Networking. Meetings. Professional organizations. They’re all part of any small business owner’s day-to-day life. These days, there are dozens of events and groups to choose from. One of the area’s most treasured groups is the Business Women of Fayette and Coweta (BWFC), which was founded not only to provide networking and education but also to offer opportunities to give back to the community through service to and fundraising for local nonprofits.
“It all started in 2007 with an interesting conversation about creating a t-shirt for women-owned businesses,” recalls Patti Khadkodaian, who co-founded BWFC with local business and nonprofit owner Wendy McGuire. “This led to an idea to raise money for a local charity. After three years of doing the t-shirt project, we decided to create a nonprofit to recognize the unique idea and vision of ‘giving back for a better community.’ Incorporated in 2010, we have consistently given back to our community.”
That aspect of the BWFC’s mission is exactly what attracts many of its members, including current president Jennifer Lunsford.
“Several years ago I joined the BWFC to expand my network for my business, believing the BWFC would be a great networking organization,” Jennifer says. “What I did not know at that time and have been blessed to discover is that this organization’s real mission is to give back to the community. I discovered the business connections come along naturally with the relationships we build with each other, but the connections we build within our community through giving back enrich us as women and I believe make us all better business leaders. If a businesswoman is looking for an organization to be a part of something big in this community and grow her business, BWFC is the organization to join.”
Over the years, BWFC has contributed to dozens of local charities and hosted multiple successful events. In the early years, the organization raised significant funds for Piedmont Fayette’s Cancer Wellness Center through an annual event called the Red, White, and Pink, which featured a wine tasting with small-bite pairings, a live auction, and a golf cart raffle. Other efforts have benefitted TEAM Alliance, Pathway Home for Women, the Coweta Domestic Violence Resource Center (Formerly Community Welcome House), the American Cancer Society, and others. One of BWFC’s signature events is O Christmas Tea, which is exactly what it sounds like: a holiday-themed evening high tea in early December.
“When I started O Christmas Tea 11 years ago, it was because I was inspired at my first ever Business Women of Fayette and Coweta meeting,” says past president Ellie White-Stevens. “Since then, with an awesome committee of BWFC members, we’ve raised more than $200,000 for causes that benefit women and children. That’s the power of business women when they get together and network for the greater good of the entire community. It’s beautiful. It’s inspiring. And it improves all of our lives and businesses. Plus I’ve seen how much the opportunities to learn at our meetings, and the relationships with other businesswomen, have helped my entrepreneurial journey. My business has grown so much. These women are some of my best friends. Extraordinary women—when I look at them, succeeding, I know that I can succeed, too. And it’s been like that since my first day at BWFC.”
Friendship is certainly a recurring theme when you talk to both long-time members and new ones. The organization’s monthly get-togethers, which come in the form of business and learning meetings and networking lunches on alternating months, help members forge those relationships – and grow their businesses. It’s proved a real lifeline for people starting new businesses and those just arriving in the area.
“I became a member of the BWFC after an invite from a friend just a year ago,” says Marcie Bayne. “I moved from California to Newnan in 2017. I started my business in March of 2018, and I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t have a group of businesswomen with whom to connect. The BWFC has helped me meet and connect with so many amazing women who have enriched my life. These women have connected me to the community and beyond.”
Between the excellent educational opportunities, the networking, the friendships, and the many ways to give back and pay it forward, BWFC members have dozens of reasons to join – and stay. Each comes to the organization for her own purposes and at different times during the life of her business. But one thing seems absolutely universal: no matter why a member joins, she quickly finds more benefits than she’d imagined.
“When I joined BWFC seven or eight years ago,” Cheri Scranage says, “I thought the purpose was simply to make connections with women so they could help my business grow. What I didn’t realize was that I was going to make not just connections, but friendships that have helped my business grow and have also enhanced my life both personally and professionally. My life is richer because I chose to join this amazing group of women.
To learn more about Business Women of Fayette and Coweta and to see their calendar of events, please visit BWFCC.org.