That burning question is front and center at the upcoming LCT Technology Summit.
RALEIGH, N.C. — The Triangle Ladies Power Lunch has become the “place to be” for successful women in Raleigh. Born out of a desire to provide busy female executives with opportunities to network and socialize, the Power Lunch brings together women from every walk of life and every industry division.
It was a conversation with Kristina Bouweiri of Reston Limousine that really got me going. Once I traveled to Sterling, Va. in February 2010 and saw the fabulous event Kristina had created, I knew I wanted to bring such an event to the ladies in the Triangle. It was classy and fun, elegant and sassy. I was so inspired by Kristina and what she had done that I had to get started right away.
The Makings of Power
On my drive back from Sterling, I developed the entire plan for an event for North Carolina’s capital city. By the time I arrived back in Raleigh, I was ready to roll the dice on the Triangle Ladies Power Lunch. Given my outgoing nature, I got on the phone immediately.
I knew I wanted the best speakers and attendees to make it powerful. But I also knew that we had to include the “shopping hour” — that seemed to be a major selling point for Kristina. Within a month, I had contacted and secured the first six speakers, 20 excited vendors, and 40 willing participants. By the time the inaugural Triangle Ladies Power Lunch debuted, there were 120 thrilled attendees.
The format was the key to success in my mind. I wanted the event to be an experience that promoted professional alliances and personal enlightenment. I created a large vendor area — one that was designed to encourage attendees to shop. From novelty pastry delicacies to performing arts tickets, the shopping area was a cornerstone of the event. Since the luncheon’s inception, I have transformed the vendor area into a grouping of the elite organizations in the Triangle, making certain that my attendees never think that they have “seen it all.”
Upon entering the ballroom, attendees are surprised every month. Through changes in decoration and floral arrangements, my staff and I ensure that no two luncheons are the same. We’ve all been to monthly meetings that begin to feel like “cookie-cutter events.” I didn’t want that. These women are giving us two hours of their busy day every month. We have to give them our best each time.
The most exciting, and by far the loudest time of the luncheon, is when door prizes are being given away. In the last nine months, a quasi-competition has started among the vendors on who has the best door prizes. Attendees are now calling out their own names, and even “threatening” to steal from their friends when the winners are announced. With everything from diamond earrings to exclusive concert tickets, there is never a shortage of exceptional gifts.
My photographer has told me that the door prize time is the most fun for her to watch. Trying to capture the expressions of the ladies when they win is something she always looks forward to.
From socializing to saving lives
It was in August 2010, two months into this new venture, that I took the women’s luncheon from a social event to one of advocacy.
One of my dear friends, Brenda Kenny, had been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer a few months before. I knew I couldn’t save my friend, so I did the only thing I could think to do: I bought a limousine and painted it pink! It was then that I decided to recognize one brave woman every month that had battled breast cancer. That special lady was going to be our “hero” for that month.
With the pink limo freshly painted, I set out to make each of my Heroes feel honored. Each month I decided that one breast cancer survivor and seven of her friends would be picked up in the pink limousine and driven to the Triangle Ladies Power Lunch. Upon arrival, they would be escorted in, introduced to attendees, and seated at a special table: the “Heroes Table” in the front of the room. After being treated to lunch and recognized from the podium, the ladies would be driven home in the pink limousine from their day of respite from the difficulties of cancer.
On Aug. 18, I unveiled my new “Heroes Table,” a table decorated entirely in pink in order to bring awareness to breast cancer. I also revealed my plans to donate 10% of all proceeds from pink limousine reservations to the Pretty in Pink Foundation, an organization committed to helping women without sufficient insurance coverage battle breast cancer. Brenda Kenny was scheduled to be the first Hero.
Sadly, Brenda passed away on Sunday, Aug. 15, just three days before the luncheon. Rather than fill her place, I chose instead to place a memory candle at her place setting. Once lit, I knew my friend was with me, and was proud of all I was doing to fight this insidious disease.
Today, nearly nine months after the unveiling, the memory candle still burns. It reminds every attendee of those who have lost their fight with breast cancer, and stands as a testament to the courage and power of every survivor recognized.
There is something so emotional about seeing the memory candle burning, then looking over to see another survivor at that pink table. Every month, I’m overwhelmed by their perseverance. I watched my mother’s brave fight with cancer; I watched Brenda’s brave fight with cancer. And it moves me every month.
The flight of the butterfly
The final element of the event that was critical was designing the logo for the Triangle Ladies Power Lunch. I wanted it to be memorable and meaningful. I just knew what it had to be. I wear a butterfly pin on my lapel every day. The pin was my mother’s, and I wear it so that she is with me in every meeting. She would have loved an event like this, so I wanted to make sure she was an integral part of it.
I lost my mother in November 2009, just a few months before the planning began for the Triangle Ladies Power Lunch. The butterfly has come to signify grace under pressure and an unwavering flight to greatness.
The future of successful women in the Triangle of North Carolina is unlimited. With every luncheon, our futures are made a bit brighter. Women from all walks of life are joining together for friendship, fun, and the forward progression of their businesses. Each speaker brings new insight. Each attendee brings a new perspective. And, for me, every month reiterates the slogan of my luncheon: “Together, we can rewrite the history of successful women in the Triangle.”
That burning question is front and center at the upcoming LCT Technology Summit.
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