Women’s business group chooses Columbus for national convention

Sep 8, 2016 | Uncategorized

By Marla Matzer Rose The Columbus Dispatch 

Tuesday September 6, 2016 9:19 AM

The National Association of Women Business Owners conference won’t be among the largest groups coming to Columbus this year. But the event is significant for the city beyond its several hundred visitors and estimated $400,000 in direct spending.

Members of the group’s Columbus chapter worked with Experience Columbus as part of the visitors bureau’s “Make It Columbus” initiative to bring in the event this month, which will highlight Columbus’ budding reputation as a good city for women to start and run businesses.

The outreach initiative encourages community members who serve on national boards to bring those groups’ meetings to Columbus

Columbus was a natural place to hold the group’s annual meeting this year, organizers say, since Columbus has the largest chapter in the country at more than 250 members. The city also has been ranked among top 10 best cities for women entrepreneurs by Forbes magazine. It will take place Sept. 18-20 at Downtown’s Hyatt Regency

Still, some members from around the country had to be persuaded.

“A lot of people were like, ‘Columbus where?’” said Kathy Warnick, the Columbus-based chairwoman elect of the group and founder of Powell professional services firm Warnick Consultants. “ Experience Columbus was able to help us show that there’s really a lot here. I’ve been saying for some time now that we have a hip little community here.”

Warnick and Jeanette Armbrust, treasurer of the national board and past president of the Columbus chapter, worked with the visitor’s bureau to bring in several national NAWBO representatives for site visits before a decision was made. Warnick said one top organization leader from southern California admitted she was bowled over by the city’s offerings when she visited.

“I took her to Martini (a Cameron Mitchell restaurant) across from the Hyatt,” Warnick said. “ When she got back, she sent me a text; she said, ‘I’ve been all over the country, and I’ve never had a meal as good as that.’”

Armbrust, who moved to Columbus from Minneapolis years ago to start her trade-show-services business, said she is excited to be able to showcase Columbus as part of the conference.

“You could feel the groundswell happen especially in the last four or five years; there’s momentum here,” Armbrust said. “It’s also timely that Columbus is being recognized as a top place for women entrepreneurs.”

Among the local women business leaders who will take part in the conference are Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams founder Jeni Britton Bauer, Cheryl’s Cookies founder Cheryl Krueger and Diane Ellis, CEO of The Limited. State Sen. Charleta Tavares and former Lt. Gov. Jennette Bradley also will speak, as part of the group’s election-year emphasis on encouraging public service.

Warnick and Armbrust both said they learned things about Columbus and the city’s convention and tourism business as they helped bring the meeting here. Brian Ross, CEO of Experience Columbus, hopes others will continue doing the same.

Since its launch in 2012, the Make it Columbus initiative has resulted in the city landing 125 meetings, conventions, tradeshows and sporting events, Ross said, bringing in more than 650,000 attendees who booked 340,701 room nights at local hotels

For more information about the NAWBO conference, visit nawbo.org.

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