Debunking Myths About Women’s Conferences

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Despite knowing my best female friend since I was in fifth grade, I grew up around mostly boys. They were like my brothers, and well, the only kids my age who lived on the street.

When I heard about Women in the Pet Industry Network, I wanted to join, but was honestly a little apprehensive when it came to going to their conference. It was a great story to cover, but personally, I was afraid it was going to be a lot of estrogen. And, if past experiences with similar groups were any indication, it was not going to be a favorable situation.

Boy, was I wrong.

I have never been to a conference where so many people, whether it be men or women, were willing to share their business and life experiences — and not in a bragging way, but instead to help others. It was truly impressive, surprising and, quite frankly, refreshing.

We all hear people like Sheryl Sandberg spout off about “leaning in” and supporting each other, and while I want to believe in what she’s selling, I just can’t relate to her.

However, the Women in the Pet Industry Network conference business executives were relatable.


Listening to their business struggles, like budget restrictions, or trying to find the time to update their social media channels, I get it, because I’m dealing with those same issues running Pet Age on a daily basis. It was inspiring and encouraging to hear their stories.

These women are role models for other women in business.

From Dorothy Hunter’s, owner of Paw’s Natural Pet Emporium, tenacity and confidence to Elena Volnova’s, of Dog’s Fashion Spa, no-nonsense perspective on the pet industry.

Hearing how Amber Kirsten-Smit met her husband and together started Furlocity and having a pet-friendly workplace is an important part of their strategy to hire and retain, as she would say “rock-star employees.”

Being blown away by how Teresa Rhyne used her experience with her dog’s cancer to get through her own diagnosis, right as she was opening her own law firm. And, then turned the whole experience into a New York Times best-seller.

Learning more about financial planning for business in a one-hour seminar given by Julie Johnson then I learned when I worked in financial media.

Having a conversation at dinner with Camlyn Miller-Stevens to find out there is a distributor open house going on in the area, and within a hour, her getting me an invite.

And, likely one of the most interesting conversations I had was with a very unlikely person — my counterpart at a competing trade publication, Ellyce Rothrock, the editor-in-chief of Pet Product News. Sharing stories about our lives and not getting stuck on industry jargon led to a conversation about my dilemma of whether or not to sell my house. Her perspective was much appreciated.

These are not connections and conversations you can have at places like Global, or BlogPaws, or an open house. In those environments the pressure to get the story, or make the sale, is overwhelming. At a conference like Women in the Pet Industry Network, whether you are  a groomer or an author, you are all coming together to learn how to make yourself, and your business, better — it’s an even playing field.

5 Responses to “Debunking Myths About Women’s Conferences”

  1. Shawna Schuh

    Aug 17. 2014

    Great article Michelle and it seems you gave as good as you got which is what makes it work! Nice that you met and lifted up fellow WIPIN members!

    Reply to this comment
  2. NIckey

    Aug 18. 2014

    Agree Michelle! There is so much to be said about every person’s story. Being together in one place where we get to learn about one another in person makes the trek completely worthwhile. I hope to see many of these ladies again soon at different pet industry events, but am especially looking forward to next year’s WIPIN!

    Reply to this comment
  3. Lisa Brambilla

    Aug 20. 2014

    Hi Michelle,
    Shawna Schuh sets the tone, and provides an enviornment of caring, sharing and learning that really embodies the WIPIN mission of growing, giving and connecting. I am so excited to be a part of such a dynamic group of professionals. I too am looking forward to attending the 2015 WIPIN conference. In the meantime, I am encouraging all of my colleagues in the pet industry to join WIPIN. See you in 2015!

    Lisa Brambilla, CEO My Eternal Family Tree LLC

    Reply to this comment
  4. Bev

    Aug 21. 2014

    Starting a brand new pet venture, I at times feel very isolated in terms of support in the realms of business – thanks for sharing your experience – I’m definitely going to check out WIPIN!

    Reply to this comment
  5. Carolyn Shadle

    Aug 21. 2015

    Your report articulates the feelings I had upon attending this conference. In addition to learning alot (about social media, marketing, etc.) I learned a lot about how to share and help others without “tooting my own horn.” I’m so glad to be a part of this group!

    Reply to this comment

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