Married to her husband Alden for 18 years, Gina is the mother of four: McKenna, 15; Hailey, 13; Paige, 11; and Joshua, 10. Gina has been leading peer groups of all sorts since she was 15 — from church groups to school and business organizations. Says she, “I love my life and have been incredibly blessed!
MomIncorporated: What inspired you to start Wink?
Gina: Great question! As an entrepreneur for more than 15 years, I have seen firsthand how women struggle in their confidence to build a business. I had been involved in both mixed and women-only networking groups in the past and found the women really could thrive in better in a women-only environment. Although I did not like public speaking I felt that God was calling me to be a Moses (in a sense) and help be a voice for these women to grow in business. I still get nervous when required to speak but have been blessed by the outpouring of response from these incredible women.
MomIncorporated: How long did it take to go from conception to up-and-running?
Gina: Five to six months of sleepless nights, writing all of my ideas down in my notebooks, testing out the concept and name with other women. I don’t know that I was fully ready to launch when I did. But a good friend said just to do it — the rest will figure itself out — and he was right. Again, the response has been amazing, exactly what women were looking for in business.
MomIncorporated: How did you fund it?
Gina: I funded everything from personal savings. That is something most people don’t realize: This is not a hobby; it is my job. I invested around $10,000 the first year in business and have not taken any money from investors. I’m very proud of that fact.
MomIncorporated: Why did you aim the group specifically at women?
Gina: Women tend to be more comfortable in a familiar setting. We have an instinctive gift to want to help others, and this environment helps women grow as slow or as fast as they want to. I have seen women come through my doors shaking like a leaf, barely able to share their name, and within a matter of months their confidence in who they are and what they do is a 180-degree turn. I love to be a part of that transition in their confidence, which usually turns into growth in their business.
MomIncorporated: What were some of your initial challenges, and how did you overcome them?
Gina: Finding quality, committed leaders is most important to me. They are representing WINK to other women, so it takes a certain type of women to be able to do that. We are currently working on getting more media exposure on a local and, soon, national level as we prepare to go nationwide in 2012. Another challenge is trying to balance work and home life. I am never in full balance; some days are better than others, but I have a very loving, supportive family.
MomIncorporated: What makes Wink different from so many other networking groups popping up everywhere?
Gina: I wish you could ask all of the Winkettes (that is what we call ourselves) these questions. Here are some responses I have received from these women: Wink women are very friendly and take genuine interest in each others’ success. If you need something, including a job, the women step up and make it happen. We have seen new businesses open for some, a nonprofit started and revenue increases for women — some by as much as 25 percent to 67 percent in a year’s time. We strive to greet every woman that comes to our events and introduce her right away to other women in business. There is no drama with us, just compassionate, hard-working, dedicated women in business.
We offer opportunities for women to grow professionally through workshops and local events as well as personally by encouraging them to connect with other women. We also like to see that the women are sharing their knowledge and expertise with each other, business tips, how they are doing things, what worked/what didn’t and more. We offer speaking opportunities for the women as well as bringing in high-quality speakers they might not normally be able to connect with in business. I feel that no businesswoman, no matter how successful, is out of our league — so we strive to bring the best to them at an affordable price.
MomIncorporated: What are your top networking tips for entrepreneurs?
- Stick with what you love doing, and don’t give up no matter what others tell you.
- Be genuine in who you are and helping others grow; people can smell a fake a mile away.
- Be consistent. Don’t expect to attend an event one time and have your business explode. It takes consistency and getting to know others. I want to know someone will be around in the next six months or year, not some fly-by-night entrepreneur who has done it all but has nothing to show for it but burned bridges.
- Smile and be the first to reach out and welcome someone into your world. Drama mamas are a thing of the past; helping others up the ladder of success as we go is not only more fun, but then when we get to the top we have others there to enjoy it all with.