Teamwork seems to be the ultimate buzzword these days, but the NAWBO Iowa chapter is proving what a difference a supportive environment can make. By teaming together in every aspect—from leadership to boosting membership—the chapter has made a huge impact on women business owners on both a professional and personal level.
To understand the chapter’s dedication to teamwork, simply trace it back to its leadership: A Co-president model was established in 2009 out of necessity and has continued as a best practice. At the time, many business owners were struggling due to the economic downturn, and the chapter was in a “turnaround” phase with about 30 members. Co-presidents Lynn Schreder (left) and Lori Day (right) decided to take this new approach to excellence, because as Lori points out, it was a way to quickly learn from each other’s expertise without losing any time or energy on the chapter. “We could run faster and more effectively because of the co-presidency,” she says.
Fast-forward eight years and the chapter now has 18 board members, many of whom also serve in co-positions to maximize flexibility, sustainability and leadership development. What’s more, the chapter has grown to more than 100 members and has expanded to four satellite groups across the state of Iowa, which support more women business owners. The chapter also hosts an annual NAWBO Iowa Celebration of Excellence awards event, which acts as a “Hall of Fame” for women business owners and draws more than 250 attendees and sponsors each year.
While the Iowa chapter has made great strides in membership to help women business owners achieve their professional goals, it has also significantly supported women on a personal level. Case in point: A member was struggling with the recent loss of her husband and business partner and suddenly found herself faced with many hardships. To support her in attending the NAWBO National Women’s Business Conference, many chapter leaders teamed together to cover the costs of the trip. Lori has experienced both sides of that graciousness, as she and her husband lost their daughter and, without expecting it, had a group of her NAWBO sisters at the memorial service to provide support throughout this difficult time.
“What we realize is that, as women business owners, we’re multi-faceted,” Lynn says. “Things happen in our lives that impact our business and vice versa. We want to be supportive with the mentality of ‘we’ve got your back.’ There is no drama, because we are all here to have each other’s backs. You just show up for each other. That strengthens those bonds for each other.”
That sense of supporting members’ personal and professional wellbeing can even be seen during a typical meeting. For example, the latest board meeting began by taking time to learn about and discuss a board member’s cancer diagnosis and how it was impacting her life. According to Lynn, that’s exactly the type of supportive environment she strives to achieve throughout the chapter. “It’s really strong, sharp women who are committed to the mission of NAWBO but who will stand up and do the hard work as fellow women business owners to just be there to the best of their abilities,” Lynn says.
Looking ahead, the Iowa chapter is eager to launch its very first leadership institute in 2018, which will pair legacy business owners with emerging business owners to foster future leaders in the community and within the chapter. As Lori states, “You will see the organization operating with a strong vision and the common values of “we’re stronger together, no guilt and we’ve got your back.” We are so fortunate to have such exceptional people in our lives through NAWBO—whether they are sponsors, community leaders, volunteers or women business owners.”