We are living in a new day. We are living in a day where anything is possible. We are living in a day when we refuse to let gender block the progress of a woman with a dream. Dreams have been buried in the hearts of many women over the years for various reasons. However, when given tools to empower themselves, women are an unstoppable force to be reckoned with and will rise to the occasion when opportunities are created. The National Association of Women Business Owners in Los Angeles (NAWBO-LA), and nationwide, seek to pull out the greatness within women who have a vision for a business. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with three incredible individuals who shared their experience with NAWBO-LA.
Nathalie Virem: Tell us about your experience within the organization over the course of this time.
Madelyn Alfano: At first I was just invited as a member. I rapidly rose through the ranks of the board and became the foundation chair. Now, I’m currently the foundation chair. What initially inspired me to get involved is my desire to be around women business owners who share so many of the same experiences. For example, raising a family, having a partner, and running a business.
Nathalie Virem: I understand that a lot of women come here to have support from the community to overcome challenges, like balancing a full schedule with a family and business. Is that your experience?
Madelyn Alfano: Yes, we collaborate. We share best practices, which is so important on the receiving end when you are building your business because you are learning from people who have real-world experience. They are sharing those growing pains, problems that they’ve encountered, and solutions that have worked for them. Furthermore, there are many educational opportunities.
Nathalie Virem: You have done a lot of work with empowering women in the past few years. How is NAWBO-LA empowering women business owners to actually succeed in business?
Schenae Rourk: This is actually the 32nd Annual Leadership and Legacy Award, so we are very excited about being here again at the JW Marriott. NAWBO-LA has been here in Los Angeles since 1979 and we advocate on behalf of women business owners in the Greater LA areas. We have more than 544,000 women business owners in the greater Los Angeles area. We propel them forward within a sphere of influence, power, and economic opportunities. We have 12 chapters throughout the state of California and 60 nationwide, so we are a large organization of over 10 million nationally.
Nathalie Virem: Today is an important Gala event for your organization and it’s done once a year. Tell us what this event is about.
Schenae Rourk: It is a day to honor leadership and legacy of phenomenal women business owners, leaders, and entities. This year we are going to honor two organizations that have really gone above and beyond to help create economic opportunities for women business owners. Additionally, we are honoring three successful business women who have really charted the course. This year’s theme is about the power of our voices to advocate for women in business. This is important because it’s a collective voice of all of us —men, women, and everyone coming together— to do what is right, to do what is disruptive in a positive way, and to create more economic opportunities.
A new member
Nathalie Virem: As the youngest member of the NAWBO-LA association, what has been your experience? What actually brought you to come to the organization? What are your expectations?
Sana Rahim Khan: I just started a nonprofit consulting practice a few months ago. As a new business owner, I was alone in my journey trying to figure out how to overcome the obstacles I was facing. So, someone from NAWBO-LA reached out to me. I thought this might be a unique way to become part of a bigger community of women who are running their own businesses. It’s been a fantastic experience so far. I really feel like I’m more connected to people who have experience and can help answer some of the questions that I’ve been trying to figure out by myself all of this time.
Nathalie Virem: What would you say has actually captured your attention in these past few months?
Sana Rahim Khan: I think the biggest thing that stands out for me is the diversity that NAWBO brings. I think there are a lot of women organizations and groups that are still trying to figure out how to make a diverse and inclusive environment. When I saw the team at NAWBO, I saw the narratives and the experiences of the women that were coming to the table. There is a lot of diversity, which I think is really important. That is the space we are creating for women to really make room for people who have unique narratives and stories.
NAWBO-LA is a phenomenal organization that is not only empowering women to be a success and to step into their greatness, but it’s an inclusive space that is fostering a foundation for positive change and a positive paradigm shift. Women have always had a voice, but now it’s a voice that can be heard more than ever. With NAWBO’s continued growth and support, millions of more women will continue to accomplish their goals and live out their dreams.