Local Organization Helps Women Grow Personally & Professionally
Photography provided by ZWIN & Ellie Sophia Photography
Nearly seven years ago Debbi Kuller and Kathy Wood met for coffee, during which Wood mentioned an intriguing idea.
“What do you think about starting a women’s networking group in Zionsville?” Wood asked Kuller at the time.
Kuller was intrigued, as no such group existed in Boone County.
The women felt the area could benefit from a group that would bring together female business owners to network and support one another. In June of 2013 Kuller and Wood established Zionsville Women in Network (ZWIN), with Kuller acting as president and Wood as vice president.
“We wanted it to be something that women could grow from, both professionally and personally,” Wood says.
Kuller and Wood began connecting with brilliant and talented women from the community to help build the website, write bylaws and build a board of directors. During the first meeting, Kuller and Wood expected five or ten women to show up – instead, 35 ladies came. Now, more than 50 members attend on a regular basis.
“The thing that’s different about us is that the group is exclusive to your business industry, and yet we still try to be as inclusive as we can,” Kuller explains.
Prior to joining ZWIN, women should attend at least one meeting to determine whether it’s a good fit for them. Attendees can then fill out a membership application for the board to review. Potential members must live or work in Zionsville to be considered for membership.
“Some of our women work for nonprofits,” Kuller says. “Others are businesses that work out of their homes. Yet others work for large firms.”
Member Cindy Argentine calls ZWIN a blessing.
“On the personal level, ZWIN provides an opportunity to meet new friends from a variety of careers and companies,” she says. “Most of these women are active in several civic groups, so there’s an added benefit of getting to learn about local service projects. On the professional side, ZWIN provides a great mix of educational programs and marketing opportunities.”
Several businesses have skyrocketed with the help of ZWIN, but it’s not just the businesses that have grown – Kuller mentions one member who was quiet and shy before blossoming socially after joining.
“She didn’t speak out much, but in the past three years she has come to carry herself much more confidently,” Kuller says. “It’s lovely to witness.”
Member Jennifer Scott appreciates how ZWIN has strengthened her ties to the community and enabled her to develop lasting relationships with amazing women who are dedicated to the organization.
“It’s inspiring to be part of a group of strong individuals always building each other up personally and professionally,” Scott says.
ZWIN meets on the second Thursday of every month. During meetings, a few members share details about their business and explain how they are involved in the community. Then a keynote speaker or panel of experts address the group on topics such as social media, online safety, changes to tax laws, and networking with confidence.
“The biggest thing we do is network,” Wood says. “We have several events during the year where we have lengthy networking exercises so that each member can get to know someone new.”
The group also partners with community organizations on service projects. ZWIN has supported the Zionsville Food Pantry and the Boone County Cancer Society. In 2019 it supported Dove Recovery House for Women, Marion County’s largest substance abuse recovery center for women. Dove House’s comprehensive services include housing, counseling and trauma therapy, case management services, parenting classes and more.
Wood asked members to donate soft robes, comfy slippers, gloves and jewelry for holiday care packages. ZWIN members also wrote encouraging notes for each package.
“Our initial goal was to collect 40 robes, but I had a box in my office that was overflowing with robes,” Wood says. “I was shocked by how the community stepped up, as our network of women reached out to their friends and colleagues.”
Wendy Noe, Dove House executive director, is grateful for ZWIN’s generosity and support.
“By creating care packages for our Doves, ZWIN is investing in Dove House, and investing in our women and their futures,” Noe says. “For many of our women, no one has ever done that for them before.”
Every year ZWIN adopts a theme, and this year’s theme is self-care.
“As women, sometimes we’re so focused on taking care of those around us that we tend to neglect our own needs, so we are handing out bingo cards to the women to encourage them to carve out time for themselves,” Kuller says.
Each card contains different directives such as, “Read a book and share about it,” “Listen to a podcast,” and “Set up an exercise plan.”
“These are all things that have that cross-balance between home life and self-care,” Wood says.
While ZWIN leaders aren’t opposed to expanding their numbers, they hope to keep the group size around where it is now.
“Our goal is to grow organically, not to become a group of 100 or 200,” Kuller says. “We just want to remain a strong, committed group of women.”
Wood feels the same way.
“We feel if it got super big, it would dilute our mission statement and goals,” she says. “The whole purpose of our group is to get to know each member on a personal level.”
For more information on ZWIN, visit zionsvillewin.org.