According to the Historical Dictionary of Law Enforcement, the term “SWAT” was used as an acronym for the “Special Weapons and Tactics” established as a 100-man specialized unit in 1964 by the Philadelphia Police Department.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a specialized marksman to propel your business in 2017. S.W.A.T., in this case, is the Successful Women Aligning Together group, and it’s a women’s networking opportunity more than 300 strong with seven chapters from Venice to Brandon. They do have some awesome ‘secret weapons and tactics’ however, to growing your business. And anyone who’s networked knows the power of word of mouth. It’s not what you know but who you know.
Robyn Spirtas, PhD, the CEO and founder of S.W.A.T., was a counseling practitioner most of her career. Today she runs the S.W.A.T. group full time. It started, as many things do, with a need. Robyn needed to grow her counseling business, and she met with several colleagues informally to talk about the best ways to market. It started in a restaurant, then word got out and there were so many in attendance they took over the restaurant. Before long, S.W.A.T. was officially born, and seven years later has chapters in Sarasota, Manasota, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, Parrish, Venice and Brandon.
“I wouldn’t have a business if it weren’t for S.W.A.T.,” said Deb Gerard, a jewelry designer and S.W.A.T. Executive Director. We all know how difficult it can be for an artist to sell their wares, particularly with the competition on the Cultural Coast.
Robyn says it kind of ‘a sorority sister model,’ and at a recent holiday S.W.A.T. luncheon I could see what she meant.
“Can you believe the love in this room?” she asked, as members were hugging and chatting and applauding one another. The banquet was full of at least 40 women who each got 30 seconds to pitch their businesses. They had an incredible amount of activities to enjoy in addition to a delicious lunch and announcement of officers for the new year.
One of the members, a professional wardrobe stylist, was the key presenter and had 10 minutes to demonstrate her techniques. Basically, she promised she could reach in the back of your closet and put together at least a dozen outfits you never would have thought would work, starting with the basics of black, khaki, and accents. I thought it was a great idea for a business and she was convincing.
It was an eclectic mix of business owners, marketing and sales professionals and non-profit execs that came together with a common cause this day – to support one another’s businesses. Among the mix was a chiropractor, manager of Molly Maids, sales rep for Hometown News, a redesigner/stager, jewelry designers, aestheticians, Realtors and the oldest member of the group at age 82 brought her jams and baked goods to share.
“We have members from age 19 to 82,” Robyn said.
They later used a ‘brag jar’ and members put dollar bills in for the opportunity to speak about another S.W.A.T. Sister and their business prowess taken from actual experiences. These dollars are collected and given to a variety of charities. The group is not only supportive of one another but philanthropic throughout the year, seeking out ways to support area non profits. S.W.A.T. just named a Southeastern Guide Dog
“S.W.A.T. Sister Sadie” in exchange for a donation Robyn said.
The event wrapped up with close to a dozen door prizes and a chance to view a share table that featured members’ marketing collateral and more. I was impressed how much they packed into the luncheon and was invigorated by the energy in the room. These are powerful, optimistic, fun women, on a mission, and thanks to Robyn, who seven years ago started this organization, they are all reaping the benefits of networking and support.
“We don’t just support each other in business, we support each other in life,” Deb said. They have a ‘watch list’ to keep track of any members who might be struggling with personal tragedies, health problems, or just celebrating the birth of a grandchild or other special occasion.
I joined SWAT to promote my photography business,” said Sherri Proctor, owner of Sherri’s Island Images. “Much to my surprise, not only has SWAT been the single most successful networking opportunity for my business, but I have made more great friends than I can count. I am so blessed to have met so many strong, independent business women. My life is richer for this experience!”
Membership in S.W.A.T. costs $125 a year. It, unlike some networking groups, allows two or more same-type businesses, but they stress that it’s a ‘non-compete’ environment and share leads.
For more information, visit the website at www.swatnetworking.com.
Photos by Patti Pearson