On March 30th, Main Street Web Development attended the first annual Women Entrepreneurs Inspire Conference in Oklahoma City. With a goal of 400 attendees, the Oklahoma State University Riata Center for Entrepreneurship outdid themselves with an attendance of over 650 women entrepreneurs! Talk about exciting!! I’m here to tell you that the future of America was sitting all in one room that Tuesday. I’ve been to lots of conferences in my various fields of study, and I’ve never been to a more motivating venue.
The conference was not full of hype and marketing hogwash that fills the typical marketing conference, however. It was real women telling real stories of how they rose from average to extraordinary in their careers. It was real women sitting around me living the true American dream of creating their own jobs and jobs for other people out of their sheer determination and persistence.
Listen to this line up of some of the main speakers:
- Shannon Carter, who launched Crayons to Computers, a free school supply store for teachers that is now found in 41 cities around the country
- Cordia Harrington, “The Bun Lady”, founder, CEO, and president of the Tennessee Bun Company, who supplies buns to national chains such as McDonald’s, Chili’s, and Pepperidge Farm. She also founded several other hugely thriving companies.
- Maxine Clark, founder of Build-A-Bear WorkshopÂ® and winner of many, many prestigious awards
- Dian Stai, founder of Owen Healthcare, and perhaps my favorite speaker of all, for her bravery to take her company forward when all the odds were against her
Both of the breakout sessions I attended were led by Dr. Michael Morris, the N. Malone Mitchell Chair in Entrepreneurship at OSU and head of the new School of Entrepreneurship at OSU. Dr. Morris taught sessions on “Guerilla Marketing: Radical Thinking is the Key” and “Types of Ventures and Types of Entrepreneurs: Knowing Where You are Going”. Both of these sessions gave me valuable insight into my own goals and plans and how I can best go about accomplishing them.
Attending the WE Inspire conference gave me a new appreciation for networking. I’ve always believed in networking–establishing relationships with people outside of my usual circles for our mutual benefit and future potential. But I’ve never before realized so much potential in once place for women that I truly need to have in my life both now and in the future. I met people like Emily Ginn, a virtual assistant, who I might need to call on for administrative work in the future; Amy Morgan, a corporate training consultant and fellow web designer, with whom I am discussing business processes with; Jami Cervantes, a health insurance representative, who gave me some very valuable advice about health insurance for small business owners; Shea Alexander, an artist, designer, and crafter who is starting her own business sewing handmade items. And the list goes on. When I signed up for the conference, I thought I was signing up for good conference speakers and a chance to market my product. I had no idea I would walk away with relationships I intend to keep for the rest of my life.
My friends and fellow entrepreneurs Christa Murphy, Jenni McCadams, and Cara Perez joined me as I set up a table for the Networking Reception. I seriously could not have done this without them. We joked on the way there: “Main Street Web Development. Have awning, will travel.” Bill designed and built an awning frame for the event, and I designed a pattern and sewed the canopy for it. It was a marvelously fun project, and it really made the table look more look like a little storefront. MSWD is not located on Main Street, but the clients we are aiming to reach are those small businesses that are typically located on Main Street in any Smalltown, U.S.A. We want to give small businesses a chance to have great-looking websites in a price-range they can afford. But I digress. At our booth, we had the 24” iMac scrolling through our portfolio and theme gallery, and it garnered lots of attention from passersby, as did the FREE WEBSITE GIVEAWAY we offered for those who gave us their contact information. Very few people turned down the opportunity to win a free website. We even gave extra chances to win for those who did homework, like becoming a fan on Facebook, linking to our website, etc.
And that brings me to the original point of this article–the WINNER. Join me in congratulating Mary Jane Maness, a Broker with Heartland Realty & Consulting, LLC. Mary Jane is a delightful lady, and she does NOT have a website at all, so we are absolutely thrilled to give her the opportunity to get a free website for a whole year. What a great way to start the spring! Thank you to everyone who participated in the contest.
The WE Inspire Conference was a very profitable and enjoyable event, and we at Main Street Web Development look forward to next year’s event. If you live in Oklahoma and aspire to be an entrepreneur, you definitely won’t want to miss it.
When I first started sewing, oh, about 3 or 4 projects ago, my sewing machine and I had to get a few things worked out. First of all, it’s actually Bill’s sewing machine. It’s some foreign job called a Bernina. He says it’s really high end and is “top-of-the-line”, but I wasn’t so sure at first. It sure did have a way of matting up my threads. In the beginning I spent a lot of time fussing at the thing, throwing my hands up, my project down, and hollering for Bill to come see what was wrong with it. He always swore that that machine was in perfect condition and that there was no way it could mess my project up if I was doing it correctly. I begged to differ.
Over time, I’ve finally gotten things smoothed out with Mr. Bernina, and we’ve come to understand each other a little better. It took some give and take, but we’re finally sewing together smoothly. Here are a few of the things I’ve agreed to do.
- Use cheap thread from the fabric store. The “high-end” stuff the Bernina store sells (an hour away) does not suit his taste.
- Always put the foot down before pressing the pedal.
- Make sure the bobbin has thread on it, spins clockwise, and “clicks” upon insertion.
Sheesh! For what this thing cost, you’d think it could handle all that by itself and maybe brew a cup of coffee. But no. I have to baby him. It’s just like having another child in the house.
If someone asks me if I sew, I can’t really answer “yes”. But I do, on occasion, do a random sewing project. The latest project to have taken over my kitchen is a bunch of travel crayon pouches. When I happened upon one at a local boutique, I immediately knew I couldn’t make it another week without trying it out myself. If I were not there to buy two birthday gifts, I probably would have just bought that one. But there was only pink, and not a good “boy” one. The rest is history. Less than a week later, I have two of my own hand-crafted crayon pouches, with several more cut and/or halfway sewn together.
Of course this project had the same small-town-inflicted lack of materials as all of my other projects, but I made up for it with a side-trip to Tuesday Morning on our way to Duncan for a bed and breakfast getaway this week. While there to get bed sheets, I found some cheap scrapbooking trims and ribbons that had a yard of the PERFECT green color of ric-rac to match the French toille leftover from Hunter’s baby bedding. That’s the fabric I made her pouch from, and Will’s I made from scraps left over from his toddler diaper bag I made several years ago. I knew I was saving these scraps for something good! And I have a ton more left.
Bill helped me engineer the pattern, since he’s the real project brain of the two of us, and he helped me figure out how to fix my screw-up halfway through, just like every other project I undertake. I’m tellin’ ya, if it weren’t for Bill, our house would be slap full of screwed up projects. I just have the knack for them. On the first one, I probably did as much seam-ripping as I did sewing, but it turned out so cute I don’t care. It was well-worth the effort. I used a little crayon apron my mom made for me when I was little to gauge the size of the crayon pockets. I made them a good bit smaller than she did, because I don’t want the crayons to fall out if you dump it upside down. (An apron has the benefit of gravity when it’s in use.) I gave it a good shake-test to make sure that when we’re on the plane in July I won’t be chasing crayons down the aisle.
The little travel pouches turned out so well, I’m thinking of making a bunch of them and putting them with coloring books for cute children’s birthday gifts. It will solve the problem of never knowing what to get. I’ve also got my eye on some oriental floral fabric for a knitting needle carrier, and I’m thinking up more possibilities for fabric-covered organizational tools. I really enjoy sewing, as long as I don’t have to navigate some crazy pattern. I’d rather create my own and mess it up a few times than have to spread out fifty billion pieces of marked up tissue paper, trying to figure out which part goes up. Bill thinks I should make some of these little things and sell them. I don’t know if I’ll find the time for that, but a year’s worth of hand-crafted birthday gifts already made would really suit my fancy.