Spaces dedicated to uplifting working women have historically been rare, but the packed house at the Washington Hotel in Chehalis for the Lewis County Economic Alliance’s first Women in Business Seminar on Wednesday proved there is no shortage of working women and their supporters in Lewis County.
The event featured a panel of four local speakers from local business ventures — Amanda Singleton of Rainier Connect, professional blogger Suzi Swope of Gurl Gone Green, Samantha Magnuson of Lewis County Coffee Company and Nomad Outfitters, and The Chronicle’s own Coralee Taylor, who also co-owns the Silver Agency — who answered questions from seminar attendees on a variety of business topics.
Centralia Mayor Kelly Smith-Johnston gave the seminar’s keynote address, in which she emphasized how important it is for leaders to embody hope and to heal divides within themselves, between themselves and others and between themselves and nature.
“We need to plant the vision of the future and help people see how they can be part of it. This is true whether you’re leading a team of employees, a whole organization, a service group or your own family,” Smith-Johnston said.
As women, she added, “We’re expected to excel in all areas: in business, in our personal lives, in our appearance, our health and even in finding joy.”
That level of responsibility can lead to burnout, which Smith-Johnston said can be relieved by taking time for rest and play.
“While winter in nature is vital, we don’t allow ourselves to lie fallow and heal. We’re missing that. This is true for everyone, but in many ways, women experience it more because the caregiving work often falls to us disproportionately,” she said.
Freshman U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania County, made an appearance towards the end of the seminar to offer her support to the working women of Lewis County.
Gluesenkamp Perez, who owns an automotive repair shop with her husband, spoke on her priorities in Congress, which include securing broadband internet grants for rural areas, addressing childcare shortages and helping business owners successfully apply for small business loans.
“There’s so much pride when you’re from a community and you have a sense of ownership and you’re really, you are trying to grow your community, so I think it’s a really critical thing that these dollars are going where they need to go,” Gluesenkamp Perez said Wednesday, later adding, “I get it, the bureaucracy to access some of these bigger pools of money is just insurmountable for so many of us, so I really want to be all of your partners in figuring out how we can smooth that out, how we can provide more access to rural communities, rural economies and small businesses.”