Businesswomen Find 'Strength in Numbers' With Two Rivers Networking Group
The Two Rivers Women in Business Consortium will meet on Aug. 9.
How do businesswomen network differently than their male counterparts? Well, with prizes, for one.
You can add to that list hugs, collaboration and generous encouragement. But don't be fooled by the warm reception at the Two Rivers Women in Business Consortium (TRWBC) that meets monthly in Rumson. These women are all about making connections and promoting their businesses.
Chief among them is Deborah Anne Jurek-Downie, a professional who started a version of the group two years ago with a core group of women.
She hosted her monthly networking breakfast at Bingham Hall on July 11 with her fast-talking, high-energy pace that belied the fact that she was running on two hours sleep. As soon as she broke down the meeting space this chartered financial analyst would hop in the car to drive 30 minutes to meet with a client.
And never mind the computer problems or the room set-up hurdles she had to navigate prior to 25 women pouring through the door at 7:45 a.m., Downie has a drive she has honed during 28 years on Wall Street, which fuels her passion to connect and build up women in their ventures.
"It's definitely a man's world," the Middletown resident told Patch. "A woman has to be two times as smart and gets paid a third."
Open to all women
After she left Wall Street, Downie, who now works for Bankers Life & Casualty Company of Tinton Falls, tried to operate in the existing networking circles of the Two River area but she said it was too confining. "There were a lot of rules and penalties if you didn't do something," she said. "The way men like to play," she added.
"Women," Downie says, "are natural nurturers. Women love giving back." And that's why at her monthly networking group, membership is open to all women and features a speaker every month from a different charity.
Downie kicked off the July meeting with a plug for Kinder Cuts of Middletown, owned by fellow founding TRWBC member Julie Erickson. Holding up a flier she created, Downie talked about the services Kinder Cuts offers, such as hair cuts for men and women and glamour parties for girls.
"If each one of us gives this to someone, we can help Julie's business," Downie said.
Meetings are run in a roundtable format, with each woman standing up to introduce herself and her business. Besides jumping to exchange business cards, the women also seem to jump to pass on helpful connections to each other. Attendees are invited to display their products and company literature. In July, Denise Smolucha, a jewelry designer from West Long Branch, showed off her work.
Downie founded the group two years ago with Cameron, Erickson, Bev Beveridge, a public relations representative and radio host, and Denise Benbrook, an independent AFLAC representative from Leonardo. Within the last two years the group's membership and meetings have waxed and waned, but recent meetings saw more than 20 women each, from a variety of industries.
Smith, also a former Wall Streeter, said it's groups such as TRWBC that will help lead younger women to be entrepreneurs.
"I know what its like to be a woman who is not supported by the traditional structure," Smith said. "Women are different than men as leaders. We manage and lead differently, and there is strength in numbers. We have different strengths and skills and to share that ... women are better at sharing."
Giegerich, who also is the creative inspiration behind Kick Cancer Overboard, came to the most recent TRWBC breakfast to support the featured charity speaker, Monica Vermeulen of The Laura Ashley Foundation, but ended up reconnecting with Smith, who had donated a portion of her book sales to Kick Cancer Overboard. She also found a whole new group of connections, which to her is the most important business move she can make.
"The reason I am able to do it faster and deeper is because of my connections in the community," she said.
The Two Rivers Women in Business Consortium will meet again at 7:45 a.m. Aug. 9 at Bingham Hall in Rumson. The cost is $15 or $20 with a $5 donation to the featured charity of the month, CPC Behavioral Healthcare. To attend, e-mail Debbie Downie or call (732) 245-7589 by 4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 7.