When I moved to Des Moines, I knew I was going to have to make a real effort to meet new people and make new friends. At least I had a very good base to start from with my in-laws. In fact, it was my sister-in-law, Sheila Formaro, who encouraged me to start a women’s social networking group that was a continuation of a group I had co-founded with friends back in San Francisco.
Each month, the group in San Francisco – “Women Who Wine SF” – met at a different wine bar or member’s home for an evening of good wine, good food and good conversation. It was not your typical “networking” event. Certainly, professional connections were made and there was plenty of business development and career development. But the real focus was friendships, both new and old. Everything else was a happy bi-product. Of course, my participation was reduced when I was expecting my baby, and then as I was adapting to my new life as a mom. But with the Facebook group and LinkedIn group, it was easy to stay in touch virtually. At last tally, we had over 300 members on our online groups. And the SF group continues today.
When I told Sheila about the SF group last summer, she immediately jumped to “you should do that in Des Moines!” I couldn’t do it alone though, so I countered right back with “you’re going to be a co-founder!” We found our third co-founder in Abbe Hendricks – “Abbe, The Wine Lady” from Gateway Market. With Sheila’s catering and restaurant connections, Abbe’s obvious wine buying expertise, and my experience building communities, Women Who Wine DSM was born. We’ve since added a fourth organizer, marketer Vicki Campos-Dimmer.
Our first event was last September and we’ve held an event every month since (with the exception of December due to the holidays). Each month the planning team identifies a Des Moines venue, usually a restaurant or business. And believe it or not, we’ve actually got a venue lined up for every month this year – another confirmation that clearly DSM is NOT boring if we can find a unique and fun location for 12 months of the year.
Each month we see about an equal number of regulars and new faces – usually 25 – 35 attendees at each event. Some of the women have been in Iowa their whole lives, while others relocated to Iowa (interesting side bar: the number of women who are from out-of-state who married an Iowan is quite fascinating – clearly something to be explored in another post!). Some are business-owners, some are very involved in the non-profit realm, and others are artists and writers. Some are just getting started in their careers, others are retired. It is a wonderfully diverse group.
And honestly, the best thing about each monthly event is the women who attend it. The venues have been pretty stellar (our May event was an evening of pampering at Salon Spa W, and April was a private cooking demonstration with Chef George Formaro), but it’s the group of women that makes all the difference. We’ve all made new friends, learned about many Des Moines businesses, and become a supportive community for one another.
Our June event is at Gusto Pizza, and I can’t wait.
What about the guys you may be asking? Well, I have heard that some of the husbands and boyfriends are hoping that something similar will come along for the men. To that I say “cheers!”