By Chris Buckley
The Valley Independent, Monessen, Pa.
The invitation read: “You are strong, You are committed, You are unique, You are building a better community and You need to be celebrated.”
With those words, Gina Lynn, Greater Rostraver Chamber of Commerce executive director, invited female self-employed chamber members to an August luncheon at Off the Wall Arts in Charleroi.
“I found myself surrounded by these talented female business owners, and I felt they needed to be applauded for their efforts,” Lynn said. “They’re juggling kids, balancing families and getting there to open their businesses.”
What started as a one-time event has grown, Lynn said.
“We weren’t even done and they were like, ‘When are we going to get together again?’ Lynn said. “The women came together, some knowing each other, some making introductions for the first time.”
Lynn said the women shared a potluck meal and stories about fears, challenges, successes, laughter and tears.
“They encouraged, supported and applauded each other,” Lynn said. “They asked questions of each other, seeking advice and assurance.”
Lynn said the group members discussed their reasons for being self-employed as well as setbacks, failures and successes they experienced.
The members also talked about growth and future plans.
“They found common ground,” Lynn said.
Lynn said the Self-Employed Women’s Group plans to conduct regular meetings.
“They don’t want to be so structured that they have to meet every week, but maybe get together every so often,” Lynn said.
In her eight years at the chamber, Lynn has seen an increase in businesses owned by women. Such businesses comprise about 25 percent of the chamber’s membership.
Lynn said that percentage does not include family businesses involving husband-and-wife partnerships, real estate agents and independent sales representatives.
“They find themselves in these situations where they spent years in the home raising the kids. But kids are growing and now they’re asking themselves, ‘What do I do? Now it’s my turn,'” Lynn said of female entrepreneurs.