Five networkers team to grow businesses

A couple of chance meetings, surprising local connections. You never know what will happen when the power of relationship marketing kicks into high gear.

Liz Mrofka of Fort Collins says it all started in 2008. She shared a booth with Loveland product developer and International Business Match Maker of the Year Dixie Daly at the National Stationery Show in New York. Mrofka’s product – the Fobbie gift tag system – ended up winning the Best New Product Award.

The award attracted the attention of the world’s largest ribbon and bow manufacturer, and brought Virginia entrepreneur Kathy McEvoy to their booth. McEvoy, whose Pink Ribbon Celebrationware provides cancer survivors with pink paper products for each milestone of the recovery journey, could not resist Daly’s pink-a-licious chocolates – just one of the items she sells through her Tickled Pink Boutique.

Over dinner the three brainstormed, offering suggestions and sharing resources. Mrofka gave McEvoy contact info for a printing consultant and promotional products dealer Kerrie Weitzel of Fort Collins. Weitzel was able to mentor McEvoy in the lingo of the print industry and connect her with companies who could produce what she needed.

When Daly sent some of her Tickled Pink products to a sales rep, she also included the Fobbie; both won placement with the world’s largest shopping network, QVC.com. Mrofka was asked to come to QVC headquarters for a presentation.

That’s how Mrofka from Fort Collins met Barbara Kantor from Boulder by some snack vending machines in Philadelphia. Kantor was also waiting to present her night-visible reflective products for people and pets. The two ended up going out to visit the Liberty Bell together, shared dinner, and formed yet another lasting connection.

When they returned to Colorado, Mrofka immediately introduced Kantor to McEvoy. The two spent nearly two hours on the phone discussing social media marketing tips, which when implemented netted Kantor a spot on Jim Lehrer’s nightly news show, propelling her business to the next level.

When McEvoy was ready to ramp up CelebrateInPink.com, Kantor stepped up to mentor her. By then Kantor’s products were so successful, Amazon called her and asked to carry them, so she indeed had a few suggestions to share.

As their network has expanded, the “Fab Five” have kept messages flying via e-mail, phone and text for the past three years. In July, as “chance” would have it, McEvoy’s son moved to Longmont and they had their first opportunity to be together in the same place at the same time.

Weitzel admits the group may have come together serendipitously, but what amazes her is how a down economy didn’t stop them.

“This group is driven by women who have great heart and the desire to succeed,” she said. “They are successful because they are creative and think out of the box. Each has found something that strikes a chord with the everyday person.”

The women and their passion for business

Each of these five entrepreneurs is self-directed, motivated, and determined to succeed – not so easy with the economic downturn. Whether it took angel investors or waiting to launch a new product until sales reached a certain benchmark, each has forged ahead enjoying the support and resources of her networking buddies.

Dixie Daly (TickledPinkBoutique.com)

Daly’s enthusiasm for creating and inventing is contagious. “It makes life fun,” she says, and vows to help other women in business. “Whether it’s taking their products to market, an infomercial, sell on TV, QVC, or HSN – this is what I live and breathe for every day!”

Liz Mrofka (Fobbie.com)

Mrofka spends a lot of time learning about other people, products and their journeys. “I love helping others, brainstorming, and passing along what I’ve learned,” she said. She credits Daly for getting her products placed with QVC last year, and Kantor for helping her learn how to navigate marketing’s many facets. “Its all about relationships, attracting who you need when you need it, trusting the flow of life.”

Barbara Kantor (Vedante.com)

Kantor says her business turned down when the economy tanked, but the things she was doing online were still working. “I followed my gut and pursued the online direction, learned social networking, did what I had to do to survive. I see the walls I run into as gifts that refocus and redirect me.” She is impressed by the authenticity of The Fab Five. “Every single one of us genuinely – from the heart – wants to help the other ladies; no one is worrying about what’s in it for me. We all cc: the five of us!”

Kathy McEvoy (CelebrateInPink.com)

This October, McEvoy celebrates five years as a cancer survivor. “My a-ha moment came when I wanted to have a luncheon for the people who had supported me through my first Koman walk in D.C. I could not find pink plates!” She acknowledges being “up against it” in her business when Weitzel called. Within a few months McEvoy had three good suppliers, production proceeded and she took delivery. “It’s a sisterhood. We are all in this together and we have to make one another look good.”

Kerrie Weitzel (Whispering Words Consulting)

Although technically retired as a printing consultant and promotional products dealer, Weitzel enjoyed working with Mrofka and McEnvoy. “They got my creative juices flowing to solve printing problems, something I love to do … it is good to rub shoulders with other creative people because it keeps you open to the universe of creativity.”

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