Women gather to talk business

Encouraging women business owners to look for the small opportunities that combine to create success was the message of Talia Hansen, the keynote speaker at the Women in Business Conference and Expo held March 8-9 in Richfield.

The second year of the conference brought about 120 participants together to share ideas, network with each other and learn new skills that will help them grow their businesses.

“She came in with her own personal story,” said Christine Hanks, director of the Ephraim Small Business Development Center and the organizer of the conference, speaking of Hansen. “She was highlighting ’finding your opportunity.’ She wound into her keynote message how she had found opportunity even at a very young age of 3. She was one of the children that actually survived the El Salvador civil war.”

Hansen delivered a message that let attendees know that they can do anything they put their minds to.

“She was ripped out of her mother’s arms and watched her killed,” Hanks said. “She was put in a camp and a gate was left open that was never open, and she saw her opportunity and she left. She was on the street and she found opportunity in the smallest things. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be the big things that lead to opportunity. It’s the smaller things that can lead to large opportunity. I really loved that she intertwined that the turmoils in our life don’t have to keep us from moving forward. She was amazing.”

That message fit in with the ideals the conference is designed to share with its attendees.

“I’ve been with her several times, and she opens her mouth, and I think, ‘I have no excuses,’ Hanks said. “Life is hard and we have trials. Our whole thing was surrounding yourself with people who are going to want you to have better.”

One of the events main areas of focus is networking.

“There are a lot of women experiencing similar things,” Hanks said. “There are women on all different levels. Some are the very best mentors. Do they have to be there to learn some of the tings from the classes? Probably not. They come because they rub shoulders with these women that have ideas, or they’re just barely starting, and they create these relationships that seem to last for a long time.”

The conference brought in representative of SBDC centers from other areas around the state. It allowed those in attendance to learn about microloans and attend a class on writing grants so that they can learn how to get funding for their businesses.

The program is not designed specifically for entrepreneurs, but looks to help women in all areas of business development.

“When I have my monthly meetings, I encourage women who own a business, women who want to start a business and women who run someone else’s business all to join us,” Hanks said. “There are a lot of women in those positions. You don’t need to own a business to need these skill sets. It’s not exclusive.”

After classes that lasted 45 minutes in the first year of the conference, this year’s discussions were expanded to 90 minutes.

“People asked if we could have longer classes,” Hanks said. “There was a great review of that. People loved that you got a little bit more than they did the past year. In 45 minutes, you really can’t get your hands dirty.”

Next year’s conference is tentatively scheduled to take advantage of leap year, as Hanks is looking at Feb. 29 – March 1 as the dates. She is hoping to add a little more emphasis on self-care and to increase the focus on networking.

“If a business owner would like to have a mentor in their particular arena, we’re going to try to locate them one,” Hanks said. “This is a great event to bring them together and have them mingle and learn from people who’ve already walked in their shoes.”