Oct 25, 2023 | Business + Lifestyle

Annual Membership Meeting, National Women’s Business Conference and NextGen Forum Power the Dreams of Hundreds

There’s nothing more energetic and exciting than more than 600 women business owners from across the nation coming together to connect, celebrate, learn, be inspired and access resources—all to power their dreams. This year, Austin, Texas, was the host city for this incredible event that included NAWBO’s Annual Membership Meeting and National Women’s Business Conference as well as the NextGen Forum for young, start-up and early-stage female entrepreneurs.

During the Annual Membership Meeting on Day 1, attendees heard from National Board and Committee members about the present and future of NAWBO. Chapter leaders gathered for roundtables discussions, and chapters were celebrated for their excellence—congratulations again to this year’s Chapter of the Year (for the 3rd consecutive year!): NAWBO Cleveland. Plus, Bank of America hosted everyone for a fun lakeside reception with big Texas flavor.

On Day 2, the National Women’s Business Conference kicked off in the sold-out exhibit hall that featured shopping, business resources and fun activities. Then serial entrepreneur and author Mei Xu took the stage for a fireside chat with Bank of America’s Sharon Miller. Mei shared her story of emigrating to the U.S. and co-founding and selling Chesapeake Bay Candle. She’s now back at it again with Concord Fragrances.

Mei shared about her greatest passions—working with people of different backgrounds from around the world and innovating to make mundane goods and services even better—and how she initially struggled with things like finding mentors and accessing the capital she needed to grow. “If you don’t ask, you’ll never get the yeses,” Mei said about mentorship. “If someone inspires you, chances are that someone mentored them.”

The afternoon was filled with more fun in the exhibit hall as well as three breakout tracks to help attendees at different stages of their entrepreneurial journeys grow, thrive and succeed. Topics included recruiting, the price of entrepreneurial success, the art of persuasion and more. The day wrapped up with Texas women business owners sharing big, bold moves and a Boots & Bling-themed reception.

On Day 3, next generation female entrepreneurs descended on the Renaissance Austin host hotel for NAWBO’s NextGen Forum, which was held on the final day of the National Women’s Business Conference. Small business owner and champion Rebecca Contreras wove in lessons and insights from her life story that took her from the “hood” to the White House to business ownership.

“If you don’t set big, audacious goals, you’re not going to meet your regular goals,” Rebecca encouraged. She also told the audience to learn to love themselves passionately and addressed that we all have fears, but can’t let them stop us. “If you’re going to do it, do it scared,” she said. “Don’t let fear grip you and get in your way.”

Meanwhile, National Women’s Business Conference attendees were enjoying a morning of workshops on certification, franchising, delegation, IT and more. The afternoon general session brought everyone together again (including NextGen Forum attendees!) for an inspirational keynote from bestselling author Dr. Martha Beck. She shared her personal story of struggle and success and offered two powerful tools for facing unprecedented change: integrity, where every aspect of yourself is aligned, and creativity.

“Calm yourself down to access your creativity,” Martha suggested, as she helped the audience to focus on “glimmers” (experiences that make you feel safe and connected) verses “triggers” (experiences that make you feel anxious or withdrawn).

Following afternoon breakout sessions on AI, burnout, marketing and more, it was finally time—for NAWBO’s Annual National Awards Gala. The Top 3 finalists for Women Business Owner of the Year took part in a panel during dinner. Then came the top honors. Congratulations to Susan Hager (Leadership) Award recipient Ana Fernandez Parmet, Gillian Rudd (Advocacy) Award recipient Carnela Renee Hill and 2023 Woman Business Owner of the Year (Overall Business Excellence) Award recipient Rebecca Geller.

See the Conference Photo Gallery here.

NAWBO’s next in-person national event is Leadership Academy in Charlotte, North Carolina, on January 28-30, 2024. Look for registration to open this month—and join us to hone your leadership!

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