By Sally Voth
Laughter, product samples, personal stories and ideas were shared among the businesswomen gathered around a table in the Strasburg Fairfield Inn & Suites breakfast area Thursday afternoon.
The women had gathered for the monthly meeting of the local Heart Link Network chapter. Even more were scheduled to gather that evening for a dinner meeting.
Jennifer Roszelle started the women-only networking chapter about a year ago. It is part of an international network started several years ago in California by Dawn Billings, Roszelle said.
She heard about the organization about a year ago, but the nearest chapters were in Richmond and Virginia Beach - too far for the Strasburg resident to drive for a meeting.
"I heard about it and I really wanted to go," said Roszelle, who with her husband is a distributor for the online card-sending business, SendOutCards. "I felt like I should just lead one."
While it might have been easier to start a chapter in Winchester or Woodstock, she said she wanted to lead one in her own community.
Since starting the Strasburg chapter, more have begun in Winchester, Harrisonburg, Leesburg and elsewhere, according to Roszelle.
For $25 a month - $20 if registered far enough in advance - a woman gets to attend the monthly meeting and enjoy a light meal and socializing, followed by a chance to pitch her business for 3 minutes to the other attendees.
Roszelle offers further incentives, such as advertising, for six-month and 12-month registrations.
Thursday's lunch crowd included women involved in holistic health, jewelry sales and Avon.
Michelle Cissel, who sells Avon, said she was hoping to increase her customer base, attract others to join Avon and do more fundraising.
"I enjoyed myself today, got to learn about some new companies that I didn't know about, [met] some people," she said.
Middletown resident Shana Evans does holistic health coaching and first started coming to the Heart Link meetings in January.
"I have a lot of fun with these women," she said. "We're building relationships. It's networking. It has helped my business. I've received a lot of referrals."
Heart Link isn't the only networking group to which Evans belongs, but "I like this because it focuses on women."
"So, not only are you meeting other businesswomen, but you're making friends," she said.
After selling Silpada jewelry for more than seven years, Stephens City resident Kathleen Sheetz said she long ago tapped out family and friends as customers.
"In this kind of economy, selling a high-priced product, it's definitely been challenging," she said. "I think these kinds of things help you think out of the box. They give you fresh ideas and perspectives, and I just think it's an opportunity to do something maybe a little bit differently than what you've done before."
Those interested in joining the Strasburg chapter can contact Roszelle, who has been named an ambassador of Virginia by the network, at 540-974-3417, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website is theheartlinknetwork.com/user_info/2494
Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or email@example.com