Barbara Samuel is a freelance writer and editor by trade, operating All Write, LLC. She also works as a writing coach and teacher — many of her coaching clients are students in middle and high school.
“I provide half-day and multi-session writing classes for groups and businesses,” Samuel said. “And I edit everything from reports and web copy to e-books and proposals. I love what I do.”
But she has another job — she’s just finishing a term as president of Wisconsin Women Entrepreneurs (WWE), an organization that has more than quadrupled its membership since 2011.
Q: First of all, what does the organization do and how many members does it have?
A: Wisconsin Women Entrepreneurs (WWE) empowers women in business through inspiration, support and collaboration. WWE helps women succeed as engaged members of the community by providing opportunities for education, networking, mentoring and philanthropy. WWE values and seeks diverse and inclusive membership. We strive for full participation in the organization by all women business owners, entrepreneurs and service providers. Our members come from a variety of industries and backgrounds to share experiences and resources in a collaborative environment. We have about 175 members.
Q: Your membership has grown from 40 in 2011 to its current 175. Why is that?
A: WWE is the only organization in South Central Wisconsin specifically for women who own their own business, or work for someone else in an entrepreneurial capacity. Members are very welcoming and supportive. Most women who visit one of our meetings immediately feel the positive energy in the group. We have weekly breakfast networking meetings, a monthly dinner with program and a monthly brown bag lunch at a member’s business. We also have a monthly cocktail hour, numerous educational events and several special interest groups that meet regularly. We encourage members to get to know each other and discover how they can help promote their businesses. Finally, membership dues are reasonable for the beginning entrepreneur.
Q: You came to this organization fairly recently. How did that happen? What’s your background?
A: I worked for state government for most of my career. When I retired in 2011, I founded my own business, but I had no previous experience as an entrepreneur. It was intimidating to put myself out there and learn to network, which I’d never really needed to do before. When I attended my first WWE meeting, I knew I’d found a group of like-minded women who would support me.
Q: Why do women need a special organization — what does it provide?
A: WWE provides support, education and community. It isn’t just women, it’s women entrepreneurs. Many of our members are in business alone. Some of them are beginners. Women sometimes feel more comfortable learning from other women, confiding their doubts and fears. Long-lasting friendships are formed. And members in similar fields don’t compete with each other; they meet and share ideas and solutions. The organization exists to help all women succeed in business.
Q: What are you most proud of in your work with WWE?
A: When I joined WWE, the organization was still young, and I felt it had a lot of potential. I joined the board as education chair and developed workshops and classes to help women at all stages of their entrepreneurial careers. We provide opportunities for members to present short workshops on their areas of expertise. We bring in women leaders from the Madison community for quarterly morning workshops, and last year we partnered with WWBIC to provide monthly business development classes for our members.
Q: Is it a different experience from your prior career?
A: There is no comparison. Our members range from beginning entrepreneurs to women who have owned their businesses for decades. Ages range from mid-20s to early 80s. And businesses are as varied as you can imagine, from doctors and lawyers to pet sitters and jewelry designers; from financial planners to alternative healers. Our members include contractors, florists, realtors, portrait photographers, acupuncturists, life coaches, landscape designers, chefs, optometrists, wardrobe advisers, heirloom appraisers, chiropractors, intuitives, artists, bankers, web designers, travel planners, and retail business owners. Our members are enthusiastic and energetic. They support each other.
Q: What’s your hope for the organization going forward?
A: We are an all-volunteer organization. Our board members are committee chairs, and the committee members do the lion’s share of the work. I would like to see WWE continue to provide educational opportunities to its members and reach out to new members. Last year, we established a foundation, which is still in development. And WWE supports GIRLS’ BIZ, a program teaching middle school girls how to plan and start a business, sell products, keep the books and then contribute some of their earnings to a charity of their choice at the end of the school year. We’d like to expand this program to have multiple chapters in Madison.