Thriving


Talking about turning ideas into action at the EmpowerHer Conference

I spent International Women’s Day, surrounded by mainly women at a cloud-nine level inspiring conference. About 100 of us gathered at the Wichita Public Library on Friday around what might be thought of as an uncomfortable topic – survivorship after trauma. The conference, “9 to Thrive,” was the brainchild of Finishing School member Janet Federico, founder of thriveICT, a nonprofit that helps people with services and resources to transcend the aftermath of trauma. (Here’s their Facebook.)

Janet asked me to speak at the conference about Imposter Syndrome last summer, and of course I told her yes, not really knowing what I was getting myself into. Rather than an emotional bummer of a day, it turned out to be beautiful, healing conversations that weren’t too touchy-feely because they were also truthful, candid, and vulnerable. Just the kind of conversations we need to have.

Janet Federico, founder of thriveICT

The day might have been even more impactful because I was still basking in the afterglow of the conference I went to earlier in the week. The 2nd Annual EmpowerHer woman’s entrepreneurship conference, organized by powerhouse Marquetta Atkins and WEKAN (Women Entrepreneurs of Kansas), brought women together to geek out on business on Wednesday.

I was on a panel with other women business owners to talk about how to turn ideas into action. I was sad I couldn’t stay for the whole day, but I did get to see one of my favorite local speakers, Christina Long, who always inspires me. I also got to reconnect with Helen Galloway, the owner of the First Place and founder of Women in Wichita, who was the recipient of the 2019 Empowered Woman award for her work in supporting and giving a hand up to women entrepreneurs.

Christina Long, one of my favorite speakers

Both of these experiences gave me insights and epiphanies personally. Here’s a little of what I learned:

The importance of inclusion

The most powerful part of these events for me were seeing women of all ages, shapes and colors coming together to support each other. By being intentionally inclusive in the speakers these conferences invited to come to the table, it showed people signing up that there would be women who looked like them at the event. I don’t always realize how important this is. I learned a long time ago that people want to do business with people who are like them, which includes all the aspects of how we self-identify. Listening to women of varying backgrounds helps me understand that our life experiences are as diverse as our skin tones and ages, and how we must intentionally assimilate as women to make the world a better place for all of us.

The power of connecting I talk a lot about how much stronger we are when we come together, and the conferences I went to this week were powerful demonstrations of this. There was a lot of talk, in and out of the conference sessions, about how we can help each other. New connections were formed, which could lead to bigger things. The feeling in the air at both events was contagious, with all of us vibrating at a higher frequency, creating an atmosphere of love, kindness and compassion and feeling that the sky is the limit when it comes to what we can achieve together. I believe that the more we can connect, the more we can achieve, without leaving anyone behind.

The value of investing in yourself

It wasn’t easy taking 30 percent of the work week off to attend these two conferences, not to mention the time it took to prepare for the sessions I was part of. And it was worth every minute. The things I learned, the new friends I made, the feeling of being part of something bigger wouldn’t have happened if I’d have just stayed at work in my office. Attending conferences gives me the inspiration I need to keep going and the information to know how to get where I want to go. There is no substitute for this kind of experience and taking time out of our lives to learn, grow and connect is vital to success. The investment is worth it.

The belief to achieve

One way to build confidence is by seeing what others have done and realizing that taking the risk is worth it. The inspiration that comes from attending rallies, classes and conferences is powerful. I love hearing success stories from Finishing School students about how classes have given them just the push they needed to make their dreams come true. Lacey Cruise, who was just elected to the Sedgwick County Commission, credits the speakers she heard at the Women’s March as the inspiration it took for her to run for office. When we invest in ourselves, taking time and paying the money to go to these events, we find role models, mentors, alliances, and the confidence to make things happen.

The strength of community

There are powerful things happening with women in Wichita. It may seem like there’s a sudden surge of women-centered organizations. It’s really been on a slow boil. There have been organizations working to bring women in Wichita together since the Hypatia Club started in 1890. Businesses that unite women are ongoing too. Visionary Elizabeth Hotaling has helped lead the way with the Adventurous Babes Society, a fun membership-based organization, gathers women to go on adventures and make friends. Badass Cindy Coughenour, founder of Fearless and Female, energetically teaches women how to protect themselves, while instilling the confidence to kick ass. Kara Yuza with Jazzercise builds an encouraging community, helping women invest in their health.

There are more and more organizations popping up to bring women together, like the Hive, a co working and community space to empower women; Wise Women, a wellness-based organization that creates community to promote healthy lifestyles and mindfulness; and Resister ICT, that highlights female unity and empowerment in Wichita.

It seems to me, that once the momentum gets going, and there are more fun things to attend, the audiences for all of it grows. This is what has happened in the arts community in Wichita, and it’s growing into its own power, bringing creatives of all genres together to make Wichita a better place to live. The same thing is happening with women’s organizations. We all have our special niches in what we’re doing, that attracts slightly different audiences, just like the galleries on Final Friday.

It’s exciting to see our community growing stronger from a grass-roots level, and women working together to support each other to thrive. It is an honor to part of this evolution.

In gratitude,

Headmistress Jill

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