Women empowered by networking opportunity

President-Elect Dawn Forshag emceed the "Women Mean Business 2018" conference. Nikisun Shrestha/The Lion's Roar

The Louisiana Small Business Development Center at the university joined hands with the Tangipahoa Professional Women’s Organization to host “Women Mean Business 2018” this past week.

On Thursday, March 22, the conference took place in the War Memorial Student Union Ballroom from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

SBDC Assistant Director Sandy Summers shared how the objective behind hosting the conference and the event itself has been diversified over the years.

“Our small business development center has been offering training programs for women in business for quite a while,” said Summers. “In 2010, we started partnering with Tangipahoa Professional Women to offer this event. Just wanted a bigger day with more impact, bigger education, more resources for women in the community. So, since 2010, we’ve been doing this together. It has kind of grown into more than just the education piece. We have a lot of other things going on, the vendor fair, the silent auction area.”

This year’s goal for the conference was to provide scholarships from the proceeds of the event. Summers explained the criteria for qualifying for the scholarship and the application process for the scholarship.

“Right now, we have a scholarship period that’s open for any female Tangipahoa Parish resident,” said Summers. “They can be a student at Southeastern, technical college. They can be working on an ultimate certification, any type of schooling that will further their education or enhance their skill set. They can go to Tangipahoa Professional Women’s website. The application is there, and they can download it. The deadline is April 17.”

Founder of Womencoachwomen and CEO of DYNEL communications Dian Lusher was one of the three speakers in the conference. She described how the conference has grown in participation and resources since its inception in 2010.

Lusher said, “Definitively, from the 45 people from the first one to today’s over 250, certainly a better caliber of everything including door prizes and good speakers, and we worked hard to raise the scholarship money.”

Negotiations Coach and author Jacqueline Twillie and Marketing Director at North Oaks Health System Shantel Johnson were the other two guest speakers at the event. Summers described the qualities in the presentation given by each guest speaker.

“Our negotiation speaker was awesome,” said Summers. “We had someone earlier in the morning that talked about reconnecting with your self and prospering because if you’re not fulfilled, you can’t pour into someone else. Our last speaker talked about embracing change. So, all of those topics are really beneficial for professional women.”

Lusher shared the reason behind speaking about the importance of embracing change.

“I like to talk about change,” said Lusher. “I think that people need to embrace it and know that it’s good for them. I think in today’s world most young people know about that. Certain groups of us have a hard time with change. It’s only for the better, and I really enjoyed talking about it.”

This year’s conference also consisted of a leadership success panel. The panelists were Owner of Thinkerella Cherie Franz, 21st Judicial Court Judge Blair Edwards and Owner of Chalereaux Casey Robert.

According to Summers, the conference was successful in reaching its goal. She also spoke about the turnout at the event.

“It was fabulous,” said Summers. “We actually had to turn some people away because we were at capacity. It has really grown over the years, and to me that says we’re doing something right. People are enjoying it, and they want to come back year after year. So, we’re excited about that.

For me, through the small business development center, our goal is to get information in the hands of people who need it. The speakers that have been here today have done a really good job of communicating the topic.”

Lusher gave her thoughts on what she liked about the event.

“It’s a great conference,” said Lusher. “I mentored this when it first began with Tangipahoa Professional Women, and I can’t believe how much it has grown. The diverse women from all backgrounds really enjoying themselves and learning a lot and being together, it was wonderful.”