NAWBO Conference 2019: Your Time is NOW

Jo Ann Kirby from the NAWBO-CNNJ board also attended the women’s business conference and shares this inspiring recap.

We are women business owners: hear us roar. The enthusiasm at a NAWBO WBC is always infectious and inspiring. This year was no different, with a ballroom full of women business owners who attended this year’s conference in Jacksonville, FL. The first day began with speakers and the introduction of the National Board. Leadership keynote was given by Jean Chatsky, Financial Editor of NBC Today and AARP Financial Ambassador. Recognition was given to chapters with the most growth as well as the most attendees. The day ended with a reception hosted by Bank of America at the Cummer Museum of Arts and Gardens on the lovely Jacksonville riverfront.

The second day begins the conference in earnest. We heard from a number of NAWBO leaders as well as Congressman John Rutherford, who represents Florida’s 4th district (which includes Jacksonville). We also heard from Kristin Keen, founder and president of Rethreaded( Our keynote speaker, Sophia Amoruso ( used an interview format to share the lessons learned from her experiences founding Nasty Gal Clothing.

There were a variety of breakout sessions throughout the next two days with topics ranging from how to maximize your NAWBO membership to an Instagram workshop to power talks on contracting, business insurance and managing a multi-generational workforce.

During lunch on Monday, there was a general session panel discussion on franchising and the topic of Tuesday’s lunch keynote address was “Achieve More by Dropping the Ball” by Tiffany Dufu ( Every session was filled with nuggets to take away.

The exhibit hall was filled with exhibitors ranging from NAWBO corporate sponsors such as Bank of America, Chubb, Dell, UPS and AARP to the SBA and the National Women’s Business Council. Other exhibitors were a variety of NAWBO members, including our very own Kim Osterhoudt and Suzanne Pease.

Of course, no NAWBO WBC is complete without the connections we make with other women business owners from all over the country. There were multiple opportunities to network, whether in a breakout session, in the exhibit hall or at the evening events. Monday evening was the “One Team, One Dream” event at TIAA stadium, where the Jacksonville Jaguars play. We all had opportunities to order our team shirts ahead of time. Great food, wine, dancing and featured remarks by Shea Holbrook, founder of Shea Racing ( Yes, she’s a professional race car driver. Donna Orender (www.orenderunlimited), CEO of Orender Unlimited, also spoke. She is a former collegiate and professional basketball player, a former president of the Women’s National Basketball Association, and senior vice president of the PGA.

Tuesday featured the NAWBO awards gala, a great dinner, and dancing. NAWBO also awarded its WBO of the Year award but first we had an opportunity to hear from the three finalists in a panel interview Gail Becker, Caulipower ( ), Merrilee Kick, Buzzballz ( and Lynn Weirich, Business Financial Group ( ) The winner was Gail Becker.

The weather was great, the women amazing and I’m looking forward to next year’s conference in Austin, TX September 21-23, 2020. Who’s coming with me?