Some things never go out of style, like a little black dress or red lipstick. One thing we can add to this list is supporting women-owned businesses. No one in Northern Colorado is doing more to support women entrepreneurs than the Small Business Development Centers. With 15 full-time centers and 70 part-time satellite centers, the SBDC has helped 266 local start-up businesses.
The SBDC offers entrepreneurs no-cost consulting and low-cost training to succeed and thrive in the businesses they create for the communities they serve. Last year, the SBDC brought back the Women’s Small Business Conference after an extended Covid pause. The 2022 event was the most successful in the history of the conference and this year the trend is continuing.
Formerly the NOCO Women’s Small Business Conference, it is a day designed for women entrepreneurs to learn, gain inspiration, and network. Now the Unstoppable Women’s Business Conference, it is also a special day of education and encouragement for women business owners. This year’s theme, Educate, Encourage, and Empower, is exactly what will happen on October 10 at this conference.
We sat down with some of the organizers of the conference—Kat Hart, Program Director of the Loveland Business Development Center, Hope Hartman, Executive Director of the Larimer County SBDC, and Lisa Hudson, Executive Director of the East Colorado SBDC. As entrepreneurs themselves, these women have so much insight to share into what it means to be a woman entrepreneur and what it takes to succeed in business. They have a passion for helping small businesses succeed and thrive in their local economy and beyond.
What is the overall goal for this year's conference?
KH: We really want attendees to walk away and think, ‘Hey, I learned something new! I can actually do this!’ We don’t want these things to feel overwhelming. We also want to make sure that they’re connected with a good support network because no one is an island. No one can do this by themselves.
HH: The premise of the conference is not only to serve women small business owners but to look at the composition of it. 75% educational and 25% inspirational. The presenters, they are inspirational. They inspire even if they’re trying to teach whatever topic their session is.
LH: I think it goes back to why we chose the theme we did—Educate, Empower, and Engage.
HH: Business owners, in general, tend to go it alone quite a bit. We really are stronger together. People are willing to share the lessons they’ve learned along the way, whether it’s resources or a shortcut. When you create this environment for everybody to come together people are like ‘I’m not alone. There are a lot of people trying to do what I’m doing!’ and so it just creates this energy.
How is this year's conference different from previous years?
KH: We always strive to just do everything bigger and better than the previous year. We try to be more inclusive and have more relevant content. I think one of the biggest changes from previous years is that we sourced from speakers that from outside of our own personal networks. We did an open call for presenters and we got an overwhelming response. Over half of them have never presented for us before, which I think is really cool.
HH: We opened it up to the marketplace to see what topics are top of mind for women entrepreneurs, and that’s how we selected what was being presented this year.
LH: There are 50% returning speakers and the rest have never presented at this conference. They’re new to us, but they had to submit a video. The rigor that they had to go through just to submit the topic, let us know they are willing to put in the effort to make it awesome. I think it’s going to change the conference in a good way.
How has this conference impacted your life and career?
KH: I grew up with a mother that was very involved in supporting other women’s professional development within the Hispanic community in Greeley. Being able to be at the helm of one of these events, supporting other women, it just feels like this great continuation of what she was trying to do and trying to empower me to do and now I get to help other women do the same thing and connect with each other on this really cool, big scale.
HH: For me, it’s the highlight of the year. This is my favorite thing that we do. There is something about creating an event with a group of women. The whole organizing team is a group of women from different centers, all pulling the resources together, building that energy behind the scenes. Building an event that creates energy is just something to be cherished.
LH: We have so much momentum going into this year from last year. Building up to this annual event, it’s about really empowering one another as women leaders and meeting more and engaging and building that network.
This year's conference has an incredible line-up of speakers, including Anika Sawni, a 25 year-old entrepreneur who was named one of Forbes 30 Under 30. Anika has taken the beverage industry by storm. Driven by her vision to change the way people drink and think about non-alcoholic beverages, Anika created the brand Grüvi. Now available in more than 4,000 stores, Grüvi is one of the fastest-growing non-alcoholic brands in North America. In addition to Anika, more than fifteen other speakers at the conference will educate and inspire all that attend.
The Unstoppable Women’s Business Conference takes place on October 10, from 8:30 am to 5 pm, at the Aims Community College Welcome Center, located at 4901 West 20th Street, in Greeley. Tickets can be purchased at the SBDC website, https://eastcoloradosbdc.com/what-we-do/unstoppable-womens-business-conference/
"Building up to this annual event, it’s about really empowering one another as women leaders and meeting more and engaging and building that network." - Lisa Hudson