Women 3.0: Entrepeneurs, conference & community thoughts

So I spent last Saturday at Country Living Magazine’s one day conference for women entrepeneurs, held, for the second year in a row, in Chicago. For one day, from 12-6 pm, 500 women sat in a large room in a big hotel and listened to fellow female entrepeneurs describe how they started their businesses, sourced their product lines, handled writing a business plan and working with family and raising money and pricing product lines. The room buzzed with energy: the energy of these women who made things of out textiles or paper, or clay created beauty/fashion/home decor products, and sold boutique foods and spices, was palpable.
Sitting in the crowd, one of the few Californians in a swarm of Midwestern and Eastern folk. it was hard not to compare the crowd–and the conference organizers–to BlogHer and my friends– Lisa, Elisa and J ory–who run it–but the differences stood out as much as the similarities.
For one thing, the Country Living crowd was coming together around a small range of successful entrepeneurs– Margaret Josephs, Halligan Norris, Barbara Cosgrove–who’d started their own home-based businesses and branched out from there–but they seemed essentially seperate from the audience, who wanted to learn what they had to teach.
At the last BlogHer conference last summer, the rooms and the audiences were both part of the scene–but the gap between audience and speaker seemed much smaller (think unconference).
At BlogHer, many people attending knew one another virtually already; not an hour went by without a couple of participants greeting each other with gasps and exclaminations of delight:
“It is so great to meet you in person! I love your blog/ flickr stream/podcast/whatever!”

This sense of virtual connection and community…so much a part of blogging–is something that the CL conference seemed to lack–but there’s no reason it couldn’t be supplied to a future event.
Sitting in the room listening to the real-world entrepeneurs talk, my thought was of how BlogHer and CL could join forces to serve women with current state of the art community tools and business starter kits–there’s such an amazing groundswell in this country of female-owned home-based businesses that then grow into their own facilities and offices–and yet where’s the flash-point for serving those folk?
The energy at the CL conference was great, as is the energy at BlogHer events–but hey, I’d like to see these two emerging communities–which definitely overlap–begin to meet–and merge.
If you’re reading this post and you can point me to conferences and communities for women entrepeneurs that span the physical and the virtual, please point me to them–I would love to learn more…and meanwhile, I will be trying to put the BlogHer and the CL folks together to talk about how they might support one another.

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