How it all began…
Women Empowering Women was born out of conversations with professional women who found great value in building relationships and referring business to others but lacked finding the right collaborative networking organization with minimal restrictions.
An Idea Is Formed for a New Kind of Networking Organization.
Michell Stockmann and Laura Mattson were avid networkers and belonged to an amazing structured networking organization that benefited their individual businesses greatly. But, they found that they were missing out on connecting with some phenomenal businesswomen because not everyone could commit to the financial or time obligations required of many other networking groups out there.
Inspired to Build a Community Focused on Building Relationships.
They were inspired by stories of women starting businesses, running community groups and encouraging one another, but were frustrated to hear about the lack of connection between women in the same industries. They experienced first hand the benefits that come from engaging with others in similar fields and they felt like that is where someone can really learn and grow. They saw a need to create a meeting where women could come together with no restrictions and be able to collaborate and share.
Michell & Laura saw a common theme of creative, talented, hardworking women, with exciting ideas and aspirations, who found the benefit in sharing their knowledge and lessons with others. They wanted to continue to form a community of women who would cheer each other on and lift each other up personally and professionally.
WEW is Officially Launched in O’Fallon, Illinois.
Michell & Laura gathered a group of women together for their first lunch get together on September 30, 2013, at Bella Milano restaurant in O’Fallon, Illinois and were overwhelmed with the number of women interested in such an event! They knew they were on to something and that women in the area needed and wanted more of this kind of collaboration and they decided to keep this meeting going on a monthly basis.
Alton Chapter is Formed.
It wasn’t long after the O’Fallon chapter launched that attendees were asking for meetings in other surrounding towns. In 2014, four more chapter locations sprouted up. Alton/Godfrey launched monthly events on January 21, 2014. Over the years the Alton chapter has moved a few times and paused for a short time while finding a new location. With Laura Mattson as the chapter leader, this meeting is a solid and growing chapter within the Alton city limits.
Clinton County Chapter Launches in Breese.
With the launch of the New Year, expansion to Clinton County Illinois was imminent as Michell Stockmann wanted to bring this women’s networking organization nearer to her business’ location in Breese. She found that there was a large amount of women who wanted to network but couldn’t travel the 30+ minutes to the O’Fallon area for events. On February 26, 2014 they hosted the first meeting of the Clinton County chapter and it has been flourishing ever since!
2 New Chapters – Troy & Edwardsville Get Started.
Fast forward to the end of 2014 and WEW had two more chapters start up in the Edwardsville and Troy, Illinois areas. The Troy chapter stayed its own group for about a year and then was merged with the Edwardsville chapter. There was a year period where the Edwardsville chapter was closed. The Edwardsville chapter re-launched on International Woman’s Day (March 8, 2018), with Jamie Horstman as the chapter leader. Michell & Laura felt Jamie was a perfect fit to take over as the chapter leader for this location since she held all of the qualities of a great facilitator and was excellent at building relationships and sharing the vision of WEW with her network.
S.O.S. (Share Our Struggles/Share Our Success) is Established.
Our speaker for the meeting on October 24, 2017 was Natalie Jablonski. She had an engaging presentation revolving around all the different “shoes” a person wears at different times of their lives. At the end of her presentation she went around the room and had each attendee say something positive about themselves that had nothing to do with their physical appearance. It was the hardest and most painful thing to watch because the women in the room really struggled with saying something good or kind about themselves. Women were embarrassed to acknowledge that they were excellent at this skill or great at that accomplishment. Once they admitted their “good thing” out loud, they were instantly rewarded with smiles and claps from others. You could actually witness a physical change in each person as they straightened in their seat a bit more or relief and pride briefly washed over their face.
On the car ride home Michell mulled this experience over and realized that there needed to be a way to incorporate this into EVERY meeting. Because of this one concept — S.O.S. was created. At the next month’s meeting Michell introduced the S.O.S. – Share Our Struggles / Share Our Successes section on the agenda. An open forum discussion where women can announce successes or express accomplishments in a safe environment without the fear that it may be viewed as bragging or gloating. On the flip side, during this portion of the meeting, there is also an opportunity for women to ask for help with issues or scenarios they may be struggling with in their personal or professional lives.
Belleville Chapter Begins.
Megan Rector had been a member of WEW for quite some time and embodied the mission of building relationships and collaboration. She was already familiar with leading meetings so it was a natural fit for Megan to launch a much needed chapter in Belleville, Illinois on June 21, 2018. Finding a solid location for a meeting proved a little difficult and because of the nomadic nature of this group at first, growth was a little slower. Since it has found a permanent and reliable location, it has since grown and held a steady group of regulars.
National Expansion Process Begins.
In the spring of 2019, Michell and Laura had some serious discussions about the possibility of moving the group towards a national platform. It had always been a dream to offer this type of networking to women everywhere and expand Women Empowering Women nationally. With the “women’s empowerment” movement being a trending topic and gaining momentum, it was now or never to bring WEW to the forefront and allow it to grow and reach women in any and all stages of their careers and lives.
Michell crafted a social media post was posted asking for women who were interested in becoming chapter leaders or expanding the organization to other cities in the area. Within the day there had been a significant number of requests and interest. A few were chosen to begin the testing and fine tuning process of how the addition of chapters and locations would be added in the future.
The Collaborative Advisory Board is Created.
In the summer of 2019 the process for national expansion became a reality. An initial meeting and subsequent follow up meetings were held to create a series of valuable membership levels, a more robust informational website with a membership portal, a streamlined script and agenda for all chapters to follow and a plan to roll out all the ideas members have been asking for in recent months (workshops, conferences, trainings, podcasts, etc).
After multiple discussions and brainstorming sessions with Michell, Heather Crider came on board as a strategic partner to help with the details of adjusting and finalizing membership levels and collaborating on ideas for the Chapter Leaders application and review process. The addition of Heather to our newly formed Collaborative Advisory board has been invaluable to the forward motion of making WEW expansion a reality.
Dani Gilbreth has been instrumental in finding the perfect membership platform that will give the organization endless functionality and possibilities. She has been a intregal part of WEW since it’s inception and has seen the progression of successes and struggles and knows intimately what our members need and want. Combining that knowledge with a web developers expertise she has been able to create a membership portal that the members will find valuable and useful.
WEW’s marketing reach and social media presence is enhanced with the addition Bailey Wilson to the Collaborative Advisory Board. Getting the word out about the chapters and events and mission is critical and requires innovative ideas and a skill for finding useful content.
Creating Chapter Growth & Success.
As the guiding force for helping create and cultivate new chapters with the WEW organization, Michell assisted with the initial organization and setup of these new chapters to learn what a chapter leader would need to be successful when starting and growing. Much of this information is what helped pave the way for moving WEW towards a national platform and getting the right products and information to properly launch new chapters all over.
Michell was able to be on-site and very active with these beginner chapters to help them get started while also learning what new chapter leaders would need to succeed in the future. Many of the successes and pitfalls created language and tools that will be used in manuals and trainings.
WEW Expands into it’s First Major City – St. Louis, Missouri.
St. Louis is just across the river (less than 20 minutes from our original chapter) and was a natural move for expansion. Two chapters were launched in the St. Louis metropolitan area. Sunset Hills opened on July 18, 2019 under the leadership of Amy Yan and South City launched it’s first meeting a month later on August 21, 2019 with Angie Clark as the chapter leader.
WEW launches nationally.
With a new LLC, submission for an official Trademark and everything in place, WEW launched a new website and membership portal with paid member levels to give all women a way to connect and collaborate and build relationships with other like-minded professionals.