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Women network online

By Pam Mellskog
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — Though often the meat-and-potatoes of building a healthy business, networking tastes to some hopeful entrepreneurs more like a lemon.

“If you’re not really outgoing and able to go up and talk to anybody about everything, you’re not going to have a great experience at typical networking organizations,” said Teri Robnett, 45, of Whole Brain Technologies, a web-development and on-line marketing company in Louisville.

That, she said, is why she joined eWomen Network a year ago.

Since Sandra Yancey launched the Dallas-based organization in 2000, it has grown to 80,000 members and 80 chapters, five of which exist in Colorado, said Gigi Wiegman, the organization’s executive managing director in Colorado.

The idea — to create woman-friendly networking via monthly meetings and establish a Web site to host every member’s business profile — caught on with its ideological and practical mix, Wiegman said.

“We’re intentionally spending our money with other women business owners,” she said. “We’re creating a good-old-gal’s network of giving first and sharing always.”

President Bush recently named Yancey as one of the nation’s top 50 businesswomen for helping other women succeed economically.

But besides picking up extra business — currently, a contract to redesign Denver magazine Zenith Women’s Web site — Robnett picked up tips to polish her presentation, she said.

Members use meetings to, among other things, practice delivering their “30-second commercial,” she said, which covers sharing your name, what you or your company does and what you need.

“I am not necessarily a fan of networking organizations because I’ve always felt very tackled by people asking, ‘Who are you?’ and ‘What do you do?’ and ‘Here’s my card,’” said Adele Britton, 56, a love and relationship expert.

“But I didn’t have this sense of being picked over at a bargain basement. Instead, it felt like an honoring way of sharing with people who can be helpful, not ‘What’s in it for me?’”

Jenifer Madson, 42, last month stepped in as the Boulder chapter leader.

As a self-employed financial success coach for the past 14 years, she had plenty of experience with networking groups.

But this one, she said, provides more structure and less pressure.

The one-time membership fee costs $290, Wiegman said. To maintain a business profile or link on the eWoman Network Web site runs $16.95 monthly.

“We are still looking for women in all of our business categories, be it a piano tuner or a dentist,” she added.

Pam Mellskog can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 224, or by e-mail at pmellskog@times-call.com.