with others.
Stick with it. Wonder Women of Boston started as a tiny seed of an idea and grew in large part because Jeanne and her leadership team stuck with it. Want to start a business or get something new started in your community or organization? Go for it — and then be prepared to practice patience. Not everything spreads like wildfire or needs to, but it’s a wonderful thing to watch an idea start small and grow. And it takes time.
Connect with Wonder Women of Boston on Facebook.