Women Inspiring Women celebrates fifth anniversary

Women throughout New Hampshire are taking charge in their personal and professional lives.

“There are lots of women starting businesses in New Hampshire,” said Leslie Sturgeon, founder of Women Inspiring Women. “Women are heading in a great path.”

Women Inspiring Women is an organization for women of all ages, dedicated to personal and professional growth in the workplace. Founded in 2007, the organization celebrated its fifth anniversary this year.

“It’s about making women realize they have the potential to do whatever they want to do,” Sturgeon said. “From stay-at-home moms to 81-year-old women.”

Sturgeon, who comes from a long line of entrepreneurs, started her business at age 22 in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. After doing so, Sturgeon realized there wasn’t any organization in New Hampshire dedicated to encouraging women in the workplace.

“I come from an entrepreneurial family. Many were niche businesses. Marketing was always a challenge,” Sturgeon said. “I was used to finding a need and filling it and then telling people why they need to experience it. I came up with a list of about 500 people that I knew would be interested in the organization and had a kick-off event.”

Since the kick-off event in 2007, the organization has grown four times in the past three years, spreading from the Lakes Region to the Seacoast, Concord, southern New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts. The newsletter has grown from 500 women in 2007 to 4,000 women in 2012.

“It is the largest organization dedicated to providing women with education, support and resources for their growth and personal development,” Sturgeon said.

According to JobProfiles.org, women make up 46 percent of the total U.S. labor force but earn 77.5 cents for every dollar that men earn.

Women Inspiring Women is made up of women primarily from New Hampshire. Members attend business seminars, social gatherings and mentoring groups. Some events are for members only, but others are open to nonmembers.

“Women are trying to juggle everything,” Sturgeon said. “Our mentoring groups are about accountability and taking action. It’s like having your own board of directors.”

Kathleen Peterson, a Bedford resident and founder of PowerHouse Consulting, has been a member of Women Inspiring Women since its beginnings. “Kathleen is one of my speakers and biggest supporters,” Sturgeon said.

“To be able to participate in activities in New Hampshire around women from the professional development perspective is inspiring,” Peterson said. “It’s not about chit-chatting. It’s very real and brings people to facilitate change. It gives women a voice.”

Peterson is the author of several articles and is published in some of the top industry journals in the U.S. and abroad. She is featured monthly in the Call Center Times online newspaper.

Peterson, who grew up with brothers, realized at an early age that she couldn’t have a boss.

“I had my kids and stayed home with them but wanted to work my own schedule and make decent money,” Peterson said. Peterson went on to establish PowerHouse Consulting, a multimillion-dollar consultant firm that has been in business for 25 years.

“I’ve helped women who are tied up with their family businesses,” Peterson said. “One women got herself into a situation, and I helped her get to a place where she is comfortable. If she hadn’t gone to the Women Inspiring Women meetings, perhaps she wouldn’t be in a fulfilling environment.”

“A lot of women come into our programs really shy,” Sturgeon said. “I had one woman attend seminars as a very quiet, private person, but went on to to start her own business.”

Sturgeon said most of her members go on to start businesses focused primarily in New Hampshire.

“We have some women who start their own consultant firms, and those go national,” Sturgeon said.

Sturgeon’s future plans for Women Inspiring Women include new programs for women inspiring young girls and more mentor groups for women who are just starting out in the business world.

On June 22, there will be a daylong entrepreneur seminar in Bedford at SERESC Conference Center. The seminar will be broken into six sessions, all aimed at motivating women in the workforce. Bedford residents can register for the event by going to www.wiwnh.com.

“My future goals are to stay concentrated in New Hampshire.” Sturgeon said. “I’m a New Hampshire resident and proud of the high-caliber women who live here.”

Katelyn Dobbs can be reached at 594-6549 or kdobbs@nashuatelegraph.com.