• Gig Harbor Living Local

Education. Support. Relationships.

Local organization encouraging women in business

By Jillian Chandler

Photo By Angie D Photography

This past April, the Alliance of Women Owned Businesses celebrated its 10-year anniversary. A nonprofit membership organization, AWOB was founded by business owners Julie Tappero (previous owner of West Sound Workforce) and Cheri Johnson (senior managing director at Strategic Wealth Advisors), who had a vision: to create a community of learning and support for their peers. What started with just a handful of supporters, a committed task force and entrepreneurial spirit, the organization was formed as a 501c6 serving Kitsap, Pierce and Mason counties. In 2013, Thurston County was added.


“The organization began as a small group and has evolved into an organization of upward of 100 members from the greater Puget Sound region,” says Jessica Hopkins, owner of Rainier Family Medicine in Gig Harbor and AWOB member since 2017. “Our content has evolved in that we aim to provide programming that is relevant to the current business climate and relevant to the needs of our members.”


The Alliance of Women Owned Businesses is not a networking group but focuses on education, support and relationships; fostering business knowledge, expanded skills and confidence, and creating lasting connections as they engage with their expanding community of women in business. “AWOB envisions growing in strength through individual and collective impact while providing members involvement and leadership opportunities,” states Jessica.


AWOB members bring a variety of professions together—such as financial advisors, life coaches, senior living facilities, employment agencies, health care, real estate and much more—allowing like-minded people to share ideas, solve challenges and bring women owned business to the next level. The result? Successful women owned businesses working together to make each other better.


“Surrounding yourself with positive people that help you learn and grow is important in all aspects of life,” shares Julie Thomson, owner of Family First Adult Family Homes. “As a woman business owner, having people in the same space that I can trust and respect is essential. We help each other work through challenges and share resources that allow us to focus on our passion and successfully delegate the rest.”


Julie has been a proud member of AWOB since 2011 and has served on the board of directors for the past several years. A big support of women and equal rights, she says, “AWOB’s encouragement and educational opportunities for women business owners helps bring business to the next level.”


The volunteer board drives their mission, directs development, coordinates meetings and offers activities to the business community to support the interests and needs of women business owners.


Each month, the organization hosts two events: Power Series, held the second Wednesday of each month, offers well-respected speakers who cover various topics to enhance your business. Topics range from best financial practices for your business, marketing in today’s culture to how to build a productive team. The last Tuesday of every month they offer their more informal event, WON—Women Owned Nights. Here, conversations are had between members about a particular topic, and as Julie can attest, “Great relationships are formed, and we all learn valuable information from each other.”


In addition to their monthly programs, AWOB offers mentoring programs, business highlight opportunities and programs to give back to the community. Most recently, AWOB developed a scholarship donation program to support young women entrepreneurs.


The current pandemic has had its effect on the alliance, but they are evolving and adapting in order to continue their mission. “We have mastered Zoom!” laughs Julie. “We miss seeing each other in person, but getting together this way has allowed speakers and guests to join us from anywhere, and that has been the silver lining.”


In addition, she says members of the AWOB are there to give support and advice to those who are going through challenges. “We have new and seasoned business owners. We have sole proprietors and business owners with many employees. The variety of entrepreneurs in this organization is part of what makes it so resourceful. We reach out to each other often and have a website with contact information and a members Facebook page to help keep us connected.”


The Alliance of Women Owned Businesses is a supportive and welcoming organization. Though their focus is on supporting women owned business, men who support their mission are encouraged to join AWOB as well. For those of you thinking of opening your own business or have owned a business in the past, AWOB is for you!


“We currently have around 100 members, and you will hear many of them say, ‘This is the best $125 a year I have spent!’ The education received and quality friendships formed are priceless,” smiles Julie.


If you are interested in finding out more about the Alliance of Women Owned Businesses, and are interested in becoming a member, you can visit AllianceofWomenOwnedBusinesses.org.


“For me personally, this organization represents the importance of equal rights for women. We have come so far, but this fight, it is still far from over,” states Julie. “I feel inspired when I see strong women and men fight for each other and support each other’s successes. With the recent passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the forefront of all of our minds, we are reminded how important it is that we stand up and support each other. It may seem like baby steps, but one person’s actions can make such a difference.”


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