Much can change in 30 years, a fact Kathy Sanders Martin, 51 (pictured on page 85), was well- aware of when she decided to open her Nampa, Idaho, consulting firm two years ago.
"Having been gone [from Nampa] for 30 years [due to a relocation], I lost contact with people in the business community. It was like starting from scratch," remembers the owner of Custom Business Projects, which assists people with their business plans and marketing plans.
A chance sighting of a conference notice in her local paper's business section provided Martin with a valuable networking avenue. The important announcement: The Women's Network for Entrepreneurial Training (WNET) was hosting a trade show for women. "That was my first contact with WNET, when I was really in the early stages of putting together my business plan," Martin says. "I thought WNET was a great way to meet other women in the business community."
Not one to merely attend, Martin immediately got involved in the Idaho WNET by first participating in one of the group's round-table conferences, then volunteering to help put together a marketing plan for the organization. In the process, she became a WNET mentor.
"When I did the marketing plan, a committee of six women helped me, and one of my goals was to show them how to go through the process of putting together a marketing plan--understanding the competition, developing a marketing strategy," Martin says. "Then they could take this information back and apply it directly to their businesses."
This mentoring program is one of the key components of WNET, says Martin. Each year, the organization holds three conferences that provide information on topics such as customer service, marketing, operations and strategic planning. After the larger conferences, smaller groups of women meet regularly for one to two hours in mini-WNETs to learn more about subjects explored at the larger meetings.
"These mini-WNETs often become very tightknit groups," says Martin. "They typically each have a different focus and give lots of moral support."
Editor's Note: Each WNET mentoring program operates individually. Some, like the Idaho organization, have moved away from the program's original one-on-one counseling. To find out about your local WNET, contact your nearest SBA office.
Custom Business Projects, (208) 463-9308, firstname.lastname@example.org