The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce has introduced a program called WomanUP, an initiative focused on women in business, with meetings that allow women to network with and support one another in their business endeavors. Four quarterly WomanUP events are held each year, and the hosting venues continue to get larger as the audience keeps growing. The November 2017 session had more than 500 women sign up.
“Women of all ages and from all business sectors are welcome to attend, from entrepreneurs to women in corporations,” says Erin Leonard, director of communications with the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. “This is for women ranging from those who are just starting in business to those who are nearing the end of their careers. It’s for everyone.”
Leonard says each year of WomanUP has a theme. The 2018 quarterly meetings are targeted toward overcoming obstacles as women in business.
“Most of our get-togethers are breakfast events, with an occasional luncheon,” she says. “There is good food, good networking and good speakers. We always look to have one or two speakers at every meeting.”
Leonard says the final WomanUP meeting for 2017 featured two excellent speakers. One was Troylyn Ball, a local entrepreneur who is founder and CEO of Asheville Distilling Company, making her the first woman to legally make moonshine in North Carolina. Ball also wrote a book, Pure Heart, A Spirited Tale of Grace, Grit and Whiskey.
The other speaker at the final 2017 meeting was Dr. Christine Darden, a graduate of Asheville’s Allen High School, who enjoyed a 40-plus-year career with NASA. Darden, today a retired engineer, is considered a pioneer for entering the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) field when women didn’t often pursue those types of careers. She is still highly regarded as an international expert in sonic boom research.
“The speakers at every quarterly session are amazing,” Leonard says. “It was a nice touch that when Dr. Darden spoke, we had some local high students in attendance at that meeting because of Dr. Darden’s connection to Allen High School.”
Leonard adds that every final quarterly meeting includes an end-of-the-year award ceremony to honor Woman Executive of the Year, Outstanding Woman in Nonprofit Leadership, and Woman Entrepreneur-Best in Business.
“The awards are voted by area women, with nominations due about a month before our final meeting,” she says. “WomanUP is a very worthwhile effort. Also, everyone is encouraged to sign up on our WomanUP email list to receive program updates and other good information. You can also join our LinkedIn group.”