Welcome to the Portland Chapter….from Kira Swanson, Portland Chapter Leader

August 29th represented a milestone for WESOS as we opened up the Portland, OR chapter, expanding the WESOS footprint to a total of 15 chapters in three states. I had an intuition that the WESOS values would really resonate in Portland, but as a newcomer to the city, it was only a gut feeling and not based on a deep understanding of my new found home.

I had arrived in Portland a little over two months earlier, part of a huge influx into the city that has seen 56,000 newcomers since 2000 (in a city of less than 650K!). I came for the natural beauty, moderate weather and the West Coast vibe. But moving away from the Chicago area was difficult on a few accounts: not least of which was leaving behind my beloved WESOS organization. As I contemplated my move, I approached Jean LaVallie and Denise Schmidt about the idea of opening a Portland Chapter. Fortunately, they responded enthusiastically, sharing my hunch that WESOS would be a great fit here. At least one survey ranks Portland as a top city for female entrepreneurship.

I had a nervous thrill as I prepared for this first meeting. Our COO, Denise, was in town to be the guest speaker and I was a bit freaked out. What if no one else showed up?

Well, arrive they did. We got an 80% turnout which I’m pretty sure is a stellar Meetup rate for a first meeting. They braved long commutes, broken GPS devices and narrowly avoiding jury duty to come together. First hurdle crossed.

Next, I worried whether things would click. Who were these women who self-selected based on the Meetup invitation: “No Mean Girls Allowed”? Would they be aligned with the WESOS way?

Going into the intention, things were feeling good. Everyone seemed welcoming of the values that are woven into the intention and comfortable with our quiet and deliberate way of coming together into a shared space. No one rolled their eyes.

But it wasn’t until Denise began her presentation that I felt confident that we had a love connection. The smiles on the women’s faces told me that the WESOS message was resonating and we indeed had a new home in Portland (PDX as it’s known locally).

We did all the typical things that characterize a WESOS meeting: elevator speeches, informal networking, announcements. Owing to the small group size, we also had an opportunity to engage in some masterminding. I posed the question “Where do you most need help in your business?” This elicited a great conversation and revealed the depth of talent within the broader WESOS organization — Denise and I thought of many meaningful connections between our new PDX sisters and those back in Chicago.

I felt a really good vibe as our meeting wrapped up. Hugs were exchanged, further proving that WESOS culture was truly spreading. Perhaps the best evidence that things had truly clicked: I received an email from one of the new sisters. She had already arranged three 1:1s with other attendees and was seeking to meet with me too.

So it seems that things off to a great start in Portland where the time for the WESOS way has truly come.

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