By B.C. Manion
They come from all walks of life.
There’s a home inspector, a banker, a real estate agent and travel agent, to name just a few.
Their background and experiences are varied, but they have some things in common: They’re women, they are engaged in business, and they enjoy sharing what they know with each other.
These women are members of Women-n-Charge Inc., a group that meets once a month to gain exposure for their businesses and to help each other grow — professionally and personally.
The group began as the dream of Christine Cooper, who wanted to put together a group that would support women in business.
“I heard about the group from another networking group,” said Anne Childers, a member since 2006.
“I was invited by another young lady,” said Rosie Heim, an award-winning Avon representative. She said the woman told her that joining the organization would give her a great way to meet other women and expand her business.
It turned out to be all that and more, Heim said.
“I love the ladies. I belong to another group as well, Lutz Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club. That is my giveback to the community group.
“I do this (belong to Women-n-Charge) for me. I need this. I need the ladies. They’re all women in business. They’re teaching me a lot,” Heim said.
“When we have speakers, it is only telling you how you can make yourself better. You can grow outwardly in your business, or you can grow inside,” Heim added.
Loran Tripp, who joined the group in January, said the group is unlike others she’s joined.
“All of us belong to other networking groups and many times, you get a lot of overlapping of the same people,” said Tripp, who works for Ierna’s Heating & Cooling.
“Something about this group draws new people. Once you become a member, you stay a member,” said Tripp, whose boss, Charlene Ierna is one of the original founders of Women-n-Charge, Inc.
Being a member is good for business, said Childers, a travel agent.
“I have received a lot of business. I’ve used a lot of the businesses here. But it goes beyond business, because I’ve made some very, very good friends. My mother who is 83 years old, she’s part of this group.”
The group’s mantra is “Empowering Women to Be Successful in Business,” and that’s not just an empty phrase, club members said.
Besides helping each other, the organization sponsors two $1,000 grants each year that are used to help women in business.
A Women-n-Charge committee decides who should get the grant, said Elayne Bassinger, president of the group.
“They have to give us a business plan. They have to tell us what they’re going to do with that money. They have to show us that they’re in business, that they’re legitimate,” said Bassinger, vice president of Heritage Bank of Florida, located in Wesley Chapel.
The group holds fundraisers to raise money to support the grants.
“We used to do a Business Expo,” Bassinger said. But the group decided to host a tea party instead because of the economy. The business expo didn’t generate as much money for their cause, she explained, Bassinger said.
The women come to the group in different ways.
Judy Nicolosi, a real estate agent, said a club member asked her to join.
“She invited me a couple of times. I didn’t join right away — for no good reason. But when I did join, I found a great, great, group of people who are not only friendly but support each other and support each other’s businesses,” Nicolosi said.
Mary Ann Whallen wasn’t one of the founders but was among the first wave of members, she said. “I was the only home inspector in the group.”
She said she enjoys the camaraderie.
Alicia Largel, who owns a title company, agreed: “It’s a wonderful group of women. You actually make and keep friendships.”
Bassinger said she originally joined because she was invited by Christine Cooper.
“That was in 2006,” Bassinger said.
Cooper was excited about the group’s potential for supporting women in business.
“I’m a strong believer in that,” Bassinger said. “Women don’t always have a place to go to say really how they think and what they feel. They don’t always do that if they’re in groups of men.”
Women have different challenges than men in the work place, Bassinger said.
“We need a place to explore those (challenges) and work through those,” Bassinger said.
Although she initially joined the group because of Cooper’s invitation, Bassinger stayed because of the relationships she developed, she said.
Club members know they can count on each other for support, members said.
“My mother passed away recently. And when she was in the hospital, I was overwhelmed with the number of people that called to ask what they could do for me. Whether it was just bringing me something to eat at the hospital,” Bassinger said.
The group also makes it a point to offer a warm reception to any visitors or new members who attend its meetings.
“You’ll hear people say, “Oh, that group wasn’t very welcoming.” I think that’s a huge reason that this group is different,” Nicolosi said.
“We have greeters. We take them around and introduce them. We don’t leave them to their own devices,” Bassinger said.
Women-n-Charge Inc. club info
Women-n-Charge Inc. meets the first Friday of each month at Pebble Creek Golf Club, 10550 Regents Park Drive in New Tampa. Lunch is $15 for members and $18 for non-members. Reservations should be made by calling Elayne Bassinger at (813) 907-3256 or (813) 495-2336.
Check in and networking is from 11:30 a.m.-noon. The meeting, which typically includes a speaker, runs from noon-1 p.m.
Individual membership is $50; corporate membership is $75.
Anyone who wants to find out more is welcome to attend a lunch before becoming a member.
2011 Tea and Fashion Show
This year’s tea party and fashion show will be at The Groves from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8. Tickets are $15 each or two for $25. For more information call Elayne Bassinger at (813) 907-3256 or (813) 495-2336 or visit www.women_n-charge.com.
Proceeds benefit the grant program, which provides two $1,000 grants to help women in business each year.