The Legacy of WBOA
Two Generations Strong, and Growing
Since 1981, WBOA members connect and build businesses, discuss strategies and help each other in one of the most difficult and rewarding career paths: Entrepreneurship.
Smart, Savvy Women Supporting Each Other
First WBOA Meeting
January 4, 1982
Women business owners met on January 4, 1982 at WNEC under leadership from Renate Oliver and Elizabeth Ayers
WBOA Kicks Off
August 21, 1986
After spending time as a project of the WNEC Division of Non-Credit Programs, WBOA established as an independent non-profit corporation.
Building the Future Trade Show
February 25, 1988
WBOA held its first trade show at Baystate West (now Tower Square), the first of many expos and tabletop events.
First Woman of the Year
June 1, 1991
Alice Stelzer was named the inaugural Woman of the Year.
WBOA Reaches 100 Members
January 1, 1992
Shortly after celebrating our first ten years, our membership numbered over 100 for the first time. Dottie Hines was WBOA’s 100th member.
Cheryl Reed Memorial Loan Fund Established
January 1, 1993
In honor of recently passed founding member the Cheryl Reed Memorial Loan Fund was established to give low-interest loans to WBOA members.
WBOA’s Database Gets Computerized
January 1, 1995
At a time when green ledger sheets were commonplace, WBOA stayed on the cutting-edge with a computerized database of its membership.
January 1, 1997
WBOA’s first online home went live, one of the first million (or so) websites to be created (today there are over a billion websites).
Habitat for Humanity
June 5, 1999
WBOA worked with the Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity to build 2 houses in Lower Liberty Heights, Springfield.
Outstanding New Member Award Established
June 16, 2005
Sally Chambliss was recognized as the first Outstanding New Member.
WBOA Celebrates 25 Years
May 10, 2007
WBOA hosted stress management expert, Loretta LaRoche, to honor its 25th anniversary.
WBOA Hosts Women’s Night of Comedy
March 19, 2009
WBOA began hosting the Women’s Night of Comedy with the 16th annual event.
WBOA Celebrates 30 Years
June 21, 2012
The mayor of West Springfield and Massachusetts Governor Duval Patrick recognized WBOA on its 30th anniversary.
First After 5 Held
September 11, 2012
WBOA debuted its “Connections and Cocktails” evening event, created by Debbie Sorcinelli.
WBOA Becomes 501(c)(3) Educational Non-profit
October 9, 2014
Thanks to the tireless work of Freda Brown, WBOA became eligible for charitable status as a 501(c)(3) organization.
WINGS Mentor Program Established
September 1, 2015
Women Inspiring and Nurturing Growth for Success, led by Lori Fortuna, partnered with Springfield Technical Community College to provide one-on-one mentorship for women students interested in becoming entrepreneurs.
Social Media Boot Camp
October 13, 2016
WBOA’s newly formed Education Committee kicked off with a Social Media Boot Camp, the first of many programs focused on providing hands-on education to help women grow their business.
WBOA Ribbon-Cutting at Keystone Mill
September 7, 2017
WBOA opened its doors at the newly-refurbished Keystone Mill in 2017.
WBOA Moves to MSBDC in Springfield
September 12, 2019
WBOA moves its base of operation to MSBDC (Small Business Development Center) on the campus of STCC in Springfield, MA. Our new mural, designed by WBOA member, Mary Kearney, was installed at MSBDC to welcome us to our new home.
In the early 80s, three women sat down to discuss several issues of concern with area businesswomen, soon realizing they had a collective mission: To bring the area’s small businesswomen together, creating a place to share their hopes, fears, concerns and issues, and to gain support and answers.
Under the sponsorship of Western New England College’s Division of Non-Credit Programs, the group held monthly meetings, growing quickly by word of mouth to about 30 women. In 1986, WBOA became an independent non-profit organization. By the end of that year, 80 women had joined.
For many of us, WBOA represented a safe haven; a place to discuss the challenges we faced as business owners and to try ideas without being judged. It was a catalyst for professional and personal growth.
– WBOA founding member, Barbara Foster
Building Your Network to Grow and Maintain a Successful Business
We are now celebrating over 35 years of women’s entrepreneurship. Our meetings and events are a place where you feel the palpable energy and hum of conversation as members connect with colleagues and work to grow their businesses.
The women of WBOA develop ideas, brainstorm strategies, and most importantly, build relationships with one another.
WBOA continues to attract members in all stages of business, and truly lives by its motto:
It’s Your Business. Don’t Grow It Alone.