A new local group in Rutland is working to support and create connections between women who own businesses or plan to become entrepreneurs.

The mission of the Women Business Owners Network is to educate and support women who are or want to become business owners, create community, create stability economically for businesses owned by women, and create public policies that encourage entrepreneurship among women.

Christie Garofano, owner of Body Essentials Personal Training and Wellness, and Erin Anderson, outreach coordinator at Rutland Economic Development Corp., started a chapter in Rutland this September.

They met after attending the WBON conference in Burlington and decided to bring the organization to Rutland.

“We both felt that it would be an asset to the community,” Anderson said.

Garofano had created a small network of women in the wellness field with whom she networked, but after speaking with Anderson, she knew that starting a WBON chapter would be a great opportunity for herself and the rest of the community of female business owners, she said.

The group meets once a month, and each meeting starts with talking to get to know one another, then they move on to talk about what is going on with WBON, and then have everyone introduce themselves and talk about their business, Garofano said.

Not only do the women participating get to bounce ideas off each other and network, but at each meeting there is a keynote speaker who talks about different topics, Anderson said.

“We’ve had someone come in and talk about balance,” Anderson said, referring to work/life balance.

Other speakers have talked about bookkeeping and business planning, she added.

Also, there have been speakers who have talked about tax issues, marketing and personal development topics, Garofano said.

Garofano has owned her business for six years, and said that what she loves most about WBON is it gives her the opportunity to connect with people she otherwise wouldn’t have met, and share experiences with each other, she said.

“It can be a lonely journey,” Garofano said referring to being the sole owner of a business.

She said WBON gives her and other women in similar situations the opportunity to talk about what has worked for them and to share their ideas.

“It’s an opportunity to keep growing and learn from each other,” Anderson said.

Currently the meetings get eight to 15 women in attendance from all different fields, such as wellness, the food industry and accounting, Anderson said.

There are about 40 members in the Rutland chapter, Garofano said.

One member, Lyz Tomsuden, who owns her own graphic design business, said that she got involved because she had been searching for a group like this that would allow her to network with other female business owners in a smaller setting.

What keeps her coming back is how personal the group is and the opportunity to meet female business owners she hadn’t met before, she said.

“It’s more personal, you’re building relationships,” Tomsuden said.

One skill she has gotten the chance to practice and improve during WBON meetings is pitching herself to others, which has been hard for her in the past, she said.

WBON was started in Killington about 30 years ago, but there has not been a chapter in the area for some time. Most of the chapters are in Chittenden County so it is exciting to bring it into Rutland and back into this part of the state, Garofano said.

“We definitely just plan to keep on growing the group,” Garofano said.

The group meets the first Monday of every month from noon-1:30 p.m. at Green Mountain Power Energy Innovation Center in downtown Rutland, and the next meeting is Jan. 7.

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