I first received money for my artwork the summer of 1970. My co-designer, Noonie Shear, and I were encouraged by our Professor/Producer, Jim Cavanaugh, to display and sell our pen and ink drawings for patrons during the premiere season of the Mount Holyoke College Summer Theatre. Our prices ranged from $2-10 per piece, and we did brisk business.

It was a few years later that I displayed and sold my Ukrainian Easter eggs at the Pink Tent Festival in Stamford, CT.  At that time I regarded myself as a freelance artist and operated in that manner, waiting for opportunities to come to me and taking advantage of them when they did.

Then, in the late-80s, I joined the Entrepreneurial Woman’s Network (EWN) and discovered that I was actually a small business owner who had been operating in a void that EWN quickly filled.

There I began to meet other women business owners and to learn how to give an elevator pitch, set a goal, write a business plan and lead remarkable women. More important, for this entrepreneur, I learned that I had acquired knowledge that others sought and was invited to share that knowledge with my peers. That early participation on panel discussions and leading workshops for my colleagues  gave me the confidence to seek other networks and associations with whom to demonstrate my newfound expertise. And, more important, to seek out and create opportunities rather than passively wait to be asked.

Many women from EWN have become lifelong friends, trusted vendors, exceptional clients and mastermind partners. I was inspired, at numerous lunch events, by hearing other successful women share their stories and strategies for success. I’m grateful to them all.

This week we members received notice that EWN would be closing its doors. Like many institutions that have shut down in the past few years, EWN suffered from lack of volunteers willing to take leadership roles, dwindling attendance and a vastly different workforce than when it was formed 30+ years ago when it was the only show in town.

Six women began gathering for lunch back in 1982 and exchanged ideas and suggestions for how to improve their small companies. The group’s original purpose was to help one another by talking about and sharing problems. At the time, their only competition was the local Chamber of Commerce which supported small businesses with different demographics and needs.

EWN was born from the need for women to talk to and hear the voices of other women. Lucky for us they found each other and founded a network that would live to benefit so many over its 30+ years of existence. My Soul Proprietor’s Coaching Program continues to serve that need via a virtual community of women business owners.

Just last week I had the opportunity to attend at least four different women’s networking groups, each with a different focus. This broad a selection was unheard of when I started my business. EWN was there first (for me) and served its membership nobly and well.

I cherish my the relationships formed there and mourn the loss of that special niche that EWN filled.

RIP EWN.

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