Women to talk business

Array of networking, educational opportunities available at FLC


Durango has proved a popular venue for the Southwest Colorado Women's Small Business Conference, which will be held July 24 at Fort Lewis College.

The conference will provide a great place for women to learn how to run small business more efficiently and a networking opportunity to learn from peers, said Joe Keck, director for the Southwest Colorado Small Business Development Center in Durango.

More than 200 participants have registered for the conference, and Keck said he expects about 60 more attendees than the average attendance from previous years. The numbers may grow as there's still about a week to go before the conference starts.

The popular television series, "Mad Men," made light of women's struggles in the workplace. But with women business owners and entrepreneurs now common, opportunities for networking and eduction geared toward their needs are in demand.

Kelly Manning, state director for the Colorado Small Business Development Center, said the organization tries to have two women-related events on opposite sides of the state. The original intention was to move the conference around, but there was such a positive response to the Durango area that it has remained an annual event in Durango. This edition of the conference is the fifth annual gathering, and all have been held in Durango.

"Women in your region truly see the value in it," she said.

The conference is sponsored by the Colorado Small Business Development Center Network.

"It's a good resource to get a lot of knowledge in a fairly short amount of time and to really help women start, grow and make their businesses more profitable," Keck said.

The conference will include about a dozen breakout sessions with workshops on funding a business, using social media, developing a brand as an individual leader and other valuable skills.

"The opportunity to learn from other women, the sort-of peer mentoring that goes on is really important," Keck said.

A variety of workshops will be available to help women develop the needed skill sets for their businesses. The participants can choose where to focus their attention, and they have full autonomy on the subjects they want to concentrate their attention.

But it is the networking aspect of the conference that is often deemed the most valuable, Manning said.

The opportunity to get a large group of businesswomen to discuss, brainstorm and answer questions provides businesswomen with resources they might have overlooked in the past, she said.

"Women entrepreneurs are like sponges, and they enjoy professional development. They enjoy learning from their peers," Manning said.

The consultants and professionals don't tell these women what to do or how to go about their business, but they offer guidance and options for business owners to pave their own paths, she said.

Roxane White, chief of staff to Gov. John Hickenlooper, will deliver the keynote speech.

She was rated as the fourth-most powerful person in Colorado by 5280 magazine and the third-most powerful women by The Denver Post in 2012. She's also been recognized for other accolades including Women of Power by the Colorado Women's Chamber for 2013.