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Female-Forward: Inside Asheville, NC Chamber’s WomanUP Program

The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce assists women in business with its WomanUP program. 

By Kevin Litwin on November 30, 2022

Asheville, NC
Asheville / iStock/bizvector

Asheville works hard to support women-owned businesses, and one program making waves is the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce’s WomanUP initiative. 

The initiative includes events and meetings that allow women to network and support one another in their business endeavors. A half-dozen WomanUP in-person and virtual meetings are staged each year. Hosting venues continue to get larger as the audience grows, with many get-togethers having 250 to 300 participants — sometimes more.

“Women of all ages and from all business sectors are welcome to attend, from entrepreneurs to women in corporations, and most of our gatherings are breakfast events, along with an occasional luncheon. Again and again, attendees call these programs inspiring and empowering,” says Erin Leonard, vice president of communications for the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. “We sometimes bring speakers from outside the area who bring fresh ideas. It’s especially inspiring to hear from businesswomen right here in our community.”

Meeting topics vary, as some might focus on leadership, while others cover communication skills, marketing, mentorship, financial advice, inspirational stories and how to balance work and family.

“These days, there are many women leaders throughout the Asheville region in business, government, nonprofits, research and education,” she says. “That includes our entire city council, our city and county manager, president of UNC Asheville, and quite a few of our leading small businesses.”

Her Two Cents

The final WomanUp meeting of the year includes an awards ceremony to honor women in several categories. These include Woman Executive of the Year, Outstanding Woman Nonprofit Leader, Impact Award and much more.

“The awards are voted on by area women, with nominations due about a month before our final meeting,” Leonard 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.”

Leonard points out that the Chamber also has a program called Elevate that assists male and female entrepreneurs and small-business owners. Another community resource that helps nurture women entrepreneurs is the Western Women’s Business Center, a program of the Carolina Small Business Development Fund. Western Women’s Business Center is not affiliated with the Chamber, but the two organizations partner on initiatives for women from time to time.

“One final point about WomanUp — a woman named Laura Webb was instrumental in getting this program started about seven years ago, and Laura now has a podcast called Her Two Cents,” Leonard says. “Laura is a financial adviser who talks about all things financial that will help women in business. She provides some great advice for local women in their business journeys.”

If you’d like to learn more about the Asheville area, check out the latest edition of Livability Asheville, North Carolina

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