A new networking and support group for women is launching in Farmington on April 5. The group, called B.I.G. (for Believe, Inspire, Grow) originated in New Jersey and now is spreading into the Farmington Valley through Kristi Sullivan, a West Hartford marketing professional and yoga teacher.
“It’s a women’s group that provides support, education and networking for women who want to launch their own business, reenter the workforce or boost their career. There are a variety of women who attend,” Sullivan said.
Stay-at-home moms trying to figure out which way to go for their next career and corporate women are equally welcome and benefit from the educational content and positive atmosphere, according to Sullivan.
“Some are not sure what they want to do and some have an idea but they need that energy around them. Or, like me, being in a corporate position, are looking for connections with other women and the positive energy to move forward on my journey.”
Sullivan’s been involved in B.I.G. for about two years, since she read about the group on West Hartford Patch. That the group catered to the professional needs of women piqued her interest, and she found, fit her needs.
“I’ve enjoyed meeting women and made some really great connections that helped me in my career. And I’ve made great friends,” Sullivan said. “I feel that when women get together, there’s just this energy.”
Two years later, Sullivan was looking to start her own pod – what BIG calls the groups – in the Farmington Valley. She had the support of fellow B.I.G. member and Farmington Economic Development Director Courtney Hendricson.
“We’re trying to provide accessibility for the valley,” Sullivan said. “It’s really open to Canton, Avon, Plainville folks and just to get a little closer to that area.”
“I think the valley is ripe for having one of these groups,” Hendricson said. “I’ve been involved about a year in Glastonbury and West Hartford. We were toying with the idea and I think the valley would attract a lot of people interested in networking and also interested in hearing from other women in their field.”
"The support, encouragement, and advice I have received from our members has given me the tools to build a successful business. For example, at a brainstorming meeting I received excellent advice that led me to change the direction of my business in a way that I would never have thought of myself," said Sue Schaefer, West Hartford's pod leader.
"The end result quadrupled my bottom line in six months. BIG is not just another networking group it's about women helping women. I am so excited the women of Farmington Valley now have a BIG pod right in their own backyard," Schaefer said.
Meetings, held monthly, each feature a speaker, sharing expertise in various areas that might be of interest to the members. Some topics in the West Hartford group have included sales, finances, personal style, nutrition and social media, Sullivan said.
Typically, meetings last an hour and a half, include the speaker’s presentation, a question and answer period and brief introductions when each woman can explain what she’s doing in her career or life.
"I have personally found it pretty inspiring,” Hendricson said. “It’s a nice way, as a touch point each month, to remind yourself that there is more to your work than just what’s on your desk. I’m in other groups too and each has value but I’m looking forward to going back to this meeting each month.”
The first meeting is free and after that, there is a fee to join the BIG organization. Though women may become regulars at a certain pod, they are members of B.I.G. and free to attend any – or all – meetings of its various pods.
B.I.G. has over 1,100 members in more than 50 communities across six states - including active pods locally in Hartford, West Hartford and Glastonbury.
The launch of the Farmington pod will be April 5 from 1-2:30 p.m. at Farmington Gardens on Route 4 in Farmington. Women are encouraged to visit the B.I.G. website at www.believeinspiregrow.com for more information, or contact pod leader Kristi Sullivan at FarmingtonBIG@gmail.com to attend the launch.