A small group of young women came together on Saturday, March 16, to learn about the realities that modern businesswomen face every day.
Emily Halley, a Goshen High School senior, organized the Young Women in Business program, which featured a surprise kickoff appearance by U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Elkhart. Walorski told the 15 women gathered at the Goshen Chamber of Commerce that women are becoming the driving force in the business world.
Halley, who plans on studying marketing, has been influenced by Tom Rath and his 2007 book “StrengthsFinder 2.0,” which was the vehicle she used as she talked to the group about the importance of “developing our strengths” instead of the opposite.
“I started this group because we tend to focus on our flaws, and we tend to tear each other down,” said Halley, before telling the group to “turn to the person next to you and give each other a compliment.” The women then broke into small groups to talk about finding strengths and how to exploit them.
“Your strengths are really what separates you from everyone, and when you focus on your strengths you’re an achiever, and you’re responsible,” Halley said.
The women discovered that “harmony, achiever, responsibility and consistency” are the strengths they share the most.
Michele Fanfair-Steury, owner of The Gift of G.A.B. (Goshen’s Alternative Boutique), spoke about overcoming the “conflicts and roadblocks” in life and business that a modern woman, wife, mother and daughter faces.
“All those hats — you still wear those,” Fanfair-Stery said.
“Seventy-two hours is a lot when you have a kid, but as women we do it all the time,” said Fanfair-Steury, who told a tale of her trials and tribulations as a business owner that led her to New York City to interview as many shop and boutique owners as possible, so she could figure out “why all these businesses can make it. What makes it possible to survive here with all these good things that people can choose from?”
When Fanfair-Steury got home, her husband asked her what she had learned, and she responded, “I need to move back to Main Street.”
Michele had moved her business from Main Street to a location in an alley that she loved, but as she told the young women, “it really comes down to if I’m going to spend this much money; this front door is my marketing.”
Sarah Wysong, a junior from NorthWood, said that she hoped to gain “a better understanding of what it’s like to be a woman in business and how to pursue your dreams, and like Jackie said, ‘have passion’ and ‘just to go after it, and never give up’ and ‘just to have other connections in the community that you know can help guide you in your decisions.’”
Alicia Cuzzocrea, a junior at Goshen High School, said that she hopes to take home new knowledge about “marketing” and “being successful,” and that her biggest concern about being a businesswoman is “having debt and not being successful.”
“You always have to have a fallback, and you have to plan for the worst but hope for the best, and I think there are a lot of risks that you have to take when you go into business,” she said.