Now that the holidays are over, Rochester women are looking for a fresh start.
That's Cynthia Smith's feedback about why Rochester Women's Network had a packed house at its first event of the year on Thursday at the Cooperative Extension Building on Highland Avenue.
"I think more and more women are looking at networking as a form of community," said Smith, co-chair of the Free Networking Committee. January and September generally are the times when women are "back and engaged," added Sandy Richardson, RWN's director of operations.
Founded in 1978, RWN has been known as the largest women's network of its kind in the country. With about 350 members (formerly more than 500), it is a diverse network with goals that help women support each other, advance their careers, grow businesses, increase customers (or donor bases) and make friends.
Heather Smith, a five-year member, is RWN's new president since Jan. 1. She follows Leanne Reed, who completed her term on Dec. 31. "I think the overall theme for this year for us is going to be a year of brand visibility of RWN in the community," said Smith. "We used to have a large membership and we were out in the community. The primary thing is let's get back out there."
Another objective is mentoring women in transition, said Richardson. About 15 percent of members are in flux, searching for jobs. The network offers a Women in Career Transition program to help.
Laurie Flagg, a sales professional, and her sister, Sarah Christopher, of Snow Ski and Board at Pittsford Plaza, recently joined the network. "I joined last month after an orientation," said Christopher, who also has her own custom embroidery business. "I thought it was terrific." Flagg, who has been unemployed for a few weeks, tapped into the network within days of being without work. "I went to a meeting, heard what was going on and joined," Flagg said. "I had a lot of positive energy with the people I met, encouragement, as well as places to look and ways to develop and which direction to go."
Smith says RWN is exploring ways to better connect its mission with causes in the community. Coming events include a free new member orientation and recruitment event at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Cornell Cooperative Extension. A financial panel discussion will be at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 24. Cost for the program is $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Each year, the network also sponsors the "W Award," Women inspiring women. For more information, go to rwn.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow Cynthia Benjamin on Twitter at twitter.com/cynthiabenjamn