How do you build an airplane while it’s already flying?
In January of 2017, WESOS made the commitment to step forward to serve more members of the community of women entrepreneurs. It was a scary step to take. It required upgrades and infrastructure, computers and committed leaders.
But the biggest task was taking what made WESOS wonderful (the emphasis on personal, authentic relationships in addition to a supportive business environment) and not diluting it with growth.
We’ve all been there. We find a great connection in a networking group, treasure it and make it a part of our life and business…and then see it dramatically change with growth. The things that were so special fall by the wayside and we are left wondering “what happened?”.
From the moment that the WESOS organization was created many years ago, it’s founder, Jean LaVallie, put an emphasis on it being personal. A place that she wanted to network. A place that respected the way women prefer to do business. And a place that welcomed new participants with open arms.
To maintain that vision, WESOS grew by strategic choices. Not every requested chapter got a green light. The Chicagoland area was made into a target for slow, sustainable growth based on demographics and need. Chapters were opened slowly, with leaders thoughtfully chosen to maintain the feel and culture of WESOS. Every meeting contained the same core activities and values. The WESOS Intention remained as a mission and a commitment. When opportunities to expand into Colorado and Oregon were presented, the primary concern was “Could this still feel like a WESOS meeting?”
The answer was a resounding “Yes”.
To support the expansion, investments into infrastructure were made. Not quite building a new highway or installing a light rail system, but something just as important and well traveled. A computer system to maintain membership records, highlight members to the public and create a living legacy of the organization was built. A website that conveys our culture with warmth and clarity was launched. Additionally, multiple social media platforms, marketing arms and events were constructed to draw women from around North America, and the world at large, to find out the WESOS advantage. Virtual Meetings now allow for the ability to experience a WESOS meeting and craft relationships without having a meeting in driving distance.
Throughout this period of exponential growth, the needs of the members have always come first. How can WESOS provide a platform for your business? A member directory, advertising and sponsorship opportunities, vendor shows, great communication tools and partner networking have been added to the already full benefits of meeting participation. And new benefits are still on the horizon. At Jean’s insistence, attendance at a meeting is, and will continue to be, free and open. Inclusivity is a hallmark of a WESOS meeting. No special categories or immediate membership purchase decisions are required. All who identify as a female entrepreneur are welcome.
WESOS 2.0 was designed with all of the bells and whistles of a world class organization but has never let go of the things that made it that “can’t miss” networking opportunity that women put themselves on a waitlist to experience. It is still built around simple things like one-on-one meetings to learn about another WESOS Sister and what makes her so committed to creating authentic relationships and growing her business. It is still an intentional and welcoming group that sees new faces at every meeting. It still draws women to its combination of education and support.
WESOS is poised for the future on the dual platforms of technology and personal relationships. It has much to offer and much more to come. So invite a friend to a meeting. That friend may very well end up being your newest WESOS Sister.