Springfield, MO

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3 first-time women’s biz conferences hit market

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The first in what organizers are hoping will be an annual gathering in Springfield for female entrepreneurs is set for Aug. 22.

SCORE E3 Women’s Conference is an all-day event at the north-side DoubleTree by Hilton, with experts offering business development, financing and marketing advice.

The Springfield conference is the second of three events for businesswomen to debut in as many months in Missouri. Women in Leadership, a new Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry event, was held July 12 in Columbia. Next month, Springfield-based Missouri Association of Manufacturers plans a Manufacturing for Women conference Sept. 24 in Independence.

Mary Overbey, one of the SCORE E3 conference organizers, said she hopes those attending the event feel empowered to pursue entrepreneurship or small-business ventures.

“I hope they walk away energized and ready to tackle things that they may have thought they knew but didn’t,” she said.

Noting E3 stands for educating and empowering entrepreneurs, Overbey said there will be resources and business experts on hand.

Overbey is also a volunteer with the southwest Missouri chapter of SCORE, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that offers business mentoring services for entrepreneurs and small-business owners. It is a resource partner under the U.S. Small Business Administration.

She said the local chapter received a $5,000 grant in 2018 from the national SCORE organization to help fund the event. Other conference sponsors are the SBA, Missouri State University Small Business Development Center, Minorities in Business, Rosie and the Springfield-Greene County Library District.

“We wrote this grant specifically to host a women’s conference,” Overbey said, adding between 100 and 150 people are projected to attend.

“In counseling sessions, we determined a lot of women business owners had talent and passion, but didn’t know how to run a business.”

Columbia summit
With 165 attendees, the Women in Leadership summit in July surpassed projections of around 130, said Kara Corches, director of legislative affairs with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“There was a lot positive energy at the conference,” she said, adding the chamber partnered with Women’s Network, a division of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. “From our perspective, the interest for an event like this is here. To have this conference every year would be very beneficial.”

Keynote speakers were Wendy Doyle, president and CEO of nonprofit Women’s Foundation, and Debbie Dewey, president of Missouri American Water. Corches said the conference was designed with professional development and networking opportunities.

“We had women from nearly every sector of industry represented,” she said of both attendees and participants. “We just didn’t see a lot of statewide conferences for women in leadership, so we wanted to tap into that.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 57% of women participated in the labor force in 2017, the most recent year available. By comparison, the labor participation for men was 69.1% in 2017. Both numbers were basically flat from the year prior.

Katie Towns, assistant director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, said she was in Columbia representing her employer as well as the Missouri Women’s Health Council, of which she is a member.

“It’s always important for me to find ways that I can continue to develop my role in my profession,” she said. “Having an opportunity to do that here in Missouri with women who have made an impact on our state was really appealing to me.”

She said the Women’s Foundation focuses on many of the same issues as the local health department: seeking ways to elevate health issues and address health care gaps in the community.

Also covered at the conference was the challenge of finding the balance of being a mother and a professional. Towns said she relates to the topic. For example, Aug. 13 was a busy workday for her, but also the first day of kindergarten for her daughter – an event for which she was determined to be present.

“I feel like this sort of opportunity gives you a chance to learn from other women going through this kind of thing,” she said.

Overbey said some women might feel pressure to choose between being in the workforce and being a mother. But as the owner of her own home-based business consulting company, Borealis Consulting LLC, Overbey said she doesn’t have to make that choice.

“It really gives me the freedom, control and independence that I love,” she said, as she makes her own schedule and can be there for her children when needed.

The entrepreneur added the Aug. 22 SCORE E3 conference would offer financial planning and business development tips, while connecting women who may be on the same professional and personal paths.

Collective power
Next month’s Manufacturing for Women conference, another inaugural event, was born out of a need to focus more on females in the industry, said Missouri Association of Manufacturers CEO Kim Inman.

“The diversity is changing in the workforce,” she said, but added more is needed.

Women are generally underrepresented in manufacturing, she said, comprising just below 30% of workers in the industry in 2017, according to the BLS.

In the health field, Towns said she’s been fortunate to have professional leaders provide her with coaching, encouragement and guidance. However, she recognizes the need to start imparting to others some of the workplace wisdom she’s gained. Events like these conferences can help facilitate those connections, whether in health care, manufacturing or other industries, she said.

Much like the other two women-focused conferences, Inman said support and empowerment are takeaways she wants visitors to gain from the manufacturing event, which is open to those working in the industry or considering it.

“We need to create a collective power of ambassadors for manufacturing,” she said, adding that can inspire younger generations to get involved. “Their collective power can help bolster the industry.”


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