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Aim High Network seeks to enhance opportunities
Mary Mathews and Pam Solberg-Tapper have been convening small groups of professional women for years, so expanding on that notion just seemed a natural fit.
Mathews, the now-retired president and CEO of the Entrepreneur Fund, and Solberg-Tapper, an executive coach, did just that last month when they collectively launched the Aim High Network in the Twin Ports.
“We both had people coming together in small groups,” said Mathews. “Then we began to talk about what would happen if we brought the two groups together and added a few names.”
“We’re bringing women together that aren’t in the same circles,” added Solberg-Tapper.
About 60 women attended the Aim High kick off event on Sept. 10, which Mathews asserts is a testament to the desire women leaders in the region have to connect with one another.
“Women often go out of the region for support because there isn’t anything obvious here,” said Mathews.
Marva Beckman, asset manager for the AtWater Group, was among those who attended the kickoff event. She wasn’t sure what to expect but said she went to make new connections.
“I was hoping to meet new people in the business community that I could network with as well as having a chance to meet new people that could offer different perspectives about what’s happening” in the community, she said.
“I loved their lead,” added attendee Lisa Blade, creative director of Lisa Blade Designs. “I liked the idea of connecting with other female entrepreneurs. That grabbed me. I also wanted to see who was doing what” in the region.
While business networking is expected to happen at Aim High events, the two founders are clear that the network isn’t designed to be another Chamber After Hours event.
In a short mission and vision statement, Aim High lays out its goals: “Aim High Network’s purpose is to connect you to other inspiring women entrepreneurs and leaders for the purpose of uplifting and supporting you in your work. While new opportunities are likely to emerge through participation in the network, this is not a forum for direct marketing for your business.”
The September kickoff event wasn’t open to the public. Mathews and Solberg-Tapper didn’t simply throw the net wide and then see what they caught. Rather, Aim High is an invitation-only network. The founders say it’s both exclusive and not exclusive. The key word for the new network is “inspiring.”
Invitations went out to about 130 women in the region - women that the two founders believe to be doing something “inspiring” in either the public or private sector. Mathews noted the two looked for women in business but also women who are regional leaders in government and the nonprofit sector.
“We looked across industries and sectors,” said Solberg-Tapper. “This is about women making a difference and an impact.”
Costs for the upstart network are being covered by charging participants a small fee for events. The network also is actively seeking sponsorships from the business community. Thus far, the network has received financial support from the Entrepreneur Fund and Blackwater. Mathews and Solberg-Tapper are donating their time as well.
Although the group is starting relatively small, the founders say there is room for growth. They will be asking current members for the names of other women to invite as they progress.
Aim High is committed to four events, including the kickoff held last month. But, there are other possibilities for connecting women in the region, say Mathews and Solberg-Tapper. A website, www.aimhighnetwork.org is currently under construction and the founders have plans to establish social media connections for network members. The two also are considering the possibility of small group get-togethers and other endeavors.
“We haven’t really landed on anything yet,” Mathews said of future plans.
Although no one is yet sure how long the network will continue or how large it will become, Mathews and Solberg-Tapper do have a clear vision of success. They say the network will have achieved its goals when there are more women in leadership roles in the region, when women feel supported in their current leadership roles, and “more room at the top” is opened to women in the region.
“With this network, we want to create something that creates value – a place where women can share inspiring stories,” said Solberg-Tapper.
Beckman said that although she’s only attended one event, her interest was piqued. “There are a lot of interesting ladies that went,” she said.
About the founders:
Pam Solberg-Tapper, CEO of Coach for Success, is an Executive Coach who sparks her clients to set strategy, take action, and stay focused to get results. Pam is passionate about helping her clients be their best version of themselves. With an MBA, over 20 years of senior level leadership experience and as a successful business owner, Solberg-Tapper has the solid foundation to address the many business and life challenges that face leaders today.
Mary Mathews is CEO of Mathews and Company; a consulting company founded with the belief that successful entrepreneurs are the backbone of a growing economy and healthy communities. Mathews is a serial entrepreneur. She co-founded the Entrepreneur Fund in 1989 and served as its CEO until she successfully retired in 2013. During her tenure, the Entrepreneur Fund helped entrepreneurs in northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin grow over 1,300 companies with technical assistance, support and financing.Previous BusinessNorth Exclusives Articles:
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