Page 40 - BusinessWest December 7, 2020
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  One of the positives of hosting the organization — and, before the pandemic, these events — at the Enterprise Center is that so many resources, from the SBA to SCORE, are also located there, and that aspect has been missed, Eliason said.
“It’s a great hub of activity for women business owners. But when we had to shift online, we never missed a meeting. We continued to meet without exception, which we’re kind of proud of,” she said, noting that even more programming was added, such as ‘happy hour’ events that are more motivational in nature than the breakfast discussions, with topics ranging from personal wellness to navigating remote work. “It’s really relevant stuff.”
Making Connections
It also requires resources to make it all happen, which is why the WBOA seeks sponsorships from organizations to underwrite its work. “We’re nonprofit, but there are expenses,” Eliason said, noting that fun- draising has been more difficult in a year when businesses of all kinds are struggling.
 Still, she made a point of listing many of the businesses that do support the alli- ance’s work, including Advanced Manu- facturing, Allstate Longmeadow, Associat- ed Industries of Massachusetts, Attorney Marie T. Jablonski, Bacon Wilson, Dale A. Frank Financial Group, Fletcher Sewer and Drain, Goss and McLain, Jerome’s Party Plus, JL Raymaakers & Sons, Latka Printing, Main Street Deli, New England Disc Golf, Veryl’s Automotive Services, and WEIB-FM.
Collaborators include the MSBDC, SCORE, Valley Community Development, the Franklin County CDC, the Center for Women and Enterprise, and Common Capital. The WBOA also created the first TedX event in Easthampton and estab- lished the WINGS mentor program at STCC.
“I think of it almost
like a sorority — we’re going through similar experiences, we have similar challenges, and for every challenge we face, there’s someone who was at that level with their business years ago, and someone who hasn’t gotten there yet.”
         “We see ourselves as a place to learn
about all the other resources that are
available and always come back for addi-
tional education. That’s why we’re stra-
tegically placed at the Scibelli Enterprise
Center,” she said. “We’re really about education and upping skills for people looking to be successful in business, much more than we are about getting business from one another. We’re here to help people be better at business, and we’re mutually learning from one another.”
Rigging l Millwrighting l Trucking l Construction l Warehousing
  Carol F. Campbell
President & CEO
413.538.7279 •
     It’s been called a sisterhood in the past, and Eliason appreciates that.
“I think of it almost like a sorority — we’re going through similar experiences, we have similar challenges, and for every challenge we face, there’s someone who was at that level with their business years ago, and someone who hasn’t gotten there yet.”
Elaborating, she noted that BOA members feel comfortable calling on professionals who have been through what they’re experiencing. “It’s an evolving group of people at different stages of business owner- ship, so there are people you can call on, really, for anything.”
Right now, the group boasts about 45 members, though it has topped 100 in the past, and Eliason expects the number to rise to about 70 next year, once the pandemic slows. That number, she said, would be a sweet spot, generating a rich pool of experience and connections, but not such a high number that events become unwieldy.
As for those events, she said platforms like Zoom will continue to have a place at the WBOA even after members return to meeting in person, because the virtual events have cast a wider geographic net, and those technologies also allow the organization to archive webinars where important information gets shared.
In each meeting and newsletter, members also learn about available loan and grant opportunities to help them grapple with a pandemic that has hit small businesses hard, and forced many to close altogether. Other members are trying to keep their businesses afloat while work- ing at home and balancing their careers with what their kids need in terms of remote learning.
“They’re doubling as a teacher for their kids,” Eliason said. “That’s not just a woman’s challenge, but for
  many of them, it’s been tough trying
to juggle those two roles. It’s a lot to Continued on page 49
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