Park City Women’s Business Network changes course with monthly speaker series
October 15, 2018
Once a month, a group of women ranging in age and occupation gather to catch up with one another, grab a bite to eat and listen to one woman share a personal story and message.
While it is not what one may expect from a business networking organization, it is the new format of the Park City Women's Business Network.
The network started in 1993 as a place for women in business to build connections and further develop their skills in the workforce. Events always centered around business, until president Kathleen Barlow decided to switch things up.
Now, the network holds monthly "Tent Talks," where a speaker presents a theme, or directive, such as mindfulness, gratefulness and resiliency. At the most recent meeting, the topic was grief.
It’s more of a group of women that want to connect authentically. We are bringing women together to just connect,” Kathleen Barlow, Park City Women’s Business Network
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Barlow said the feedback from members so far has been, "This is what we want," and that attendance at the events increased as soon as they made the change.
She came up with the idea for tent talks after the network's regular event in May, which featured vendors, speakers and panelists all focused on improving business. But this one was a little different, because it included a panel of women talking about spirituality and overcoming difficult times in life. Other women started to open up too, and Barlow said women started to connect at the meeting in a way she had never seen before.
She saw how receptive people were of the panel, and she realized that talking about hard, real topics might be exactly what women needed.
The first tent talk took place one month later.
She called them tent talks because of the book "The Red Tent," from Anita Diamant. In the novel, the red tent was a place where women gathered during biblical times to support each other, and Barlow wanted to recreate that in Park City.
Now, all women, regardless of whether or not they own a business, are invited to attend.
"It's more of a group of women that want to connect authentically. We are bringing women together to just connect," Barlow said.
Keri Turbeville, an independent consultant for Rodan and Fields and a member of the network since 2014, said the change was noticeable, because it attracted a more diverse group of women.
"Before, it was focused more on networking, and now it's focused on how we can help each other," she said.
She said the tent talk topics have been interesting, too.
Anna Washington, an information technology consultant, said she enjoys gathering with other women and discussing problems that affect almost everyone.
"I think it's a great way to connect with women who are going through similar things as you, things that are really relatable," she said.
At the last meeting, women gathered at the Athleta store to hear grief coach Jill Zimmerman tell her own story of grieving. Women nodded along during her speech and offered hugs at the end of the event. Barlow said the networking format they used to have did not seem to work for women, because women do business differently than men.
Because of the change, Kelly Carter, a software consultant, decided to come back to the group after taking a hiatus. She said that the environment now is more welcoming and comfortable.
"We don't do business like we used to. I want to know you before I'm going to do business with you," Barlow said. "I don't want to know what you do first, I want to know who you are, and that is really resonating with people."
The next tent talk is set to take place on Nov. 13 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Rise Boxing. The theme is nourish. For information about future events, and the network itself, visit http://www.pcwbn.com.
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