By Kristin Boza
Founded in 2012, the Southside Women’s Business Alliance (SWBA) is an association dedicated to empowering working women. Their bi-monthly meetings seek to provide networking and the crowd sourcing of ideas to assist the development of women in business.
“We are dedicated to uniting, celebrating and supporting women entrepreneurs, business owners and corporate professionals,” said Claire Richards, SWBA president. “We celebrate the unique strengths of our women members in order to foster an environment of personal and professional growth by offering educational opportunities at our monthly meetings.”
A common misconception is that SWBA is only for female entrepreneurs or business owners, but every woman is welcome to join. “We offer very valuable information for any working professional woman. You can take the information you learn back to your company to help them develop new standards and ways of doing business,” Richards said.
“We’re uniting women from a variety of professions and encouraging them to develop relationships with other women through networking opportunities. We support business growth through referral sharing, which is very strong within our group,” Richards said.
SWBA’s membership directory is available to anyone to view, but only members who paid their annual dues can be listed on it. Members can include their website, email address, phone number and two to three sentences about their business for inclusion in the directory.
A yearly membership costs $70, but if you join before the end of January the dues are $60. Dues include entry to two meetings per month and two social events per year. Non-members can also join the monthly meetings for $10/meeting. Membership fees are paid annually in January, although anyone can join at any time in the year.
Another big advantage to membership is the opportunity to be in the “hot seat” for SWBA’s mastermind sessions, which take place every other month. “This allows a member to come in with challenges they’re having in their business and everyone helps them figure out how to tackle them,” Richards said.
Previous hot seat participants asked for help with marketing challenges, hiring employees and using temp agencies. The variety of professionals at the meetings ensures that someone will have an answer or suggestion for improvement, according to Richards.
“I’ve been in the hot seat for mastermind before and it’s so helpful to get a view from somebody else,” Richards said. “Many business owners say they’re overwhelmed after being in the hot seat because they have so many different solutions that they never thought of before.”
Regular monthly meeting topics typically center around marketing and finance, which are the two most frequently asked for topics. “We send a survey to our members asking them what their biggest struggles are, then we find an outside speaker to fit that topic,” Richards said. “We put together useful meetings and gatherings for professionals to learn how to build a better business.”
SWBA’s first meeting of 2017 will be held on Tues., Jan. 10, 8:30 to 10 a.m., BAPA Community Room, 11109 S. Longwood Dr. The topic is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Relevant) goals and how to organize your calendar. For more information, visit SWBAChicago.com.