For over ten years, women of Clinton have gathered to discuss their work and lives through the organization, Clinton Career Women. This month, the group is changing its name to W.I.S.E. Network, as a way to reflect its mission of recognizing the many hats Clinton women wear.
Originally started by Cindy Taucher and Jan Cossitt in 2007, Clinton Career Women began meeting at the Baptist Healthplex to talk about their businesses. “I thought it would be neat if Clinton had a place for women to support each other and network,” says Taucher. “Women are already great sharers, and they tend to open up more when around other women.”
Lorraine Gilbert joined Clinton Career Women as a new resident eager to find community. “I was a night nurse at the time, and it was a way to get to know people in Clinton,” she says. “I love the connections I’ve made, and I feel like I finally have a place I belong.” Gilbert is an independent consultant for Rodan + Fields and works as a nurse a couple times a week at the Sonny Montgomery Veterans Affairs Hospital. She is also the author of 52 Bible Lessons, Bible Introduction for Children.
After Taucher stepped down as president of CCW in 2013, Gilbert took over the position. Current seats include: Alma Calix, owner of Calix Interpreting Services, (Activities Director), Kalandria Archie (Financial Director), and Erin Brinkmann Courtney with Clinton Refrigeration Services (Coordinating Director.)
“The goal was to be an inexpensive way for women to network and grow their businesses,” says Gilbert. “Every single woman sacrifices something to have a business, and we wanted to create a safe place where women feel empowered.”
Gilbert says they have a diverse set of members, from entrepreneurs and business representatives to stay-at-home moms with side projects and retired Clintonians.
At the end of this May, Clinton Career Women will become W.I.S.E Network, which stands for Women who Inspire, Support, and Encourage. “I think describing a woman as ‘wise’ is one of the best compliments,” says Gilbert. “That’s what we are striving for.”
Gilbert says W.I.S.E is not just for business owners or female entrepreneurs. It’s for all women who want to meet other driven ladies and support Clinton as a whole. “Our goal is to be more than just a networking group but to build a tribe of women who try to buy in Clinton first,” says Gilbert. “It’s about being invested in the community you live in.”
Gilbert says they look for ways to work with the Clinton Chamber of Commerce, as well as Main Street, and attend city events together. “We take part in fun activities to get to know each other better while supporting Clinton,” she says.
The group meets once a month to have lunch, exchange business cards, and discuss their passions. Each meeting also includes a guest speaker, usually a local business owner. Past speakers have included talks from physical therapist Veronica Barton, Bank Plus, Rick and Robin Smith of Fresh Grown Farm, and a self defense class with Horizon Taekwondo. The guest speaker for the next meeting on May 8th will be Meme’s Bakery.
“Every program is like a light shone on something new,” says Martha Autry. Autry is an independent Arbonne consultant who has been a member of Clinton Career Women for about 6 years. “I enjoy meeting people and learning about other businesses,” she adds.
Wendy Harris and daughter Brittany Kinsey began their monograming and gifts business, Priceless Pizazz, LLC, about 6 years ago. Though they both have day jobs, they enjoy their side business and joined Clinton Career Women this past January. During the April meeting, Priceless Pizazz provided gifts for the speaker, as well as door prizes. “It’s been great to meet other ladies and network,” says Kinsey. “And support other local businesses.”
Kalandria Archie, the group’s Financial Director, is owner and stylist at Shear Essence Salon, manager of Kidz 1st Level Learning Center II, CEO at 1st United Tax & Accounting, and an independent consultant for Rodan + Fields. “I enjoy it for the networking and fellowship,” she says. “It’s a great opportunity to get to know other businesses, receive discounts, and advertise your own business.”
Gilbert stresses the importance of supporting not only female business owners, but Clinton businesses in general. “If we’re not careful, all we’re going to have to shop from is Amazon,” she says. “We’ve got to learn to shop local.”
Clinton Career Women has over 400 members in their Facebook group, with usually 20-45 women in attendance at monthly meetings. Meetings take place on the second Tuesday of each month at Quisenberry Library. The only membership cost is paying in advance for the catered lunches.
This September, W.I.S.E. Network will host its kick off meeting to introduce new members. “Please come,” says Gilbert. “We welcome all women who enjoy supporting local businesses and each other.”