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Making Connections at EmpowerHer

WeKan Founder Marquetta Atkins and Headmistress Jill

I’m late! Usually I like to spend Friday morning writing my weekly article, but this Friday I was at the Women Entrepreneurs of Kansas (WeKan) EmpowerHer Conference. This conference brought together a diverse group of about 75 women business owners to share information about available resources, work/life balance, lessons learned and more. I love taking time to attend conferences like this. Being able to connect to other women who understand the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, and getting insights from other’s experiences, was well worth this investment in me.

The event went beyond my expectations. The tagline of the event set the tone, “When positive, powerful women come together, the world shifts! WeKan!” The women who attended were positive and powerful. I loved seeing friends from the Finishing School, Know Your Worth Conference, WIBA (Wichita Independent Business Association) Women’s Leadership Alliance, and Wichita Professional Communicators. I was excited to make new contacts too, which is always one of my favorite things about attending conferences.

I especially enjoyed being able to simply attend the event, rather than being an organizer or planner this time. While I do love planning and speaking at conferences and classes, sometimes it’s nice to be able to take it all in, without worrying about what’s going on behind the scenes or how my presentation will go.

The event was well organized by Marquetta Atkins, the Founder of WeKan. This organization, a partner of e2e, is a “Collaborative network to activate and cultivate women entrepreneurs of Kansas.” I don’t know much about this organization yet, but will be going to coffee with Marquetta soon to find out more. I like her attitude – and her mission.

The keynote speaker, Mary Shannon, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters, blew my mind. She asked us, “What is Your Mt. Everest?” In other words, what is getting in our way? She explained that sometimes what holds us back are the past or current voices in our lives, that have convinced us we can’t climb the mountain. Other times it’s our own stories and past mistakes that are holding us back. Then, she convinced us that we are not defined by where our story begins, with the vulnerable story of her tragic childhood of abandonment and abuse. What she’s gone on to do in her life, is a testament to her ability to write her own story while she climbs.

This message really stood out to me, because we were just talking about that the evening before the conference, in our Own Your Power class at the Finishing School. In this class we talk about how to manage those voices to work with our inner critic, to separate ourselves from criticism and praise, and to learn to listen to our inner wisdom. Three of us from class were at the conference, and it was interesting how what Mary said, added to our conversation from the night before.

Here are some other take-aways I got from the conference:

  • You are only limited by what you know. Ask those around you what they know.

  • Beware of the Dream Snatchers and spend more time with the Dream Seeders.

  • Respond to belittling questions, with a question. Such as, “Will you make us some coffee?” with “Why would you ask me to make coffee?”

  • Don’t be distracted by the shine. It will keep you from seeing the grind.

  • The comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing grows there.

  • It’s not about perfection – it’s about progress.

  • Have the courage to critique other women and tell them the truth, and have the courage to hear – and accept - the truth.

My favorite quote, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” – Madeleine Albright

Congrats to Marquetta and the rest of the conference committee for a job well done! I'm looking forward to seeing what they do next!

Panel discussion on I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me panel. Left to Right: Alicia Holoway, Pres., WIBA; Ashley Hill, CEO, Zernco Inc. Michelle Becker, CEO Profit Builders; Christina Long, Owner, CML Collective; Shelly Prichard, CEO Wichita Community Foundation

Finishing School Member and Super Star Janet Federico, Founder Thrive ICT did an excellent breakout session on Career Pivots.

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