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Watauga Women in Leadership Brings Local Ladies Together for Networking, Friendships


By Jessica Isaacs

In less than one year, a small get together among local ladies has grown into a massive networking opportunity, bringing women together from all aspects of the community to establish personal friendships and successful working relationships.

Watauga Women in Leadership began last fall as a meet-and-greet with ASU’s Chancellor Sheri Everts, designed to introduce her to leading ladies in the area.

Organized by Boone Area Chamber of Commerce Director of Operations Barbara Armstrong, the inaugural luncheon event with Chancellor Everts also included:

  • Gillian Baker, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System
  • Lauren Fontaine, Appalachian Family Chiropractic
  • Regina Hartley, Caldwell Community College
  • Susan Jones, Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corp.
  • Lynne Mason, Boone Town Council
  • Heather Hulberg Norris, Appalachian State University
  • Mary Louise Roberts, Yadkin Bank

“When the chancellor came to town, we put together a lunch because we saw a need for a women’s group,” Armstrong said. “We brainstormed with her and had the idea for a women’s networking group, and it has just snowballed ever since.”

WWIL was well received in the community and was later adopted by the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce as the first all-women group of its kind in the area, although it is not limited to chamber members.

Unlike other leadership organizations, Armstrong said WWIL does not require fundraising, dues or anything else of its members.

“Whether its management or business owners in the community, WWIL allows us to get to know one another on a more personal level. Many of us wear different hats, not only through our jobs but in serving nonprofits and other things,” Armstrong said. “They often require something of you, but that’s the whole purpose of WWIL — it is women supporting each other in what we already do without requiring anything else of us.”

Since its first get together, WWIL has hosted several networking events. Chancellor Everts hosted a dinner at her home for more than 80 members, and Tamela Everett of Everett Nissan hosted a large number of members at the dealership.

Also, inspired by the group’s potential and what it stands for, Carolina West Wireless has since stepped up to sponsor WWIL.

Most recently, General Manager Vicky McLean of Meadowbrook Inn and Suites offered up the Blowing Rock hotel as the spot for WWIL’s latest round robin-style networking session, which brought together more than 125 people on June 11. Much like the concept of speed dating, participants had approximately three minutes each to meet face-to-face and exchange contact information with every other guest in the room.

“Once we had everyone together, we wanted to get everyone out of their comfort zones, because people tend to group with people they already know at certain events,” Armstrong said. “But everyone got to know someone knew. I thought I knew everybody, but there were women in the room that I didn’t know until then.”

Participating guests brought in products for a silent auction that represented their businesses and/or their roles in the community. Local real estate brokers Margo Lenmark and Anne Rasheed served as emcees and auctioneers, and the auction raised more than $2,000 that will support future networking events.

“Looking ahead, we plan to host an event quarterly. We will have our next meeting soon and may be able to have an informal picnic this summer,” Armstrong said. “Our next event will be a dinner with Chancellor Everts as the motivational speaker. We are looking for sponsorship to help underwrite this and other events in the future.”

To learn more about WWIL, contact Armstrong at the chamber at 828-264-2225 or check out the group on Facebook.

“It is amazing what we can do when you put women together,” Armstrong said.


Check out these photos from the June 11 WWIL networking event at Meadowbrook Inn:











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