Whatcom Women in Business celebrates women in leadership

Founded in 1978, Whatcom Women in Business is one of the oldest local networking groups for women. But it's focused...

They say tough times bring people together, that challenges strengthen relationships.

Such is the case for Whatcom Women in Business, a nonprofit group that mentors women in leadership positions and provides scholarships for women going to college. During the most challenging business climate in decades, the group now has 41 members, the highest membership in its 33-year history.

With all the different business groups in Whatcom County, what draws women to this group?

“It’s about getting together and mentoring,” said Tally Rabatin, president of the organization and owner of Totally Unique Designs. “There’s an education aspect to every meeting throughout the year. I think that’s the reason our group is thriving.”

Founded in 1978, the group set out with a mission to promote a positive image of professional women in business while developing leadership skills through mutual support and mentorship. The group meets once a month to discuss issues and opportunities for business and personal growth.

The group has a very personal atmosphere, Rabatin said.

“It’s not really about networking because we’ve all gotten to know each other,” she said. “Personally, what I enjoy is the mentorship. The other women in the group have been in business so much longer than I have and they are willing to mentor. All these women are here to support you.”

Once a year, the group hosts an awards banquet and fundraiser to support its scholarship program. With the success of last year’s fundraiser, the group was able to award 15 $1,000 scholarships to women going to college this year.

The 230 seats at the banquet sell out fast, Rabatin said.

“You look around the room and say, ‘Dang! This is a powerhouse of top women in business.’ It’s a great event to go to if you’re a single guy,” she said.

Professional Woman of the Year finalists

Each year, Whatcom Women in Business accepts nominations for its Professional Woman of the Year award. The group then selects the finalists from among those nominations. The finalists this year are:

• Gwyn Howat, operations manager at Mt. Baker Ski Area

• Patrice Valentine, co-owner of Net Solutions NA

• Patti Imhof, co-owner of IMCO General Construction

• Janelle Bruland, president and CEO of Management Services NW

• Chris Foss, co-owner of The Greenhouse

• Bliss Goldstein, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters NW

The finalists are interviewed by the group and a winner is announced at the annual awards dinner and auction Oct. 25 at the Bellingham Golf & Country Club.

Dinner tickets are $65 and may be purchased online at www.wwib.org.

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